As a so-called sex columnist, people often assume you have a thumping sex drive. As if you're always up for it, always keeping it spicy, never succumbing to the pressures of modern life and letting your sex drive fall by the wayside.
I'm here to tell you that's not true. I have a variable sex drive. When it's high I'm keen all the time, but when it's low – which is the more frequent of the two – I'd describe my interest in sex as minimal.
For the most part, this is environmental. So many external factors can trump one's interest in sex. Here are some of my libido killers.
Stress and anxiety
I understand a lot of people use sex to let off steam when they're stressed, but my sex drive goes into complete hibernation when I'm under stress or going through an anxious period. When my mind is full of worries, I find it impossible to be interested in physical pleasure. My brain just hurts too much. Stress and anxiety also go hand-in-hand with feeling physically unappealing for me. When you don't feel great about the state of your world, it's hard to feel great about your body.
Okay, needing to do a casual dust and vacuum isn't exactly a deal-breaker when it comes to sex. However, sometimes I think we all get so overwhelmed by the culmination of daily chores – running around town to pick up kids and dry cleaning, cooking dinner, doing yet another load of laundry, mowing lawns, fixing the house… Often by the time I actually sit down at night, I'm knackered. All I want is a strong drink and a blanket. Worse, still, are the sex lives of those who don't share chores – men's magazine Esquire reports there's a link between one person always being left to do the dishes by themselves, and a disappointing sex life.
A food baby
You know how a romantic dinner, complete with champagne and chocolates, is supposed to be an aphrodisiac? I don't see how this is possible. When my belly is full of food, I feel so terribly unsexy. Especially if I've consumed something carby like pizza, or a sizable chunk of red meat. When I have a proper food baby, it's not something that will go away, either. I'll need to abstain – from sex, and from any other food – for a good 12-14 hours before I feel okay again.
I'm pretty sure my iPhone has negative effects on my sex drive. Not because of any erection-killing radio waves, of course, but rather because I can become so engrossed in what's happening on the screen. Messaging with friends, social media, the news, and my e-mail inbox can be so overwhelming I ignore my physical surroundings. By the time I put my phone down, my energy is expended yet I can't break away from feelings of connectivity.
Not taking holidays
They don't say "holiday sex" is the best for nothing. When I'm on vacation with my significant other, especially if I'm somewhere hot and completely foreign to me, I feel my sex drive ramp up. Not-so-coincidentally, if I go for significant periods of time without taking a break (and not leaving my home comforts), I feel my libido wane. It's as if an environmental change is necessary to shock the system and turn each other back on.
Generally being tired or down
It's a cliché, but when I'm tired or feeling a bit depressed, I just don't want to have sex. This honestly has nothing to do with the other person in the room. It's just that I'm not a light switch that can be magically controlled by another. Lethargic or low feelings are completely incognisant with a feeling of high self-worth, which I find is important in maintaining a good sex drive.
Sometimes I put too much pressure on myself to maintain a healthy and frequent sex life, which leads me to feel guilty if I feel like I'm lapsing. This compounds the problem: feeling bad about not having sex does not make you want to have it more. I'll overthink it, and internally decide I need to wait until I'm ready to really "perform" and make the wait worth its while. This attitude only results in longer dry spells.