Why it’s completely normal to not spontaneously want sex
Do you know what a responsive sex drive is? For many people, sex drive is not spontaneous but can be a result of initial stimulation—and that's totally fine!
We’re taught that sex drive goes something like this: if you fancy someone and want to have sex with them, desire should bubble up spontaneously.
But if you’ve been in a relationship for a while, when was the last time you had the sudden urge to tear your partner’s clothes off?
If you answered “Some time ago”, don’t worry—this is perfectly normal and is no reflection of how much you love or are attracted to them.
How does sex drive work?
Sex drive has long been misunderstood as a kind of innate hunger that wells up from deep within us. And, according to the hugely influential work of sex researchers Masters and Johnson in the 1960s, desire is what sets it off. We feel this first, their thinking goes, which then gets us aroused and ready to go.
This isn’t really how it works, though.
For women, sexual desire is more likely to be responsive, which means that we start to feel horny after there’s been some pleasurable physical stimulation. We start to enjoy ourselves and think: “Actually, yes, sex sounds good.” Ever got in the mood after your partner has started kissing your neck?
Desire doesn’t leap up and consume us, but is given the space to develop.
The feeling that we suddenly want sex, on the other hand, is known as spontaneous desire. This is that immediate, pounce-on-you sort of desire we see in the movies.
"Responsive desire means that we start to feel horny after there’s been some pleasurable physical stimulation"
But despite what the name suggests, these thoughts don't materialise out of thin air. Rather, they’re driven by our anticipation of pleasure and underlying motivations for sex. We might want to feel close to someone, for example. Once this puts us in the mood, our body then gets the memo and we get aroused.
According to sex researcher Emily Nagoski, 75 per cent of men and 15 per cent of women say they feel spontaneous desire, while 5 per cent of men and 30 per cent of women say they mostly experience responsive desire.
Can your sex drive change?
It’s possible to feel either and for your primary style to change over time. For example, after you’ve been in a relationship for a while you might find that your desire becomes more responsive than spontaneous.
This isn’t a sign that anything is wrong with you or the relationship, just that different things are sparking your interest in sex as you become more familiar with someone.
That’s perfectly normal. Expecting ourselves to want the same thing, in the same way, for the duration of a relationship can add unnecessary pressure to sex and even set us up to fail.
If you wore your favourite outfit the same way every day, wouldn’t you get bored of it at some point? Could you eventually be put off the look altogether?
Instead of waiting around to be struck by desire for sex, then, we should create space for it to happen. After all, not wanting sex out of the blue doesn’t mean that it isn’t important to us!
Although you might not actively be thinking about sex, you might be open to it happening. Exploring this feeling could mean taking things slower and seeing where kissing or cuddling might go, for example, without any sense of pressure or guilt that you’re not instantly ready to go for it.
"There’s no right or wrong when it comes to what turns us on—and no “bad” way to want sex"
You could deliberately carve out time to be intimate with your partner, which could involve something as simple as lying skin-to-skin in bed, and seeing what happens.
But perhaps most importantly, understanding how desire works for us can stop us from worrying about what we “should” be doing in bed. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to what turns us on—and no “bad” way to want sex.
Read more: How much sex is normal?
Read more: What's the deal with "female viagra"?
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