Susan Donaldson James writes that although low sexual desire is most common among women 45 to 64, 10% of women between 18 and 44 suffer from it too. And while many postmenopausal women experience lowered sex drive, they don't necessarily see it as a problem — which many younger women do. Says Dr. Carolyn Nemec,
I think a lot of women are distressed out there and feel bad and think something is wrong with them. The younger patients hear so much about menopause and a lot of these women — aged 18 to 30 — don't feel they have a voice. We need to focus on them.
Like many in the field of women's health, Dr. Jan Shifren is skeptical about drug treatment for these women. She says,
Women in good relationships who are physically and psychologically healthy are generally satisfied with their sex lives — and you'll never find this in a medicine cabinet.
But when you think about it, that's kind of a tall order — even if you leave aside the issue of relationship quality. Physical issues that can affect libido aren't limited to pain problems like vulvar vestibulitis (mentioned in the article). Common female element like UTIs and yeast infections can put a damper on your sex drive too. So can depression and anxiety and (as James also mentions) the drugs used to treat them. The woman who's consistently free of all of these is a pretty lucky lady.
One thing we can do for those who feel distressed about their lack of libido is to assure them that they're normal — being a young woman doesn't mean being up for sex all the time. Another approach that's often recommended for post-menopausal women, but is equally applicable to younger types: expand the definition of sex. There are plenty of times in a woman's life when a tongue or a finger feels a lot better than a dick — or when she may feel, for the moment, like giving but not receiving. Heterosexual American culture seems to think of P-in-the-V as the gold standard for sex, but many couples — especially those struggling with pain issues — could benefit from exploring the rest of the menu. Of course, plenty of people are already doing this, but when a woman is getting implants in her spine because she can't orgasm from intercourse alone, it seems like there's still too much emphasis on penetration. Last but not least, we need to keep talking about these issues — because every problem feels worse when you think you're the only one.