Aphrodite Rising: Acknowledging Adolescent Libido

by Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Coming of Age

Girls feel the sex drive in their bodies long before they are psychologically ready to commit to marriage and the demands of a mature relationship. That’s why some indigenous cultures have sanctioned sexual experimentation among young people so they can “get it out of their systems” early on.

But regardless of whether or not a culture has or used to have a way to allow adolescents to learn about sexuality directly from each other, it’s clear that girls in these societies marry far earlier than they do in Western industrialized society. It’s also clear that girls in times past were quite different biologically from those today. Our modern lifestyle with its ample food supplies, artificial light, and decreased physical activity, as well as the explosion of sexually provocative material in the mass media, has resulted in earlier puberty, more regular ovulation, and greater sexual receptivity and fertility than in the past.

The bottom line is this: The average time between the onset of puberty and the formation of a committed, mutually respectful sexual relationship with an appropriate partner is longer now than it has ever been in recorded human history. That’s a lot of years to be expected to “just say no” to something as strong as the normal human sex drive. More than ever before, girls need to know healthy ways to deal with their sexuality. But our simultaneously sex-obsessed and sexually repressed culture offers them very little guidance on how to do this.

How to Consciously Direct Sexual Desire and Longing

Sex is a dynamic force that encompasses far more than just physical desire. It is the creative desire for positive expression in every aspect of life. In the words of Unity minister Catherine Ponder: “The grand secret about sex is that it can be transmuted and directed through your thoughts, attitudes, and actions to benefit every phase of your world!” It’s far better for girls to learn how to channel their libido constructively rather than risk abusive or unsatisfactory relationships of any kind. But channeling libido does not mean trying to suppress it. Nor should girls be taught to feel guilty about sexual desire or longings. Instead, they should understand that it’s possible to consciously direct libido and to express it in nonharmful ways. They should also understand that it’s normal to have sexual dreams and thoughts, some of which may seem inappropriate or downright immoral. This is just part of being human.

Spiritual and Holistic Options

All of us have the capacity to express our sexual energy on three different levels: physically, mentally and emotionally, and spiritually.

  1. Physically: The life force that finds expression through orgasm is actually the basis for one’s bodily energy, health, and vitality. One of the reasons why athletes are sometimes cautioned against having sex before athletic competitions is so that they won’t dissipate too much of that vital energy.
  2. Mentally and Emotionally: The life force finds expression not just in physical ways but through the use of one’s ideas and talents, one’s intellectual and emotional urgings, one’s ideas and intuitive insights. Art, music, literature, movies, books, scientific breakthroughs—all are examples of consciously channeling the emotional and mental aspects of vital life force.
  3. Spiritually: The life force finds an outlet through our desire to know the true nature of God and the universe. It is the thirst for knowledge, spiritual insight, and understanding. When an individual consciously does good work either by herself or as part of a group, she is expressing life force on the spiritual level. Whenever you care deeply for another being and love that person unconditionally, you are channeling the spiritual as well as the emotional aspects of the life force. Something as simple as a walk in the woods, the act of taking in the sights and sounds and smells of nature, can also be a spiritual transaction.

Essential Sex Education for Teenagers

As a parent and a doctor, I think it’s important to provide the appropriate sex education to teen. If it were up to me, I’d make sure that all teens knew about both male and female sexual anatomy, including how their bodies respond sexually, how one gets pregnant, when, and why. I’d also give out information on how they can protect themselves from pregnancy, and from the risk of sexually transmitted diseases. Because the subject of sex arouses such heated emotions, I’d teach girls and boys separately in an environment where they felt safe and able to ask whatever questions they needed to get answered. And I would teach them about more than the mere mechanics of sex. I’d let them know the whole truth—that young men and women are capable of using their sex drive consciously, respectfully, and responsibly if they choose to.

Last Updated: January 30, 2007

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D., is a visionary pioneer and a leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness. Recognizing the unity of body, mind, and spirit, she empowers women to trust their inner wisdom, their connection with Source, and their ability to truly flourish.


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  1. Carol C.
    16 years ago

    Oh how I wish I could have attended! I was fortunate to attend one of your seminars on Joy. It was held in Maine. I went with my best friend and braved a snow/ice storm to get there. We had THE best time (everyone did!). It was one of those experiences that fed the soul (especially when we all got up do dance!) My happiness “tank” was pretty low at that time so that was exactly what I needed! I’ve never been able to see Mr. Dyer speak in person but I have watched his PBS specials. What an amazing human being. I can’t even imagine how great it was for the audience to see both of you! Thank you for all that you do. You have truly made an impact on my life. Peace and happiness to you and your family during the holiday season.

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