The biggest myth about sexual desire – knowing this can transform your sex life

by | Aug 16, 2023

Sexual desire is viewed through a very narrow and limited lens. If you aren’t ‘horny’, ‘in the mood’ or experience desire regularly, many women I work with feel that there is something wrong with them. There is not. Sexual desire is so much more nuanced than this. Let me explain.

Emily Nagoski, a sex educator and author of “Come As You Are: Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life”, offers some wonderful language to help us understand what is going on and she makes the distinction between ‘spontaneous’ and ‘responsive’ desire.

Emily writes:  “Desire was conceptualised as emerging more or less ‘spontaneously.’ And some people do feel they experience desire that way. Desire first, then arousal.”

This ‘spontaneous’ desire is the kind of desire that you see portrayed in the media. It’s fiery, passionate and urgent. This is viewed as the ‘gold standard’ of desire. The way it ‘should’ be but this is not true for everyone.

Many people, especially women, can experience desire as ‘responsive’ which means that their desire emerges in response to something.  As they respond to something, they experience arousal first then desire.  Knowing this is a game changer for so many of the women and couples that I work with.

Nagoski notes 75% of men experience spontaneous desire, as well as 15% of women. For responsive desire, 5% of men and 30% of women. The rest (about 50% of women and 20% of men) experience desire that is ‘context dependent’ – a mix of spontaneous and responsive desire. Emily shares that only around 6% of women don’t experience spontaneous or responsive desire.  With these statistics, there is a good chance that if you have a female partner, she will experience responsive desire, at least some of the time.

For a person with responsive desire, if they don’t experience anything yummy to respond to, they can go months or years without feeling sexual desire – and it has to be more than ‘fancy sex tonight, love’!!

Some women I work with don’t know what feels good as they are used to trying to shoehorn themselves into a type of sex that doesn’t work for them.  Knowing this you can start to explore what feels good to you. This can be what you can do with your partner and also what you can do for yourself.  Many women do know or at least have an inkling but they don’t know how to make it happen or how to ask for it.

This also means that you can let go of needing to feel desire to ‘have sex’ and get more intentional about sex.  This might mean creating time to get together.  People I work with can feel resistance to planning intimate time together as they believe ‘spontaneous’ sex is better than planned sex. A blog on this is coming soon.

If you or your partner experience responsive desire, we’ll be exploring this and more in our couples course INTIMACY, starting in September, which I am holding with my partner Graeme Waterfield.  INTIMACY is 3 months to commit to and prioritise your relationship and your pleasure this autumn, starting in September.   It’s full of powerful, beautiful and juicy practices that will strengthen the foundations of your relationship and transform the intimacy, love and pleasure that you experience together.  Whether you are looking to revitalise your relationship or your committed to deepening what you have, we’ve got you!

You can read all about INTIMACY here.  After reading the info, if you have any additional questions or you would like to book a 30 minute call with Graeme and I to see if INTIMACY is right for you both, please message me. Early bird offer available until the end of the month.

If you would prefer private couples coaching with Sarah, you can book a call here to find out more.

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