Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Mismatched libidos and sexless relationships

27 March 2016, 17:46 Dorothy Black

I was once asked to answer the question: Can a marriage survive without sex? My answer was simple. Of course it can. It can also survive without love, trust and honesty. But why would you even bother.

I didn’t pay much attention to the question as a phenomenon until later, when I came across the term ‘dead bedrooms’.

At the time, it was a term coined in the lesbian community for a commonly experienced phenomenon: relationships would start off all lusty heat, but then suffer the creep of cool disinterest in all things sexual.

Soon, they’d just be roomies, hanging out and really loving each other (maybe), but not really in love or lust with each other anymore.

Not surprisingly, the catchy term made its way across the orientation landscape and into the backwater forums of Reddit.

I found myself skimming through Reddit dead bedrooms, dedicated to thousands of couples yammering on about how terrible it all is.

I couldn’t take it very seriously. All I saw were people spending their time whining about their shitty relationship to strangers instead of doing something about it with (or without) their partner.

Now I see it’s moving into mainstream use and media, with some media houses running wordy pieces about lost and lonely souls finding community and identification in the 'dead bedrooms' term.

I can’t pretend that my knee-jerk reaction isn’t to roll my eyes.

The deadbedroomers will talk about their HL (high libido) and LL (low libido) combination problems. The story is roughly the same: The HL person is suffering terribly from a lack of physical intimacy and cuddles, and the LL person is the one with all the power of being misunderstood or not giving a shit.

Everyone’s trying so hard and it’s all so rough.

I’ve no doubt it’s a really shitty position. But I’ve never bought into the ‘HL versus LL’ rationalization of bedroom problems. I’ve seen enough ‘LL’ people suddenly become rampantly ‘HL’ once they’ve left the relationship they no longer want to be in.

Also, I’ve never liked the ‘poor me I’ll just muddle along being unfulfilled because of my shitty partner’ response to relationship sex challenges.

I guess I’ve always taken a hard-line approach to compatibility in sexually exclusive relationships: If you’re not sexually compatible, don’t commit sexual exclusivity.

But no hard-line approach has ever created workable solutions to complicated situations, and so I went digging around to find a better explanation for the ‘dead bedroom’ problem.

My favourite answer came from Emily Nagoski, author of the sex science bestseller, Come As You Are.

She outlines 'spontaneous desire' and 'responsive desire' as the most common forms of sexual motivation.

Spontaneous desire is the kind that bubbles up from seemingly nowhere, while responsive desire grows in ‘response’ to stimuli.

Basically, the former is the person ready to set up the party whenever, wherever; and the latter is the person who only knows that they want to party once they’ve heard the music and tasted the bubbles.

You can see how this might be a problem.

If you’ve got two responsive-desire people in the couple, the party is never going to start. For the mixed-response couple, the spontaneous-desire person might get tired of initiating party vibes all the time and might even feel rejected, while the responsive-desire person might not want to put in the effort to enjoy the party at all or start withdrawing from a sense of pressure.

And then you’ve got a pretty shitty situation where everyone feels angry, misunderstood or rejected and no one wants to party anymore.

So the problem with ‘dead bedrooms’ is not misaligned libido, it’s how this ‘libido’ – this desire – is motivated differently in individuals.

Nagoski reckons that one of the biggest problems is that we’ve come to believe that spontaneous desire is the ‘healthy, normal’ kind of sexual response – and that responsive desire is lacking in some way, maybe even defective or ‘LL’.

In fact, people with responsive desire patterns might even start believing they have low libidos, when that’s not the case.

They’re simply different, that’s all.

Yammering on about HL and LL and who’s more sexed or victimised in the relationship doesn’t help. Understanding, empathy, communication and a willingness to explore difference does.

And that’s where the real predicament is unveiled isn’t it?

Because fixing the root problem of a ‘dead bedroom’ means facing whether or not you’re actually sitting with a dead relationship.

If there’s no room for understanding, empathy, communication and a willingness to explore, what are you doing?

Sure, a relationship or marriage can survive without this. It can even survive without sex. But why should it?

Read Dorothy's blog, like her Facebook page and follow her on Twitter.

Follow Women24 on Twitter or like us on Facebook.

- Women24


Help, my STI is incurable!

25 October 2016, 14:25

Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Kenya says will return to interna...

Kenya will return to international markets to borrow when it feels the time is right, National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich said on Tuesday. Read more...

Submitted by
George Vodongo
China to help Kenya fight high le...

China observed that if left unchecked, corruption could see the country degenerate into lawlessness. Read more...

Submitted by
S Mbinya
Signs that he is seeing someone e...

When a man wants to be with you, he will always create time to be with you. Read more...

Submitted by
George Vodongo
Spat between DP Ruto and Boniface...

A close associate of the DP, Hon Njogu Barua made an alarming comment on live TV Tuesday morning. Read more...

Submitted by
Ben Wangui
Matatu driver who drugged, robbed...

The driver of a Nissan matatu who over the weekend drugged and robbed a female passenger in Nairobi has been charged. Read more...

Submitted by
Gabriel Ngallah
Heavy police contingent deployed ...

More police officers were on Monday deployed at Likoni in Mombasa County in a security operation to nab members of the ‘Wakali Kwanza’ and ‘Mtalia’ criminal gangs who have been terrorizing locals in the area. Read more...