Aphrodisiacs are bullshit, but the search for a magical “insta-horny” potion that makes folks wanna get busy has been going strong for millennia. People want to believe in them so badly that they poison themselves with dried beetles, throw their hard-earned money away on products full of sugar water and useless essential oils and ingest, apply and inhale other potentially dangerous unknown ingredients.
You don’t have to look too hard to find a company trying to market their product as an aphrodisiac even though there is no peer-reviewed hard science proving any of them to be effective. Some products could be great tools for improving your sex life or relationships, but they are not a panacea solution for a “low libido.”
The truth is that there is no quick-fix magical turn-em-on-inator. A person’s libido is a personal, subjective concept that involves such a myriad of variables, that to reduce it down to a one size arouses all idea seems silly and shortsighted.
So many things are at play when it comes to someone’s arousal at any given moment. How are they feeling physically? Do they feel appreciated, seen, and heard? What kind of day have they had? What kind of interactions have you had together throughout the day? Have you been close or touched, or checked in with each other?
So what can actually help boost your sex drive?
When in doubt, turn to science. Actual science, not a pharmaceutical company inventing a condition in order to sell you a treatment they need to unload.
What works for one, might not work for another, but stepping back and looking at a bigger picture than simply “how can I turn myself on/how do I make my partner turned on?” can help you address factors that could be influencing more than you realize.
There are so many things involved in someone’s sex drive that could vary from day to day, sometimes minute by minute. Some we have control over, some we don’t. Stress about work, kids, relationships, chores, and the myriad of shit we, as adults, are assaulted with incessantly can play a major role in making it very hard to be in the mood when it all feels so. fucking. heavy. Not to mention those invisible stressors like hormones, pain, exhaustion, thyroid issues, mental health struggles, and so on.
While it would be super rad if we could push a button, or drink a potion and just be in the moment, wet, hard, and ready for some focused, intense action, that just isn’t reality. So why not try some things that might actually help you connect with your partner (or yourself) and get your motor running in a safe, and possibly even long-term fashion?
Talk, talk, talk
It can sometimes feel embarrassing, or shameful to struggle with your libido, or to feel like your partner isn’t attracted to you because they are struggling with their libido. And as hard as it may be, it’s important to share those feelings with each other, and a doctor, as a simple blood test could show a hormone imbalance, blood pressure issue, or something else easily treatable. Talking to your partner about what’s going on with you can go a long way in relieving some of the pressure and hurt feelings.
Communication isn’t always easy, but we aren’t mind readers and it’s important to talk about what’s holding us back to give our partners an opportunity to address it, rather than guess at the problem.
We tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves and our sex when it should be fun and satisfying.
Sharing fantasies and trying new things together can also help you boost intimacy and heat things up. Starting out can be a little awkward, and that’s okay. Try sharing while giving or getting massages, that way the mood is already sexy, and no one is making eye contact or seeing the inevitable blushing. That can take a little pressure off. Or by simply firing up some porn and discussing which scenes you found the sexiest and why. There are also plenty of games and activities meant to spark sensual conversation. You might be surprised by what you find out about your partner and yourself by being so vulnerable and honest.
You could even take a class or learn a new activity together to spark new conversations and interests.
We all know we should exercise, but focusing on the fact that it could improve our sex lives could be some much-needed incentive. First of all, there is something to be said for a boost of confidence that comes from getting into shape and accomplishing something, and feeling stronger and generally better about yourself can help you feel sexier and more likely to respond to your partner’s attempts at intimacy and connection. It also gets you breathing hard, your heart racing, your blood pumping, and endorphins flowing, just like being aroused.
Try setting some specific intentions for your workout and pair it with a playlist that makes you think about sexy, romantic, or even just happy times. If possible, work out with your partner. Spend an hour or so together being aware of your own bodies, getting sweaty, improving your health, cheering each other on, and checking each other out. Maybe you’ll even want to shower together after.
Yoga is a great one you can do alone or together as well, and there are even specific sessions that are meant to help you increase your intimacy and libido.
Huggin’, touchin’, squeezin’
Touch and massage have nearly magical effects on our bodies and connections with each other plus, it is fun and oh so rewarding.
There are a number of studies regarding the benefits of sensual touch, massage, and even non-sexual touch with a partner. Especially since the pandemic has kept so many humans separated from one another on a scale that we’d never experienced before.
Massage has been associated with lower stress and blood pressure, reduced inflammation, healthier blood circulation, increased endorphins, and an improved sense of general well-being. Whether you are massaging each other, or booking an erotic massage alone or together, it’s likely that massage combined with communication could be a great tool.
It’s possible, however, that in some cases, non-sexual touch could be an even more powerful tool to increase positive feelings towards a partner than sexual touch. And tends to elicit a more lasting effect as well.
Researchers are finding that affectionionate touch can lead to more positive interactions not only in the moment but for days following. Make time to hold hands, hug every day, look into each other’s eyes and connect.
Spending time cooking and sharing a meal together, or a romantic tray of snacks that make you feel sexy and sensual can be incredibly beneficial. And while things like chocolate-covered strawberries have no magical qualities as far as libido goes, they can still be a romantic activity. Just because there are no actual “aphrodisiacs” doesn’t mean certain things can’t put you in a sexual, sensual state of mind. If it feels sexy to you and your partner, then it’s valid and you should embrace it.
The bottom line is there are a thousand things you could try that could really make a difference in your sex life, but drinking a magical potion or eating an oyster is just not going to cut it. Talk about your needs and concerns, and put in the effort to spend quality time with your partners, however that looks for you.
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Nikki is a photographer, writer, artist, and advocate of radical self-love. She writes about mental health, gaming, sex, and inclusivity.