Dr. Suzanne B. Phillips

Licensed Psychologist, Psychoanalyst, Diplomate in Group Psychology, Certified Group Therapist, Author, Radio Host and Media Consultant Covering a Wide Range of Psychological Topics

Post: Read Your Way to Increased Female Sexual Desire:Findings

bookA recent cover of the New York Times Book Review invites, “ Let’s Read about Sex.”

For the 30-40 million women who seek help for lowered sexual desire…that may be a good idea.

  • Lowered sexual desire is the number one sexual complaint of women of all ages.
  • In most cases, women remember feeling differently and enjoying sex and often feel troubled or guilty that they no longer feel desire.
  • Many women wish they had the urge but they are too tired, annoyed, self-conscious, busy or uninterested to initiate.
  • Some oblige, some avoid. Many women wish their partner had the magic words to make them feel loved and cherished–as well as “ hot.”:

How Could Reading Possibly Help?

Part of the answer reflects gender differences between men and women with respect to sexual desire.

  • Whereas sexual desire is more tied to physical arousal in men, for women it is a function of many other factors including context, beliefs, attitudes, feeling desired, feeling accepted and open communication in a relationship.
  • As psychologist and author, Laurie Mintz describes, for women the most important sex organ is her mind.

“It starts in your head. If your head isn’t there, the mechanics don’t matter.”

  • Adding the physiology to this, whereas men are automatically stirred by visual cues to sexual desire and arousal, women often have to enter into a sexual experience and become aroused before they experience sexual desire.
  • As such, whereas the feeling of being cared about and desired by her partner is important, a woman’s vision of herself as sexy, hot, and desirable is, in some ways, even more important than her partner’s vision of her. It is often the impetus that moves her to sexual involvement.
  • Positive sexual memories, identifications, associations, fantasies etc. are sexually important for women.
  • In striking new research using brain scans, Dr. Komisaruk at Rutgers found that pleasure centers in a women’s brain lit up identically whether the women reached a sexual high physically or with erotic thoughts.

The Impact of Reading on Sexual Desire

The New York Times article offers the glimpses of writers and readers as they share the excitement and arousal invited by overtly sexual scenes or simply implied sexual feelings in literature.

  • Writer Jackie Collins adds ” I like to think I write erotic sex as opposed to rude sex…So many people tell me I taught them everything they know about sex.”
  • Rachel Kushner writes “ Of the books I like, it could be argued that sex is infused into every cadence, even if never explicitly.”
  • Brenda Shaughnessy shares that when reading, “ I want something new to discover in these old urges.”

If we recognize that reading is not passive and that each reader takes and uses what is written in a uniquely personal way, then erotic material can be useful, evocative, thought provoking, stimulating, and fantasy building. It not only brings sex to mind; more importantly, it brings the reader’s sexual self to mind.

What Does The Research Tell Us?

In her exploration of this topic, Laurie Mintz identifies two areas that demonstrate empirical evidence that reading can increase female sexual desire:  Some Erotic literature and Self-Help Books.

Erotic Literature

  • Whereas most women are less interested in pornography than men, scientists did find that when exposed to nonviolent erotic literature, women showed small short-term increases in the sexual behavior they were already engaged in, but did not  add anything new to their sexual responding.
  • Another study entitled “Bibliotherapy: An effective therapeutic tool for female sexual dysfunction?” found that erotic literature can promote sexual imagination which in turn can arouse sexual desire. It seems that reading erotic literature may also increase sexual desire by increasing anticipation of a positive sexual encounter.

Fifty Shades of Grey?

While not part of this study and not put to formal scientific test, one wonders about the extraordinary interest and response to the Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy and its impact on increasing sexual desire—even in the short term.

  • Could it be that this sexually explicit book was legitimized by the fact that its author was not only female but a regular mom and wife?
  • From what I observed, it definitely invited reading, sharing and thinking about sex. Many women even reported sharing parts of it with their partner.
  • Perhaps for both partners, speaking about characters in fiction is a safe first step toward speaking about sex with each other.

Self-Help Books

  • Given her own reported lack of sexual desire, psychologist, Laurie Mintz wrote a self-help book, A Tired Women’s Guide to Passionate Sex, detailing the steps she took to reclaiming her sexual desire.
  • What is unique about her book is that it is the only self-help book on this subject, which has been scientifically studied and found effective in increasing sexual desire, sexual arousal, sexual satisfaction and overall sexual functioning.

From my perspective what we should recognize as effective is not only the contents of the book, but also the commitment of those in the study to read the book and follow the suggested strategies for 6 weeks.

We all have purchased self-help books on everything from dieting to learning French that we start but rarely finish much less cognitively and emotionally integrate.

Clearly, in this study making the commitment made a difference.

  • Central to the theme and strategies of this proven book is the recognition that for women, thoughts and feelings about sex influence sexual response and emotions.
  • To increase sexual desire is to feel entitled to think about sex and to consider that something as simple as two minutes a day of sexual fantasizing, remembering, or planning are as important a form of foreplay as touching or caressing. How do you do this?
  • Using the words and examples of typical women without time, energy or interest, Laurie Mintz addresses the roadblocks and offers mini strategies that make sexual desire possible.
  • Can’t keep your mind from wandering during sex? Have you tried looking into your partner’s eyes or focusing on your favorite part of his body? Would you consider sharing this technique with him?

Yes if you let it– reading can open the mind’s eye to a sexual self you will want to know!


Interested in participating in further research on the impact of reading an Erotic book vs. Dr. Mintz’s Self-Help book on sexual desire? Follow this link http://gainesville.craigslist.org/vol/4135064322.html

Woman reading image available from Shutterstock.