BIG DAMN CONTENT WARNING
THIS POST IS NOT SAFE FOR WORK. It features graphic sexual descriptions, and if you find these things unpleasant to read than this post is probably best left alone.
The question above was posed to me today, and the answer is just too large for a twitter thread, so I figure I might as well write about it here. The following descriptions are based on my own experience and are not universal, different people experience sex drive differently.
I’m going to break libido down into three distinct elements:
Desire - Sexual Appetite
Compulsion towards sexual activity, incentive motivation.
Typically psychological or socially centered.
Arousal - Sexual Excitement
Physiological responses and changes in how stimulus is processed. Typically hormone driven.
Climax - Orgasm
Under conventional (re, cisgender) models of sexuality, men (people who run on androgens) experience desire first, which then leads to arousal, and women (people who run on estrogens) experience arousal first, which then leads to desire. There are several factors involved in this, for example:
An androgenic endocrine system will produce Luteinizing Hormone (LH, the hormone that induces gonad function) at steady levels until excitation, at which point the hypothalamus boosts pituitary production of LH in order to boost testosterone output and induce arousal. An estrogenic system operates cyclically, with the hypothalamus regulating LH output in relation to where it thinks the person is in their reproductive cycle, rising and falling to create estrogen curves and spiking mid-cycle to induce ovulation.
This can, of course, be hijacked by external processes. A person who wishes to become aroused may seek out stimulus to excite themselves, or a change in hormone levels may induce arousal spontaneously. Furthermore, if a person has experienced sexual trauma in their past, or are in an unfavorable sexual context (such as gender dysphoria) they may be unable to experience desire. This is often why some trans people may be completely asexual prior to transition and then find themselves to be more sexual once their GD has alleviated.
Some of this is probably going to sound like a corny romance novel, and believe me, that’s exactly what was running through my head when I first realized what was happening. It feels so cliche as I write it, but it’s totally legit.
Pre-HRT Testosterone Libido
Before I started HRT my desire would typically peak in the mornings, when I was most refreshed, and would wane in the evenings when I was tired. This desire often pushed me to need to become aroused, a need to release pent up energy through sex or masturbation. I felt like I had to climax, to spread me seed, just to be able to calm myself. Sometimes it felt like I was being dragged around by my penis, like a predator in search of prey.
Once I found my subject of interest then my arousal would build. I would become erect far too easily, and my testicles would swell (I could actually feel it happening). A pressure would start to build in my groin, at the base of my genitals, and I would begin to feel an urge for insertion. The more turned on I got, the most desperate I would become to stick my dick into something, preferably a vagina. This was often frustrating to me, since what I wanted was more intimacy, more foreplay, but I felt compelled to “complete” the act.
Initial insertion would always feel amazing, and the instinct to pump would kick in immediately. Unfortunately, this is where dysphoria often came in to play. I could pump all I wanted, but at this point my sexual context was all fucked up and most of the time I could not climax without disassociating and disconnecting from what was happening. My orgasms were always a mechanical reaction by my body, and brought me little enjoyment, yet I still felt coerced to deliver them.
Some of this was definitely a hormonal drive, some of it was a result of gender roles that I felt obligated to follow. My wife believed that because it was so easy for men to climax, if I didn’t manage to then that meant she was somehow a failure as a partner. That knowledge then made me feel it was my duty to climax, lest she become depressed.
Climax, when it did occur naturally, always felt like a buildup of energy entirely in the groin, which would then suddenly fire off as it exploded forward through the penis. My pelvic floor would spasm repeatedly to trigger ejaculation and my legs would go rigid. Then I would fall into refractory period where everything would fall off. My sex drive would be gone, and I would be spent for at least an hour or two.
Estrogen Libido (early days to present)
I never actually experienced a total drop out of libido, so this will likely differ from some people. My sex drive always remained, but instead a new kind of libido grew over top of the old one, and for several weeks I didn’t realize what it was I was experiencing because I was feeling both drives at the same time. Getting horny on estrogen is a totally different experience.
Arousal arrives often completely unbidden. Initially I started HRT using sublingual estradiol tablets, which have a six hour half-life. At somewhere around the 1 month mark I started getting this intense sensation in the afternoons as my morning dose began to wane (it’s curious how estradiol drops always seem to be the catalyst).
It starts with a quickened pulse. My breathing gets heavier and I can tell my pupils have dilated. My chest will get warm and extremely sensitive to touch, and I’ll be compelled to touch it with my own fingers. Just grazing my skin feels delightful, my erogenous zones are alive with activity, and I’ll feel a longing to have my breasts held and my neck kissed. That longing develops into an ache, and I’ll start to get desperate for human touch.
My groin starts to ache as well, but not in the way it felt like on testosterone. The ache settles into my perineum and the back of my scrotal cavity, where my vagina would be. This is usually accompanied with moisture along the penile shaft, which typically comes with an increase of odor.
Arousal then leads me into desire. I long for my partner’s attention and feel pulled towards them like a magnetic attraction in my chest. If no partner is available, I want to search out a place to be alone to masturbate. My hands want to touch my privates, my hips want to rock forward and back, and I get hit with a want for pressure against my pelvis and a desire to be filled. I want something inside me, in the hole that isn’t there, and phantom vaginal sensations start to pour over me. Flexing my pelvic floor in kegel exercises feels very good and helps to build that arousal even further. Vibrations and pressure now feel amazing, where pre-hrt the only stimulation that worked was stroking along the shaft.
This arousal builds in me like a spring, running from my groin through my abdomen & chest and into my head.
There are basically two kinds of estrogen orgasm, the Little O (pelvic), and the Big O (brain). Most of my climaxes these days are pelvic, I have never been able to reach the brain orgasm without my wife involved, and I have to feel very strongly desired for it to happen. In a pelvic orgasm you can tell when it’s coming, you feel the pressure build up ahead of it. Where energy would build in the pelvis on testosterone, now it builds in my head, and as the climax comes that energy fires straight down my spine and into my perineum. My pelvic floor convulses and I can feel my muscles trying to contract around a vaginal cavity. This will often result in some clear discharge (prostate fluid).
The big brain orgasm happens much differently, however. The more turned on I get, the tighter the spring becomes. My leg and groin muscles start to quiver, and if I’m supporting my own weight then they may drop out from under me. My fingers and toes curl, and my pelvic and abdominal muscles start to buck on their own. My breasts will swell and my nipples will become rigid. Waves of pleasure bounce through my body as I build, but the final climax sneaks up, you may not even know it’s happening until suddenly all that energy crests the top of the dam and suddenly pours out into your body in a cascade. It flows through every nerve and every muscle as your entire body shakes with ecstasy.
After it passes you’re left stunned and immobile, trying to catch your breath, but then it starts to build again, and faster this time, and you get hit with aftershocks. It doesn’t have to stop there, tho, there is no refractory period, you can just keep going until either you or your partner are exhausted. You’re left in an afterglow so intense that it persists for hours, maybe even a day. The old TV trope where a woman coming to work extra bubbly because she got laid the night before? Totally real.
Where once I felt like I had to orgasm daily just to remain calm, now I can go days without needing any sexual function. Around 11 months I started to notice cyclical period symptoms, and part of that is a libido spike right before my period (which I mark by the onset of a depressive episode), and right in the middle of my cycle, around day 14-16, when my body is trying to induce an ovulation that obviously can’t happen. I’m receiving all the signals to go make a baby, and lord does that hit me hard. At it’s worse I find myself desperately wanting someone to molest me and just use me, and it can feel painful at times, because there just is no way for me to satisfy that itch.
On top of this, and ultimately the part that made me realize that what I was feeling was a feminine libido, is how it feels when I am unable to meet those needs. Denial of this desire feels like abject rejection of the worst kind. If my partner is not in the mood, all that excitement dumps into heartache, and I become immensely depressed. It was when I observed myself having this feeling that I connected to things my wife had said years ago about how it felt when she was horny and I wasn’t interested, and suddenly all the pieces came together.
It is really quite remarkable just how much the genitals change through medical transition. The way that my parts have switched to behave like their feminine analogs is just astonishing, and I experience stimulation in all the same ways that I would if everything was shaped like a vulva, especially since my orchiectomy. Touch down there feels so good, and it responds to oral exactly like cunnilingus. It smells like a vulva, the skin feels like a vulva, and from the right angle it actually looks like a vulva. My perineum can even be fingered in the same way as if I had a hole there, and it feels amazing. It feels so close to what my brain knows it should have been all along, and that just cements so strongly to me that I am and always have been a woman.
Arousal never triggers an erection any more, everything stay flaccid until the desire sets in, until I start to get turned on and am building toward an erection. Then it gets in the way, because the parts stop being the right shape, my clitoris pulls away and everything feels wrong. And yet, it still is nothing like how it once was, because this is no longer a male penis, it’s a girldick. It doesn’t get hard enough for penetration (we’ve tried), it doesn’t enjoy being stroked (the skin is too thing and tears easily). It wants pressure, it wants vibration, it wants slick skin against slick skin.
I’m caught in a limbo between having the parts I need and having the parts I had, and it hurts… it hurts so much, and this is ultimately why I need to pursue GRS. I can tell these parts are wrong, they aren’t what I should have had, and I need this to be fixed.
I apologize for ending this on such a down note, because this really is a truly remarkable experience and I do not want to scare anyone off from going through this and experiencing how good sex can feel when you’re on the right hormones. Even with this pain, I am so immensely thankful for the gift that transition has given me. Life is beautiful, where once it was dark.