Here's something that happened last night in bed with my wife. I wanted to have sex; she didn't. An excerpt of the ensuing conversation:
HER: We just had sex last night.
ME: So?
HER: Wow. You're incredible.

I'm actually not incredible. I am merely among the vast majority of men who—according to research—think about having sex at least once a day and often far more than once. Whereas the majority of women can seem to us like coital camels, able to tread a sexual desert for extended periods with nary a thought about getting down at the oasis.

And what could be to blame for these vast discrepancies?


I should back up. Because while in many ways I am one of these "typical males" who has a higher libido than my female partner, I am also an atypical male in one other way. I wasn't born male. As a transgender man, I was designated female at birth and transitioned into a man medically via hormone therapy, making my testosterone levels commensurate with those of most nontransgender males.

This trajectory has allowed me to see and experience sex from both sides of the bed. (Although I can't quite say I know what it's like to be a woman—because I suppose I've never really felt like one—I can say what it's like to have higher levels of female hormones and have sex as a woman, then also do the same as a male.)

Both during and post-transition, sex increasingly became for me like any other daily physical need: food, water, sleep. Oxygen. All the stuff located at the base of Maslow's hierarchy of needs—which, as you might recall from Psych 101, also includes sex. (Maslow was a guy, too.) This explains that feeling I sometimes have when I can't seem to focus on a task, but then if I get to have sex (or take care of it myself), I can check that need off the list, and the work magically gets done.

Sex satisfies my emotional needs as well. To put it bluntly: Having sex makes me feel like everything else in life is okay. Even if it's not. When my wife and I have sex, a corner of my brain simultaneously achieves satisfaction—because I know that she wants me, needs me and that I can make her feel good. When we don't have sex, the opposite of all that feels true. According to logic, I know that makes no sense, but so it goes with the brain on testosterone.

Before transition, when estrogen was the more dominant hormone coursing through my body, there were many other things that created a sense of well-being in my world—walking the dog, a night out with friends, succeeding at a task—and while sex was certainly one of these essentials, it wasn't anywhere near the first item on the feel-good list. But now it's like clockwork: If my wife and I have sex, I'm happy. And if we've had sex ten days in a row, I'm going to be up for having sex on day 11 as well.

Which brings me back to our conversation last night—one that may as well have occurred on any night, in any language, in any bed shared by two people with dissimilar libidos. "Not in the mood" might be a cliché as old as man- and womankind, but it's a cliché because there's a physical, hormonal basis bubbling beneath the resulting marital squabbles. Just a little something to keep in mind next time you feel like you're losing yours.


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