Losing My Libido: One Man’s Story

photo by lizzie279

Amit Wehle awakens to face the loss of his gradual diminishing sex drive.

The folk classic “Where Have all Flowers Gone” is often credited to Joan Baez, but it was actually written by Pete Seeger back in 1955. Which makes perfect sense, since Mr. Seeger would have been exactly 36 years old at the time, meaning he would have been inspired to write a song about his shrinking libido (which is clearly what the hit classic is really about).

The song resonates with me because like Pete Seeger back in ’55, I’m now 36, and can attest to Father Time’s ax systematically chopping down on my erections over the last few years. The realization of this diminished sex drive sort of snuck up on me. Like most of aging’s “tricks,” it has been a gradual thing.

You see, nobody suddenly wakes up bald. No one jumps out of bed with a gut, or looks in the mirror one day to find copious back hair plus a complete inability to recognize any artist on the Billboard Top 20.

But eventually, a man picks up on the gradual changes. His new reality. At some point the man lifts the lid, stares into the abyss and awakens to his truth:  Hey, where the f*ck have all my boners gone?

The most interesting thing about morning erections is that their value — for the most part — is face-value. Showmanship. More symbolic than anything else.

I’ve noticed a distinct decline in the last few years, to the point where I finally have to admit that the numbers are going down. A lot. How do I know this so acutely? Because I no longer wake up every day with evidence to the contrary. Yes, I’m talking about morning erections.

There is an actual scientific reason for my AM wane: morning erections are — in large part –a neurological response to REM sleep, the deep sleep we get throughout the night, but particularly in the early morning hours. During these very important REM sessions, the brain sends blood to the penis as a way of maintaining its health and functionality. In other words, we get hard. But as we age, our sleep patterns change and we get less REM sleep, particularly once jobs get more stressful, spouses start sleeping next to us, and babies enter the picture. You know, grown up sh*t. Let’s add to the mix the fact that that our blood flow and overall circulation both weaken as we get older, and you’ve got a recipe for serious and pervasive de-bonerification.

Granted, understanding the chemistry behind our hard-ons is of secondary importance. Where our boners come from is not as important as how we feel about them.

The most interesting thing about morning erections is that their value — for the most part — is face-value. Showmanship. More symbolic than anything else.  If most men are honest, 90% of the time the boner won’t be acted on – we’re not going to stay in bed and make love to our gal or beat off to the Huff Po Celebrity Page every morning. We’ve got showers to take, Metrocards to buy, jobs to hide at. Rather, the fact that the erection showed up – that is the great reward. As Woody Allen famously said, “80% of success is showing up” and nobody’s taken that more to heart than a young man’s penis.

And so I miss my old morning mate for what he represented: me as the sexual being. Me, the potent mammal. A reminder that despite being nearly buried beneath life’s responsibilities and fears, I still rise with a throbbing pulse. I’m hard, therefore I am. Sure, it may be a bit caveman and one-tracked, but it’s strangely gratifying. These days — and I suppose in all the days yet to come — the evidence will be a little more watered down. More importantly, my measuring stick of what manhood means may need to evolve. That more than anything scares me – it’s a process that’s gonna require both balls and wisdom.

Amit Wehle is a writer and thoughtsmith, living in Brooklyn. He also tweets@AmitWehle.
Photo: lizzie279 / flickr

Previously published on HowAboutWe.com. Read more from The Dating Report at HowAboutWe here:

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  1. And… ?

    So, at 36 you’re just fading away and sort of accepting of it? Talk about a sign of “Low T.” It’s like I tell guys you know you’ve got Low-T when you’re depressed but you’re too apathetic to give a damn. Haaa..

    Not funny. But… certainly we live in a world that is very anti-testosterone. Yes, even in the awakening of the favorite “disease” of the day, Low T. We are expected to act less masculine, in a primitive T-boosting way, and this certainly impacts men’s hormones. We are also swimming in a pool of estrogen and testosterone blockers.

    And … but… ultimately most men have a lifestyle that is killing their Man-hormones. Too much stress, too little sleep, too little sex, too little intense training, etc… etc… it’s all set up to zap you.

    36 is damned young to feel the slide… but if you’re 30 or 50, 90% of men need a lifestyle makeover to reclaim their manliness, regardless of whether they use TRT or not.

    What I tell you and all men, is do NOT go quietly. Do NOT sit back and take it. Get up and fight and get your strength and mojo back. It’s very, very doable. Hell, I was taking most my best physique photos at 38-40… and I’m near 50 now and feel and look 35… in every way. 🙂

    To your Full Strength!

    Shawn Phillips
    Author Strength for Life
    Creator Full Strength Nutrition for MEN

  2. Good point Jimbo. My ex was a yr older than me and in excellent physical health. He had a very active sex drive and tons of stamina. My fiancé drinks daily and uses rec drugs and doesn’t work out daily and there is a huge difference in his interest & stamina. He is also way more “orgasm ” focused which leads to a lot of frustration for us both. I try not to take it personally but I kinda miss the morning salute, women appreciate it too!!

  3. If a man has lost this much libido and erection “power” (for lack of a better term) at 36 there could be a health issue. I’m 37 and my libido is higher than ever. True I’m not as easy to “get up” as I was at 18, but that’s because everything turned me on at 18 so it’s not like I get an erection from a woman touch my thigh anymore. I will say at 37 I’m healthier than I ever was previously. I eat high quality food and work out at least three times a week.

    A 36 year old with the problems described in this article could have hormone problems, is just is out of shape, unhealthy, and/or eats poorly.

    • drunicusrex says:

      I’m 42, with a wife and two young children, and I still get morning erections regularly.
      I don’t get as much sleep as I should, but I do lift weights, take vitamins, take Six Star nutrition’s “Testosterone Booster,” and I regularly eat Brazil nuts, pomegranates, celery, seafood, and other foods rich in vitamin c, selenium, and omega 6 fatty acids.
      no libido problems whatsoever. I never have to turn down my 30 year old wife, I masturbate at least once a say, and in general feel very vital, potent, and strong.
      I will say that living in NYC (the writer mentions getting a metrocard) is an emasculating, grinding, wearying experience. It’s an exciting city at 25; at 35, women appear shrewish, materialistic, amoral, and unappealing ; other males appear either feminized or bullying. Moving upstate, where the contests are less brutal and the outdoors are accessible, helps greatly in restoring health, vitality, and manhood.

  4. David May says:

    Expecting women to understand something as primal as the loss of Morning Wood would be like expecting a man to understand a woman’s menstrual cycle. It aint your body and you don’t understand how important it is: this reminder of one’s maleness, one’s viitality, one’s strength and power. The loss of libido is something men can’t help but take to heart, to feel the loss of and mourn. The revelation that comes with one’s fist ejaculation is something every man remembers and cherishes deep in his psyche. I’ve heard women say that men are too focused on orgasm, that we ought to accept andropause (just as real as, if subtler than, menopause) with more grace. Women don’t understand how important our ability to have sex is to our core sense of ourselves as men. The loss of it is devastating to our sense of self-worth — and no, it’s not just in our heads: It’s deep in the primal sense of who we are as men.

    • Menstrual cycles aren’t that hard to understand if you know how a calendar works. Having suffered thr ill-fate of side effects of anti-depressants i CAN relate to this even though i am female. My current partner is 46 and i am 30. So far we haven’t had an issue with erections. That might be because I’m …always…touching it…but ANYWAY, in the future, should this become an issue, i will address it delicately amd respectfully.

  5. FlyingKal says:

    I’m pretty sure that the interest and attitude of our partner(s) have way more impact than time and ago alone on the subject.

  6. I still don’t get the women in their 40’s with no sex drive thing- I am a 40 yr. old woman and my sex drive has never been higher!! And all of my friends around the same age say the same thing. We are finally figuring out what real pleasure is and our male partners are wilting (get it)…. *sigh*

  7. Hank Vandenburgh says:

    No loss of libido at nearly 68, but need some help from Viagra. Still get morning wood sometimes.

  8. Random_Stranger says:

    I never understand why losing one’s libido is a bad thing -its like losing a need right? Who needs a need? Hell, I love not to have a need for sleep if it meant I could stay fresh and get all those hours back.

  9. “90% of the time the boner won’t be acted on”.. more like 99% =]

    I think the real issue is not your libido dropping, because that’s the sad fact of getting older.. the issue is whether your partner’s libido decreases in the same rate. Sadly, thanks to differences between men and women, that’s rarely the case.. While men’s libido tends to ramp down reasonably constantly with age, women’s libido tends to remain constant thru 20s and 30s, and then crash suddenly in her 40s. I think this causes a lot of strain in marriages when folks reach that age.. because these days men are too afraid to broach the subject, as they don’t want to be seen as the bad guy pressuring his wife into sex she doesn’t want to have.

    Yet another reason why Mother Nature is a heartless bitch.

    • Hi JQ

      This was new info.
      Can you give us the reference to research that tells us that womens libido crashes in her 40 ties ?
      Is this simply your own personal experience ?

      Please document it.

      • I agree about the documentation. I would say the same thing for the guy who wrote this article. I’m a 47 year-old woman and haven’t lost my sex drive at all. I’ve had lovers in different age ranges and I’ve never experienced a man NOT waking up with a morning erection or not wanting to have sex. Maybe it’s the company you keep or maybe it’s how alive you personally feel.

        I appreciate that the author is writing from his own perspective but I wouldn’t assume it is some kind of Great Truth about humanity.

    • I’m 46 and I love sex more than ever, but my boyfriend only wants it 1-2 times a week these days. Most middle aged women I know want more sex, but it’s gotten boring or their husbands really only wants to do it one way at specific defined times without passion or creativity. Why do you think 50 Shades of Grey has been a massive bestseller despite being one of the worst erotic books ever written?

      My BF and I have a good sex life, but we struggle with his waning libido and his lack of interest in being adventurous or trying anything new. Maybe because he’s feeling insecure abt his libido, he only wants to have sex in exactly the same way every time because he knows it works. I am constantly pushing for more passion and variety. Sometimes I lose interest simply because it’s boring. I miss the excitement and anticipation we used to have.

      Not saying there aren’t women who completely lose their libido while the man is still raring to go, but when you are talking abt sex in middle age, it’s often a 2-way street.

      • I’ve heard, from actual women in their 40s that their libido is the highest it’s ever been. I hear it a lot actually, almost as if 40 is the magic number, but I don’t know, I’m in my 20s.

    • i am a female and 49 but my libido is still going strong!

  10. What, again, is the connection between REM and libido?

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