The Difference Between Spontaneous and Responsive Desire

When you think about sexual desire, you usually have only one thing – the craving for sex. But there are actually two very different types of sex drive: spontaneous desire and reciprocal desire. Read about the differences between the two, how to find out who you are, and what that means for your sex life.

Psychological interest in sex versus physical fitness for it

Before talking about the two types of sex drive, it is important to make a separate distinction. We can get aroused and prepare for sex in two ways: in the head and in the body.

We can feel a mental interest in sex. The idea sounds good. We may even start fantasizing about it.

We can also prepare ourselves physiologically for sex. For people with penises, this means an erection, a narrowing, and a tightening of the testicles. For people with vaginas, this means lubrication and blood flow to the genitals. For everyone, this means that the nipples become hardened, the pulse quickens and breathing becomes difficult.

To have sex, both must happen. You must feel a mental interest in sex (and, of course, consent to it), and your body must be ready for this physical act. (For the record, great sex is possible without an erect penis or a lubricated vagina, but the basic idea is that you want your body to be sex-ready.)

The two types of sex drive can be summarized as follows: which of these two stages occurs in you first.

Spontaneous desire

Spontaneous desire arises when this mental interest arises first. You are just walking down the street or sitting at your desk when – BAM – you start thinking about sex. You want to have it.

Ideally, you should find a willing partner and start dating. Then your body will begin to prepare for the actual intercourse.

Most people think that desire should be spontaneous because that is the only way to see desire portrayed on TV, in movies, and in porn. Couples just live their days when they are suddenly overwhelmed by a frenzied passion.

According to researcher Emily Nagoski, about 75% of men and 15% of women have spontaneous desire.

Responsive desire

On the other hand, desire response occurs when you feel this physical readiness for sex before you feel the mental desire. Typically, you are already engaging in some kind of physically challenging activity, and then you begin to feel a moral interest in further action.

If you’ve ever agreed to have sex with your partner, even if you weren’t completely in the mood, but then thought, “Yeah, it was actually quite fun,” then you are probably a very responsive type.

5% of men and 30% of women have a reciprocal desire. (The remaining 20% ​​of men and 55% of women experience both spontaneous and reciprocal desire.)

Why does it matter?

Again, most people think that sex drive should happen spontaneously. As a result, people with responsive sex drive are unfairly called “weak desire” or even “lack of desire.” But lack of spontaneous desire is not the same as low libido; it’s just the absence of spontaneous sex drive! Responsive sex drive types are not low desire; They just have different needs in order to feel the desire.

Is it better to be spontaneous?

I know it would be tempting to think of spontaneous sex drive types as “simpler” than reactive sex drive types, but each type has its own problems. In my experience, spontaneous sex drive types often suffer from more performance problems than people with reactive behaviors. Spontaneous types often expect a sense of the mental desire for sex to be enough, and don’t often give themselves time to really warm up for sex. People with penises can find it difficult to achieve an erection, and people with vaginas can find it difficult to get lubricated or have an orgasm.

What to do with your sex drive

Understanding the difference between spontaneous and responsive sex drive can be a game-changer. I can’t tell you how many emotional stories I hear from people who were thrilled to hear about sex drive response for the first time. When it comes to sex, it is very easy to feel that something is wrong with you or that you are not like other people. The realization that you are completely normal and healthy can be an incredible burden on you.

Once you can overcome this unnecessary fear and shame about your sex drive, you can channel this energy into learning how to create a sex life that will fuel your own sex drive.

If you are a responsive sex drive, it means knowing that you don’t want to say yes to sex until you’re in the process of some kind of physical stimulation. It’s important to take the time to think about the type of stimulation that usually helps you move. If you have a reliable partner, you can agree that you won’t say yes or no to continuing sex until you’ve already kissed, or exchanged handwork, or watched porn (or that whatever kind of stimulation you like) for 10 minutes. Of course, you never want to force yourself to do something that you really don’t want to do. Rather, the idea is to see if you can feel curious about your desire being manifested in response to stimuli.

If you are the type of spontaneous sex drive, it may mean that you should spend more time on yourself for foreplay or rethink what sex might be for you. (That is, it doesn’t always require a hard penis or orgasm.)

As a couple, this means that you have to talk about what each of you needs in order to feel both mental interest and physiological readiness for sex, and work together to satisfy everyone’s needs.


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