This article was written for women or people with estrogen-based bodies even though men or people with testosterone-based bodies can benefit greatly from this information as well.
Many of my clients are seeking help after 10-15 years of sexless marriages. While the reasons for this are complex, distinguishing between the two types of sexual desire can increase your chance of not being one of these couples.
Just as it is somewhat intuitive to have sex when we feel an impulse to have it, it doesn’t make sense to force ourselves to have sex when the desire is not there. When desire doesn’t occur spontaneously, you might assume that something is wrong with you, your partner, or your relationship chemistry.
I have good news for you! The only thing that is wrong is assuming there is only one type of desire.
Imagine yourself sitting at a meeting at work or walking down the street and find yourself suddenly full of sexual desire.
This is “spontaneous desire.”
There is a lot of pressure for women in our society to want sex spontaneously, as well as to be wet at the drop of a hat and orgasm easily and from intercourse only. You may be surprised to learn that according to research only about 15% of women experience exclusively spontaneous desire.
Many women do not feel the desire to have sex until sexy things are already happening.
This is “responsive desire.”
Oftentimes these women are labeled as having a “low” sex drive, even though theirs is actually “normal”. A “lack of spontaneous desire for sex is not, in itself, dysfunctional or problematic,” says Emily Nagoski, Ph.D., a renowned sex researcher, and educator. About 30% of women experience this type of desire.
Your desire is responsive when you have a need for stimulation and arousal first: before you get excited and eventually feel in the mood for sex. This means that instead of waiting patiently (sometimes for years) for your desire to emerge spontaneously, you and your partner can schedule a sex date and introduce some sexy stimulation without waiting for it to just happen!
If you did your math and wondering what’s up with 55% of women whose desire is neither spontaneous nor responsive – the answer is: they experience desire as a mixture of both types. Perhaps being mildly interested in having sex spontaneously, but then getting most of their desire as a response to something hot and steamy.
You might be feeling that you “should” feel the spontaneous desire. That it is a more superior kind. I understand your frustration, but please don’t blame yourself. We can blame the patriarchy for making the way men experience sexual desire the standard for women. We can blame a lack of sexual research and education. We can blame inaccurate social messages…
At the end of the day though you are the one who can take charge of your sexuality by accepting it the way it is and learning how to create desire and fulfillment.
As a side note, you might say, “Well, I wanted sex spontaneously all the time when we first met, why don’t I now?” The explanation for it is simple: during your “honeymoon phase,” your brain was flooded with powerful neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine. These chemicals, responsible for feelings of euphoria and intense energy, play a huge role in your sexual chemistry. As couples become more familiar and more comfortable with each other, the honeymoon period comes screeching to a halt. The brain returns to normal, real life begins
to intrude, and it’s time to learn how to create chemistry yourself.
If you are reading this article, your desire is most likely responsive or a combination of spontaneous and responsive. Now that you know this, try to experiment with adding stimulation and arousal without pressure or expectation to have sex. Whether you are on your own or with a partner, notice if eventually, desire shows up and what started with a lukewarm interest results in a fulfilling pleasurable experience.
Additionally, you might notice that your desire is spontaneous at a particular time of the month (often around ovulation), but is responsive at other times. This is something to keep in mind and take advantage of!
Knowing your desire style can be an important piece of the puzzle to deciphering your sex drive. Yet, it is not the whole puzzle. Human sexuality is complex. If somebody is trying to sell you “simple,” don’t buy it. Your sex drive (or libido) is influenced by physical, biological, psychological, mental, emotional, and social factors.
I challenge you to explore the contexts in which your desire thrives, discover your needs, wants, and turns ons, and how to communicate them, as well as expand your erotic repertoire.
p.s. If this information was useful for you and you want to go deeper, please contact me for a FREE “Bring the Change” Intro Session.