If you could take a pill to eat Brussels Sprouts when you don’t like them, would you take it?
If you could take a pill to make yourself watch sports when you actually preferred painting, would you do it?
If you could take a pill to make grocery shopping more exciting, would you take it every time you needed supplies?
If you don’t particularly like something or you don’t want it, in most circumstances we would agree that not doing it would be perfectly reasonable.
Except when it comes to sex.
We live in a society that tells us that if we don’t want sex, there is something wrong with us; that we are broken or damaged in some way. We become afraid that it may spell disaster for our relationships or will change the way potential lovers may feel about us.
Once upon a time sexual desire was understood as linear. A direct ’cause and effect’ relationship that categorically stated that desire (the mental component – being ‘in the mood’) must come before arousal (the physical component, being hard, wet, engorged, turned on) and end in orgasm. This linear understanding of human sexuality gave rise to the unhelpful idea that desire must come before arousal, and therefore must be spontaneous to be good.
All over the world there are people believing they are sexually defective because they do not always experience desire before arousal. But this is not true nor an accurate way to explore the nature of desire.
For example, men are expected to want sex and be up for it all the time. But the truth is, some are and some are not. The idea that you are just wandering through the supermarket and all of a sudden… BAM! there you are amped up to have sex is not so much a myth, as it is a form of sexual desire that happens to some people some of the time. It is not a standard and it is no more normal nor abnormal than any other kind of desire for sex. A lot of men would like to think that they are like that, but are disillusioned or ashamed when they find that the idea of spontaneous sex is more appealing that the actual reality of it. Often the pressure to perform gets the better of them and they find it hard to … ‘rise to the occasion’.
This kind of desire is often referred to as ‘spontaneous desire’ will be experienced by all of us from time to time throughout our lives, but is not consistent nor dependable. While some younger folks may experience this kind of desire frequently, not all do and that is not cause for concern. When people come to see me because they do not experience desire in this way, I take the time to explain to them that desire is not linear and as a result there are actually many kinds of desire.
Another very common form of desire is more contextual. Referred to as ‘responsive desire’ it’s based on having certain conditions met in order to ‘get in the mood’. This means that sometimes arousal can be present before desire! In other words, we are responding positively to a particular context or set of conditions which contribute to getting us in the mood. We need the right kind of stimulation before desire is present. These conditions could be anything from being freshly showered and knowing there are clean sheets on the bed through to making sure the kids are asleep in bed or engaging the right kind of sensual touch to activate the pleasure receptors in our brains. Traditionally this form of desire has been associated with women but the truth is, this ‘responsive’ desire affects people of all genders; again at different times in their lives based on a variety of factors including hormonal changes, emotional turbulence, stress but more importantly, pleasure. Knowing what brings you pleasure or fulfillment makes it easier to access.
There are few people on the planet who crave or long for things they don’t want or like. When we do desire things it’s usually because they fulfill us in some way; physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually – they serve some purpose, some meaning in our lives. It is through this purpose that we derive some kind of pleasure that is meaningful and relevant to us. Being familiar with your sexual purpose is fundamental in connecting with the nature of your own desire patterns.
When working with clients who struggle with desire I always ask them why they want to have sex. They often look at me like I have lost my mind but I remind them that the answer to that question carries the secret they are seeking. When you know why you are doing something you are in a far better position to be able to motivate yourself to do it. Just like waking up on a chilly morning hearing the rain outside and thinking “I can’t go to the gym today”, but you do. You know why; because you want to be fit, stay strong, lose weight, gain weight, get the rush, see that cutie you’ve been eyeing off, feel healthier, reduce your back pain etc. You know your purpose. You make yourself go and once you’re there, your blood is pumping, you’re sweating and the endorphins kick in and you think to yourself “I am glad I made myself do this”. You’re glad you went, your purpose is embodied and helpful in motivating you. Or going to that party at the end of the week even though you’re tired. You make yourself get dressed up and out the door because your friends would be disappointed if you didn’t. You surprise yourself because once you’re there you actually end up having a great time. Sometimes arousal comes before desire; just like in life, just like in sex.
If you struggle with desire I encourage you to explore two things.
First of all, ask yourself why you want to have sex. And be prepared for the answer, whatever it is. It might be to be close to your partner, it might be because it makes them happy, it might be to have an orgasm, it might be because you owe somebody something. There are literally hundreds of reasons people have sex, so allow yourself to explore yours.
Then ask yourself what kind of sex you like. It might not be genitally based, it might be kinky, it might be sensual and slow, it might be rough, it might take time, it might be bawdy, it might be intercourse, it might be about you as a giver only or as a receiver only. It’s helpful to know what kind of touch or mental stimulation your body responds to because it’s really hard to want something you just don’t like. If you don’t like it, don’t do it. But if you do like something, remember it, especially if you’re struggling to get started. If desire is something you struggle with, be sure to be in touch with what it is you do like so you can give your body over to that experience and allow the brain to do its thing. Sometimes our minds can get in the way of what our bodies are capable of.
This is not about forcing yourself or being forced to do anything against your will, but rather about doing a little self-inquiry and communicating your knowledge, your purpose and your conditions to your partner. With a bit of time and a sympathetic ear, such conversations will increase your curiosity about sex, boost your confidence, foster greater acceptance and provide the antidote to feeling broken or dysfunctional which is often the cause of genuinely shutting sex down.
The Desire Series
The Desire Series online course offers you 3 hours of video tutorial along with 11 unique and detailed worksheets designed to transform your relationship with desire.
These three live webinar recordings delve deep into the most common problems many people struggle with regarding their relationship with desire, and offer you tailored solutions through the carefully crafted worksheets to help you understand how your desire operates.