Mind over body?

Jul 31, 2002 at 12:00 am
Q: I don't seem to have any kind of sex drive anymore, not at all. I'm in a relationship of seven years with my boyfriend, of which we spent two years mostly apart. Even when maintaining a long-distance relationship, sex was better and more frequent than in the last two or three months. The loss of sexual desire doesn't only apply toward him; I have no desire to masturbate or cheat with others. I do know about problems with low levels of testosterone in the blood of relatively young males, but I'm only 31. I've been taking yohimbe, yohimbe B-12 sublingual drops, damiana leaves supplement, gingko biloba supplements, L-Arginine because I heard that's good for testosterone, DHEA because I heard that it converts into testosterone in the body — but nothing seems to be working. I even took V-Factor, which is a Viagra-like product, but you need to be in the mood for sex in order for the drug to work. If I wanted sex, I wouldn't need V-Factor to begin with. Do you think a testosterone-level test is a good idea? I have no health insurance and no access to a doctor. This problem is poisoning our relationship, and I certainly would like to be able to perform again. I seem to be one of those people who'd settle for just companionship, but I know he's not.

A: It's time to stop guessing and self-medicating and take this issue into the hands of a professional used to ferreting out causes and correcting them. I might be able to tackle this in my therapy office — but it's too complicated for a newspaper column. Bite the bullet, kiddo, and go see a doctor even if you have to ask around for a well-respected one and pay cold hard cash. Be clear about your problem. Get a complete checkup of everything he or she can suggest, not only a testosterone-level exam. If nothing is found that explains the situation and remedies it, your next consultation needs to be with a psychotherapist. If the sudden loss of desire is not physical, it's psychological. It may be individual, like fear or depression. It may be interpersonal, like a power struggle in your relationship or unexpressed anger with your partner. Now get cracking.

Q: One of my closest friends attends summer school and lives on campus, sharing a dorm room with two other girls. I was visiting with the three of them recently and they began to talk about how, during the time they have lived together, their periods have become synchronized and they’re all on the rag at about the same time now. They claim they each had different periods when they first moved in, but now they're only days apart. I know there are things in the world that are unexplained — the Bermuda Triangle, why you never see baby pigeons and what those Easter Peeps are made of — but this is truly awesome. Have I been duped?

A: I spent years at a boarding school and in college and have experienced the phenomenon you describe. But I’ve lived all my life in large cities, and have never seen a baby pigeon — so I'd be much more interested in solving that mystery. Not only will women living together usually synchronize their menstrual periods (it happens in families of sisters too), but the schedule they fall into will usually be that of the most dominant woman. The reason: pheromones, those undetectable but highly potent sexual smells all animals emit and respond to. Pheromones are also thought to be the basis of most human sexual attractions, as well as the cause for mother-child bonding. Isadora Alman, author of Doing It: Real People Having Really Good Sex, is a board-certified sexologist and a California-licensed marriage-and-family therapist. Contact her at [email protected]. Her Sexuality Forum is at