Lust Death: 7 Things that Kill Desire

So I posted a little story on my timeline yesterday about how I once watched a handsome actor on some tv interview show. At the time, I had a serious crush on him and thought he was as hot as Satan’s furnace. I was somewhat interested in what he had to say, but tbh was really watching because I just wanted to stare at his magnificence for fantasy fodder (“mmm, he’d look amazing tied up tight!”). As a foot fetishist, I naturally gazed down at his feet to complete my fantasy. And then, BOOM. The blood drained from my genitals. He was wearing some ugly-ass thong sandal things, the kind you pick up on the cheap at Walmart when you are in a rush to get to the beach and, I don’t know, maybe are blind too. They were that ugly. His weirdly chubby, pale white feet stuck out in hideous contrast to his black pants like Pillsbury Doughboys trying to escape a muffin pan. I was done. I switched channels. My years-long crush had died a swift and brutal death on those ugly shoes. It wasn’t his feet per se, it was his horrible choice of footwear that shoved a permanent death-spike into my sexual desire. Like, dude, you can afford expensive boots!

That wasn’t exactly the first time in my life that someone I thought was super-hot said, did, or wore something that totally killed my ardor. It’s happened to me time and again since my teens. It made me accept that lust is, by nature, fragile, changeable, and subject to massive reversals. Just as there were men and women whose attractiveness died because of a word or attitude, there were platonic friends who suddenly looked hotter than I once thought possible because of their words or attitudes.

Generally, when we think about turn-offs, we focus on things like penis or breast or ass size, but the bigger truth about sex is that literally anything can, and does, transform the molten lava of lust into an Arctic wind of disgust. That’s right: take even the most seemingly sexy person, with all the right parts in all the right places, and in one flash of “YUCK!” all your feelings for them can change.

While there has been a ton of study on how desire forms, I’m not aware of any data that can help us understand what is happening inside our brains, on a chemical level, when somebody turns us off. What’s especially interesting to me is how the loss of desire is different for different people. For one it may be the clothes a lust-object wears or how they style their hair (true for me — when I see a guy with a douchey hairstyle I can’t even). I suspect that much so-called sexual dysfunction is actually a change in our psychosexual perception of our prospective partner and unrelated to our actual ability to perform. Once we’re with someone who is psychologically desirable they can easily press all our horny-buttons and turn us back into lust-beasts.

After telling my own story about Doughboy’s feet, some of my friends protested that shoes, even when ugly, are never a deal-breaker for them. I understand that a non-fetishist wouldn’t think twice about the shoes someone wore. In the brain of a foot fetishist, though, bad footwear choices can be the very definition of a sex-brain-block. A hardcore foot fetishist client who worked with me for years literally could not feel attraction to women who wore what he considered to be ugly shoes. He had a fetish for open-toed high-heels and while he didn’t expect all women to wear them, women who did wear them immediately captivated him. Other details — weight, race, height — didn’t concern him. Sexy (to him) shoes represented to him that the woman was conscious she had lovely feet and enjoyed showing them off. I got it. To a foot fetishist, an attractive-enough person wearing shoes that turn us on is as intoxicating as a fat ass is to Kanye.

I’ll never forget another client’s account of fleeing a casual hook-up midstream because of the way the girl smelled. He couldn’t describe the smell exactly, though he used words like “stale,” “unfresh,” “off,” and other vague terms. In the therapy sessions he then needed to recover from that ill-begotten booty call, he referred to her as “Smelly Girl.” I got that too. Sex is a complete sensory experience. When everything feels “right” — the way someone’s body feels, the way their skin tastes, the way they smell, the things they say — our senses fully engage in the pleasures of the moment. But any little detail, any minor flaw or irritation can totally kill the moment.

This, of course, has a painful side: the person who is sexually rejected and can’t figure out wtf just happened. One minute someone is hot and heavy with you, the next they act like they’re ready for their next relationship. Most experts generally attribute that to “relationship phobia” or “fear of intimacy” and other platitudes. I’ll go out on a sexological limb and guess that it’s also quite possible that your partner got turned off by some ridiculously small (or outrageously big) thing about you.

The psychology of sex — or psychosexuality, a more clinical term for it — means that human feelings can change your desires and alter your sexual performance, for good and for bad. So, for example, just wearing or seeing someone wear a garment that arouses them can put a fetishist in a powerful mood for sex. For the next person, the same fetish object is a turn-off, just like feeling that someone doesn’t smell “right” or is somehow chemically incompatible with you (yes, sex chemistry is a very real thing!).

A friend of mine confided that he once fucked a woman who was so eager for penetration she yanked her bloody tampon out and flung it across the room. It hit the wall and made splatter art.

Truth: you just can’t stop unpredictable emotional shifts, not your own nor another person’s. No matter how often you go to the gym or how great your clothes look, how much money you have or how beautiful and clean your genitals are, sooner or later, we are all likely to turn SOMEONE off for random reasons.

There’s no telling what can trigger another person’s lust-death, either. A friend of mine confided that he once fucked a woman who was so eager for intercourse she yanked her bloody tampon out and flung it across the room. It hit the wall and made splatter art. Yeah. No. Fastidious me would have gotten the hell out of there asap, without looking back. To my friend, it wasn’t a deal-breaker. He even kind of enjoyed it, if only for the weirdness factor, like “well, that’s certainly different and strange.”

It’s all very random. I once worked with a man who fetishized pale nipples. His wife’s nipples were plum colored and, after only a year or two of marriage, he could not make love to her anymore. He was monogamous and his inability to desire her enough to get hard was killing him. He had it lodged in mind that her breasts were ugly, and being gentlemanly, had never told her for fear of hurting her feelings. Instead, he opted for a sexless marriage and was considering divorce rather than admit that her dark nipples had killed his lust for her.

It’s the human psychosexual condition. People don’t choose to get turned on or turned off. Those feelings are stronger than we are, more primal, more core than what we think we think about sex. And when it happens, we often can’t handle it emotionally. We may need to put immediate distance between ourselves and our former object of lust. We are also usually too polite, or too freaked out, to tell the other person what we really feel. Some of are so overwhelmed by the change in our own psychology — and our instinct that our sexual performance will be a mess as a result — that we simply have to run out the door.

What is happening? Why is adult lust so fragile that even when all the parts are working they suddenly refuse to cooperate when something changes our psychological reaction? Do stress chemicals suddenly interfere and kill desire in the moment? Maybe. But that doesn’t explain why the loss of desire may be permanent. Is there a definitive brain change? There was no going back to “Smelly Girl” for my client, just as there is no going back for me on Doughboy. Once that switch turns to “no” or “oh hell no” it may never turn back on. Something must permanently change in the brain. I need data on this!

Meanwhile, though, I decided to ask my FaceBook friends about it, in an informal survey,

Have you ever been instantaneously turned off by someone you thought was hot until suddenly, without warning, your genitals shriveled at the mere thought of being with them? Was it something they said, did, wore, etc?

I got about 60 replies. The answers were very telling about this most human of all experiences — the sudden, sometimes shocking, experience of getting turned off by words, attitudes, sensory perceptions, and other subtle details. This is by no means a formal scientific study but the trends fascinated me. I’ll break their answers up into their top 7 categories of lust-killers.


7 Things that Kill Desire



Probably the single most cited reason for losing all interest in someone was the stuff they said. how they said it, what you think the words say about them, and sometimes even the sounds they made.

I thought she was sexy until she opened her mouth –KLK

A lot of ppl r sexy 2 me until they open their mouths, i think that’s why group sex and anonymous sex works sometimes for some folks and why it’s so hard for sex educators to motivate/support people talking sex through, agreements, etc –LH

Many years ago, I was out at the Atlanta Eagle and saw this gorgeous guy. Six foot tall, perfect body, full leather. He was literally a Tom of Finland drawing come to life. So hot I could hardly breath when I looked at him. I followed him around panting for at least an hour, completely unnoticed, of course. Then I heard him meet this other hot guy. He holds out this limp hand shake and says, “Hi! My nameth Keith. I’m an interior decorator,” in the most lisping girlish tone possible. Visions of a deep voiced, butch, dom Top destroyed with an epic blast of disappointment, not that ever thought I had a chance. anyway. I was so dispirited that I just left and went home. — BDT

More times than I can count… It’s almost always something they said. — SC

Sometimes it’s something Physical, more often it’s auditory-a sound they make. Something they say. How they treat people. No recovery is possible. –TP

I was friends with a woman from my church and even though it wasn’t a romantic relationship I felt a certain attraction to her. We seemed to get along well until one day she confessed that she had a difficult time communicating with men. I replied “We seem to have no trouble talking and confiding in one another.” Her reply was “Yeah but you’re in a wheelchair so I don’t think of you and that way.” i.e. she didn’t see me as a real man. I never spoke to her again. It would’ve been one thing for her to honestly say that she could not see herself in a romantic relationship with me because of the baggage of my disability but to completely emasculate me was pretty much a dealbreaker. In contrast the next relationship I was in the woman said to me the most affirming thing a woman has ever said to me. She described me as “dangerous”. She was scared to death that she was going to fall in love with me but for a variety of reasons the disability was again too much baggage for a long-term relationship. Neither of these two women were prepared to be in a serious relationship with me because they could not deal with my disability and I could have respected them both for that. I understand is a lot of baggage. But one of them saw me as less than a man and the other one in some ways more man than she could handle. I remained friends with the second woman for a long time but eventually lost touch. –CY


If they don’t smell right, they might just kill your mood. Seldom discussed yet universally experienced, some people are just not chemically compatible. It could be their cologne, it could be their poor hygiene or cigarette habits — or it could simply be that your physical chemistry does not biologically align with their physical chemistry. No matter how sexy you thought they were at first glance, your brain can’t be fooled into craving intimate contact with someone who smells “off” to you, no matter how cute they are. The weirdest part of this is that you may smell good to them. Or someone may smell great to you but secretly doesn’t care for your body’s odor. Ditto on taste, which is connected to smell. Some bodies will simply taste sweeter to you than others. Why? It’s an olfactory puzzle that sex science hasn’t yet addressed.

She lit a cigarette… Eww. — TH
Cigarettes, cologne, and depending on the person, their natural scent/body odor. –JW
It was a scent. It wasn’t a bad scent, but it was an incompatible scent. Fortunately, he couldn’t keep it up, so nothing other than snuggling and sleeping happened, but it was quite the splash of cold water. –TR
Dirty gross nails and lighting up a smoke will do that to me. –MBL


Everything’s going swimmingly — until you realize the person you hungered for has a shit attitude. For my friends, arrogance was a total deal-breaker.

Seeing them spew their ego everywhere. –TM

It was an attitude of intellectual and racial superiority that attempted to tapdance on a nerve. I ejected the miserable waste of space, who later twisted their account of the event to make themself appear to be the victim. I have no patience for that. — ST

It was their arrogance. –SC

Their sense of entitlement. Fuuuuuck that. — SLB

Pulled out, went to the mirror, fixed his hair, and then came back expecting to continue. –MT

Happens quite often, unfortunately: they talk about themselves incessantly, and it quickly becomes obvious that they are so self-absorbed there’s no point in attempting an authentic conversation. Insta-genital shrivel, and that’s saying a lot for a strap-on –CCM

4 – Politics and Belief Systems

My friends are mostly free-thinking, anti-racist, Equality-loving people. I imagine, though, that just as left-leaning progressives are sexually turned off by right-wing conservative speech, conservatives may similarly freeze up when someone utters political rhetoric they hate. Talk about the politics of sex: when politics enter the bedroom the results can be fatal to your lust. So too can another’s belief system, particularly if it conflicts directly with your own.

They wore a red, “Make America Great Hat!” –JC

Found out they were racist. Boom. They had to go. –DMT

Yup I found out he was a racist fuck. –KC

I don’t have sex with vegetarians. it’s a sure sign we’re not compatible physically. –CT

Racism, classism, misogyny, homophobia/transphobia, belief in the supernatural (this does not include taking bits of wisdom from religious texts/philosophies), are all surefire “turnoffs”. — ME

Anything religious or woo woo and I’m done. — PR

Usually it’s something they said; stupid/hateful/bigotry is a big turnoff. –KC

Racism, Trumpism, Rabid AnythingIsm, Misogyny (outside play), OneTrewWayIsm. –KKD

The exploratory racist remark that is just testing the waters. It won’t be an overt slur but something indirect. “Not to go all ethnic on you, but…” “…I guess it’s just what *those people* like, but…” I feel so sucker-punched when I hear that shit. And feel guilty at the same time, thinking: What did I do, what did I say, what signal did I give off that made him think I’d laugh this bullshit away. –PM



Yeah, I’ll let my friends have the floor on this one while I cringe. 😉

Supercalifragilistic extra halitosis. –MJ

Something she did … biting her nails at the dinner table and then spitting the nails across the table… deep sigh…😐 — SR

Hygiene… saw he had some ” issues” –AAS

Stench. Teeth, body, feet, crotch. Wash that shit. –SM

Had a customer I thought was attractive. One day she came into the office with some family members. They were eating candy and throwing the wrappers on the floor, despite there being a trash can right next to them. Just like that, was over her.–BR



What’s creepy to one person may be a turn-on to another and vice versa. Sometimes just getting a bad vibe about someone is enough to make your hormones retreat.

Always go with my gut…some people give me a creepy vibe, whether men or women…Has nothing to do with looks just a cold shiver down my spine. –ALK

Their energy and intention…. –JJ

He brought a gun to a booty call. –MT

Honestly, when one person told me the reason they were unemployed for 5 years was they participated in drug related robbery. –KC

Another angle on creepster crawlies is when someone is so consumed by shame or anxiety that their vibe poisons your desire,

I tricked with a guy years ago that had a colostomy bag. He was embarrassed past where he should. It wasn’t the bag, it was the attitude, the fear and mostly the excess of cologne that made my dick retreat. –AL


Last and definitely not least, a lot of people said they froze up around people they perceived as clueless, illiterate, or otherwise too dopey to turn them on.


7 – Illiterati and Other Clueless People

Intelligence is sexy to intelligent people. My clinical experience has shown me that the people most likely to go after dumb or uneducated people are predators who know they can fool, manipulate, exploit them, or otherwise take advantage of them.

“I don’t read books.” *instant retreat from attraction* — LA

The “I don’t read books” one is a definite relationship killer for me. I don’t think I could get past that one. –DG

Ayn Rand acolytes. Or anyone who thinks “50 Shades” is a great series. — DB

They have to read books. And for me the smarter the sexier. — AG


Even if they do read, their cluelessness might seriously cramp your lust

“On the scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the least painful and 5 being the most, where was that on the scale?” Asked approximately every two to three minutes by the top during a play date. –PN


So those are the top 7 reasons. Can you identify with them? If you can, don’t worry. It’s only human.



photo credit: Jacob Culp