Unable to Keep a Girlfriend
Dear Patrick: I am a dyke whose lovers often complain that I have a weak libido. I have been wondering lately if taking testosterone would solve that problem for me. Do you think that taking male hormones would allow me to have a stronger sex drive so that my lovers would be happier with me? Right now I feel like my life is stuck in a cycle of meeting a new woman, falling in love, having a lot of sex during our honeymoon phase, then having less and less sex until she leaves me. This is breaking my heart.—Unable to Keep a Girlfriend
Dear Unable to Keep a Girlfriend: Taking testosterone probably would increase your sex drive, if you took enough of it. The most common way to get a dose of testosterone is to inject the hormone, which is suspended in oil, into the muscle of your thigh or buttock. Most doctors prescribe a shot every two weeks. Sometimes they will prescribe a patch or a cream instead that can be rubbed on your chest after a shower, but this doesn’t get as much of the drug into your system.
Of course, as with any medication, testosterone has more than one effect. It doesn’t just boost your libido. It can also cause you to grow facial hair and hair on your back. Any hair you have on your legs or elsewhere on your body will get thicker. But if you carry the gene for baldness, testosterone will make the hair on top of your head fall out. It redistributes body fat, changing the shape of your body, making breasts and hips smaller, and building muscles. The way that you smell gets stronger, and your voice becomes lower.
Some of these changes will reverse themselves if you quit taking the steroid. Others won’t. Once your voice changes, that’s permanent, and so is the presence of facial hair and baldness.
Male hormones are powerful drugs, and they carry a certain level of risk. You ought to be monitored by a doctor to make sure your kidneys are functioning normally. You also need to get tested to make sure you are not making too many red blood cells. Whether it will increase your risk of cancer is unknown. Testosterone is not prescribed for women who have a low libido. It is made available for men who can’t produce enough of their own male hormones, or for female-to-male transsexuals. Would you be comfortable lying to a doctor to get your medication?
The girlfriends who want to have a good sex life might not want to be with someone who appeared to be transitioning from female to male. How masculine do your girlfriends want you to be? And how comfortable would you be in a body that had changed that much? If it sounds like a great idea, I think you ought to consider the possibility that your “issue” is not a low libido, but a question of gender identity.
It seems unfair in a world where men can take a pill to get and keep an erection, but there is no medication to help women with a low libido or women who have trouble experiencing an orgasm. Why haven’t pharmaceutical companies gone out on a limb for the many, many women who need help in these areas? The double standard still seems to be in control. Men who have sex are studs; women who have sex are sluts. So woe to any company that helps women to have more sex!
But that doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do about this problem. Who do you think your libido tends to decrease after the honeymoon is over? What changes? Get honest with yourself. Do you need more novelty than you get from an ongoing relationship? Do you feel crowded if a lover moves into your home? Are there things you do with a new love that you hold back and stop doing with a more familiar girlfriend? Do you have fantasies or needs that you haven’t shared with another woman?
It’s common for sexuality to change as a couple gets to know each other better. Many couples find it more difficult to set time aside for sexual adventures. It can take a joint effort to keep talking about eroticism, to invent games to play, to buy toys or dress up, and to encourage or reward each other in these endeavors. Saying yes can be a spiritual practice that brings a lot of joy and unanticipated learning into your life. But saying no makes us feel safer, often, and so we reject a loved one without thinking about how much we may be hurting him or her.
It may be that if you are going to enjoy sex with a partner over the long haul, you need to have a different sort of relationship than the way “gay marriage” is conventionally defined. Or it could be that you are not cut out for long-term love and desire—that you actually are better at short love affairs that turn into friendships. Each of us are different, and it’s only by being honest with and about yourself that you an find happiness.