For the past four years, Helen Fisher, an anthropologist and author of Anatomy of Love, has been crunching the numbers from a massive sex survey undertaken by the Match.com dating site. (It sampled 20,000 unmarried American men and did not include Match.com clients.) "I was horrified," Fisher says. She found that for men in their sexual prime, or twenties through forties, 20 percent hadn't had sex in the past year and 25 percent reported it happened once a month or less. "It's really a sexual famine for single people in this country."
Mind you, we don't know for sure that men are getting it on with startling infrequency compared with a generation ago. Anthropologists weren't consulting for dating websites 30 years back. But modern life – the brutally competitive job market, the ever-plugged-in digital culture, the ready access to sex-drive-depleting medications (SSRI antidepressants, blood pressure meds) – suggests it. "These guys are coming out of the woodwork," says endocrinologist Florence Comite, a New York City antiaging doctor. "They're feeling overwhelmed, they're juggling a million things, and their libido is down."
Even psychologists agree that the remedy may be to focus on the body before the brain. "The solution to low sex desire has to do with lifestyle change more than some blinding insight about how sex really represents some subconscious thing that you didn't know it represented," says Russell Stambaugh, a clinical psychologist in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and a spokesperson for the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists. Focus on key physiological factors and your mind follows. The bigger takeaway: Loss of sex drive isn't the inevitable baggage of aging – your sex-life success is in your own hands. So to speak.
Workout, but Not Necessarily with Weights
You can read a lot of crap on the internet that says weights will send your testosterone levels and libido soaring. But that direct effect, according to Swiss researcher Brand, can last only six weeks after you take up lifting. Brand describes it as a hormonal "starter kit"; your body adapts to the new demands, raising levels of testosterone, and then it plateaus. Aerobic exercise, however, is always an ally. You may have gotten a gold star on your T labs, but if the miniature vessels in your penis go sludgy with plaque and your blood pressure rises, you're setting yourself up for trouble getting or keeping it up. And few things kill the desire for sex more ruthlessly than not knowing whether you can pull it off. In the bloodless language of science, it's a "feedback loop" – erectile difficulties dampen libido, which further deflates the penis. Says San Francisco life coach Robert Rudelic, who often helps men deal with the issue: "The first time it happens, in their mind it's like it always happens."
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