Contrary to popular opinion men aren't always in the mood for sex. Here's what to do if your sex drive is stuck in the slow lane.
The usual view of men is that we're always up for it. We can have sex at the drop of a hat, with a beloved partner or a complete stranger. We think about sex a lot more than we do it but we want to do it as much as we possibly can.
But what if you don't feel like that? What if you don't want sex as much as you used to, or you very rarely want it at all?
If so, you're not alone. Some experts estimate that up to one in five men suffer from low sex drive, and often because of factors that can be quite easy to fix. So here's what might be harming your sex drive, and what you can do about it.
Medical reasons for a reduced sex drive
There are several medical issues that might contribute to a low sex drive and a poor sex life. Antidepressant use, for example, has been linked with low libido in men.
According to Michele Weiner Davis, author of The Sex Starved Wife: What to Do When He's Lost Desire, "a cardiovascular disease of any sort is a problem too, as well as some of the medications that treat it. Hormonal fluctuations, such as testosterone, also affect sex drive."
So if you experience unusually low levels of sexual desire it's worth talking to your GP first to rule out any physical cause.
Relationship issues reducing your sex drive
Received opinion has it that when couples argue, women don't want sex and men still do. The relationship could be caving in around them and men would still be happy to squeeze in a quick bunk up between bouts of arguing.
While that might be true in some cases it certainly isn't the case for all men. When a relationship goes wrong, many men go off sex.
And the relationship doesn't have to be on its last legs for that to be true. Michele Weiner Davis believes that criticism and nagging can dampen male sex drive: "Common relationship problems such as resentment or anger may be the desire-busters," she says.
She adds that not all men are happy to jump into bed with a woman they've grown apart from, and that many of us need to be emotionally connected to our partners to have a truly healthy sex life.
So the solution is to sort out your relationship problems. Sit down and talk about it. See a couples counsellor if you think that will help. "You may find that your low libido is a secondary problem and resolves itself when you start dealing with the problems between the two of you," says relationship counsellor Elly Prior.
Depression and anxiety
Again, the common view is that men can put pretty much anything aside when sex is on offer, even if only temporarily. It turns out that's not true. Sex therapists have found that when men are depressed or anxious their sex lives often take the hit.
Stress is also a male libido killer, and in tough economic times more of us may be stressed or depressed than ever. The US National Library of Medicine lists both depression and stress as causes of ISD (Inhibited Sexual Desire) in both men and women.
"You can get away with short periods of stress probably," says Elly Prior. "However, prolonged periods of stress will take their toll and may well result in a lack of sex drive."
A condition called hypoactive sexual desire disorder causes a lack of sexual fantasies and desire for sex, and often follows a period of stress. Stress works to reduce testosterone levels, the driver of male libido. It can also raise blood pressure, another factor in a declining sex drive.
If you have serious depression or acute stress you should seek professional health, with your GP as the first port of call. If your symptoms are milder, exercise and relaxation techniques may help you to get back in the mood for sex. Proper sleep and a decent diet will also dampen the symptoms of stress and help to wake a dormant libido.
Alcohol and sex drive
Booze makes you a demon in bed, or at least that's what you might think. In fact, it can have the opposite effect. Regular boozing actually reduces sexual sensitivity in men. That means you might still have sex, but you enjoy it less. The less you enjoy it, the less you want it.
Regular drinking can also lead to more arguments with your partner, which in turn leads to resentment. Angry people rarely want to have sex with each other.
It might be best to enjoy a few alcohol-free evenings that end in bed. The joy of sensual, sober sex might be all you need to get your groove back.
Lack of sleep
It seems obvious but for a long time a lack of sleep was seriously overlooked as a cause of waning male libidos: put quite simply, chronically tired men are rarely in the mood for sex.
According to sexual health specialist Professor Monica Andersen, "not getting enough sleep can be very, very damaging to the male sex life but it seems this hasn't actually occurred to many people."
Andersen says that 24-hour living and not prioritising a good night's sleep has taken its toll on the male libido, even leading to erection problems for some men. So if you're burning the candle at both ends and have noticed a subsequent decline in your sex life, it's time to start going to bed early for more reasons than one.
Finally, it could be that you're harming your real sex life by enjoying too much virtual sex. According to a survey of 28,000 young men by the Italian Society of Andrology and Sexual Medicine, a daily porn habit can cause both low libido and an inability to get erections.
Surely all those nubile women on the internet would turn men on? Well yes, but in a way that ordinary women can't hope to live up to. The result is that real sex can seem a bit of a let-down in comparison to the swinging from the chandeliers variety found on the internet.
The solution? Quite simply, turn off the computer and learn to appreciate real bodies, and real sex, again.
All in all, if your sex life is on the slide, it may be down to you to do something about it. Whether the solution is a heart-to-heart with your better half or less time in the pub, a satisfying sexual relationship will be just reward for your efforts.