We’ve been thinking about sexual desire all wrong!

Many of us have been taught from a young age that sexual desire is a spontaneous driving force that once acquired must be satisfied. This idea has been heavily ingrained in us through mainstream media and porn, however, thinking about sexual desire in this way is not only false but can be incredibly harmful.

Framing sexual desire as a kind of ‘drive’ or need that must be fulfilled allows people to believe that they are entitled to sexual favours from someone which is not true. Also while sexual desire can be spontaneous this is not as common as we have been led to believe.

So if sexual desire is not a drive or completely spontaneous, then what is it?

Sexual desire is the psychological want to engage in sex by yourself or with a partner. Sexual desire often works in tandem with sexual arousal, the physical response that occurs when you receive sexual stimulation, although it doesn’t have to.

In fact, many people experience sexual arousal before sexual desire occurs which is known as responsive desire. Sexual desire is also often confused with sexual attraction which is the desire to have sex with a specific person.

Sexual desire, sexual arousal, and sexual attraction can overlap in any combination although they do not have to. For example, you may feel sexual attraction towards someone but not be sexually aroused or vice versa.

Therefore, it is important to understand the differences between these three experiences so that you are better able to communicate how you are feeling to others.

- Kate Moran