Register Monday | December 5 | 2022

Just Checking Out Your Mojo

When it comes to sex drives, should we always be switched on

When I think of “mojo” I often think of a friend of mine who was stuck in a crappy relationship with little-to-no sex. Though her boyfriend wasn’t supplying the TLC she clearly deserved, she was a loyal girlfriend and wasn’t about the throw in the towel. She sought counsel from everyone—even her mom, with whom she is super-close. The situation escalated (or de-escalated, as it were) to the point where the mom sent her a care package that contained a poppy-red La Senza bra and a note that said, “To help spice things up.”

But my friend didn’t want to “spice things up.” While the bra was gorgeous—and yes, it is always wonderful to receive lingerie in the mail—there was something disturbing about the whole situation. Bra or no bra, this girl was sexy—twenty-two, blonde and smoky-eyed. She felt like her boyfriend should want her as she was, all that time. Isn’t that how guys in their twenties are supposed to be?

The thing is, life isn’t like that movie American Pie (thank God), in which all the guys want to do is shag endlessly. And while it’s undeniable that many young lads are quite randy in real life, one tends to forget that a man’s sexual prime usually climaxes at around eighteen years-old. This is quite young, as apexes go, but the good news is that while the hormones settle and the guy gets more and more mature, sex becomes more about quality than quantity. The bad news is that a person’s mojo is more fragile than one would think—this goes for the girls, too.

The word “mojo” (“magic charm”) traces its meaning back to an African term for a small bag that had supernatural powers and was worn under one’s clothes. (Or at least that’s what Wikipedia told me—I couldn’t find “mojo” in my edition of the Canadian OED). Apparently, the word was used frequently in blues songs and, over time, came to mean a different kind of magical bag—namely male virility, or more literally, the penis. Austin Powers made sure that connotation was totally clear.

These days, at least for me and my friends, mojo can refer equally to women and men. We use the term loosely, sometimes in relation to sex drives and other times in relation to a general “feel-good-ness.” A friend who recently broke up with her boyfriend, for example, was scared that she had forgotten how to flirt and have fun. After a couple awkward house parties she confided, “I think I’ve lost my mojo!”

Mojo is indeed a slippery thing. One’s “magic charm” (confidence, self-image) can fluctuate. It depends on what is going on in your life, of course—lack of self-assurance can trickle down into bedroom activities. One can get the impression that everyone out there is having great sex every minute of every day. But from having close friends who are honest about their ups and downs, I’ve begun to see that we’re all over the map.

Simply put, sex isn’t always that simple. True, it can be problem-free, but with a long-term sexual relationship there are usually phases where things aren’t quite perfect. The kicker is that the more you worry (“I am normal? Why I am I not into this?”), the less romantic you feel. I think this happens to guys in particular since stereotypes dictate that they’re supposed to be up for it all the time. I’ve known a couple guys that find it hard to get it on when they have a lot going on. If they are emotionally confused or upset, they just can’t have sex. One male friend of mine couldn’t get aroused when he was in exam crunch time—he was just too distracted.

It’s hard not to take this sort of thing personally. Sometimes mojo-loss is a sign of something wrong in a relationship, that things have gone stale or that there are underlying issues. But it is also true that you can lose your mojo and still be very attracted to your partner. I think it’s important to remember that there are many factors at play. Being on the birth-control pill, for example, can affect your sex drive. Many people don’t realize that the pill, while doing a great job of preventing pregnancy, can also have the ironic side effect mucking up a lady’s libido. This is actually a pretty common occurrence. When a friend of mine came off the pill after seven years, she was thrilled. “I feel like I am alive again!” she practically shouted over her roast beef. It was as though she’d been a bit numb to things and didn’t realize it. Her mojo was back—with a vengeance.

But the pill is not the only drug that can flatten one’s mojo. Consider anti-depressants. A girlfriend of mine dated a guy who was on Prozac and reported that “he just never wanted to have sex.” I thought it was a little ironic that someone who was feeling depressed would lose their sex drive in an attempt to improve their mood. Wouldn’t no sex just make him all the more melancholy? Apparently that wasn’t the case with at all: “He didn’t care!” she explained. He just felt really ambivalent about everything—sex included.

It’s all so conflicting, the business of the mojo. We live in an age that offers sexual healing so that both men and women can be up for it all the time. Viagra is still going strong with its virile man-in-the-shower advertising campaign. Pfizer, the cash-cow company that produces the drug, even bought billboard space at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. Viagra is a great resource for sufferers of penis erectile dysfunction (usually men over 60), but it is a drug meant for those who simply can’t get it up. There is a difference between those with a physical problem and those who have emotional stuff they should be sorting through. I hear that on the party circuit there are some crazy kids who do so many recreational drugs they are unable to perform, so they pop pills to pop boners.

Extreme examples aside, I think what fuels the Viagra movement is the fear of not being able to “get it up” or “get it on” instantly—especially since it’s not just those with troubled mojos who are afraid of failure. If there is not an instant sexual response from a partner, one can feel unattractive or unwanted. This underlying pressure is always there, and it can make things worse. We all know the woe of the watched pot—I think we have to stop thinking so narrowly. Sometimes he really is just tired. And sometimes she really isjust stressed and distracted. Sometimes it is just a phase.

My friends and I have all known guys to have performance anxiety if they are not totally “there” emotionally. If they are not fully over an old girlfriend, for instance, or they’re under some level of external stress. Sure it’s a bummer, but it is also a good built-in warning sign to take things slow and relax. And I can tell you that in many cases the problem remedies itself—quite naturally.

Emma Appleby is a fabulous force on the Montreal scene. Read more recent columns by Emma Appleby.