Female Erotic Desire: Spontaneous vs Responsive

March 9, 2017


Women have been programmed to think that they have a low libido or something is wrong with them because they don't walk around thinking about sex all day.  This is called spontaneous desire, where your brain has to think of sex FIRST in order to be aroused. If you experience spontaneous desire, that is great, but don't feel that something is wrong with you because you don't. This is how it works for maybe 75 percent of men and 15 percent of women. 


Emily Nagoski, a sex educator and author of, Come As You Are: Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life, is offering fabulous dialougue to help us articulate to women (and their partners) what is going on, making a distinction between spontaneous and responsive arousal.


Emily writes:


Researchers have begun to understand that sexual response is not the linear mechanism they once thought it was. The previous model, originating in the late ‘70s, described a lack of ‘sexual fantasies and desire for sexual activity.’ It placed sexual desire first, as if it were a hunger, motivating an individual to pursue satisfaction. Desire was conceptualized as emerging more or less ‘spontaneously.’ And some people do feel they experience desire that way. Desire first, then arousal. But it turns out many people (perhaps especially women) often experience desire as responsive, emerging in response to, rather than in anticipation of, erotic stimulation. Arousal first, then desire. Both desire styles are normal and healthy. Neither is associated with pain or any disorder of arousal or orgasm.


You may have experienced spontaneous desire at a younger age, or when you first met your partner, but wonder why you don't experience that anymore.  Don't worry.  This is normal! 


The other side of desire is responsive desire.  Responsive desire works differently in that you have to respond to something that is done.  For example, you had a long day at work and finally get into bed, with one thing on your mind, SLEEP!  Your partner cuddles up behind you and starts caressing your arm and kissing your neck. After a couple minutes of this and you become aroused.  This is responsive desire, and is most common.  


This information is especially important to know after dealing with an illness or trauma.  A lot of my clients have told me that they no longer have that spontaneous desire, but when they get into it, they are ok.  Your brain is your biggest sex organ.  Your brain is what is sending the signals for spontaneous desire.  Illness and trauma often create a gap between your brain and your vagina.  There are ways to close this gap, but won't necessarily create spontaneous desire. 



I have been listening to Emily a lot lately, and really diving into her studies.  There are some awesome graphs and information over at the Dirty Normal.  


What kind of desire are you experiencing?
























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Natalie Hatjes, MS CHT

Sex Coach & Hypnotherapist

South Florida


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