Different paths to desire work differently, and each way is valid.
There’s no wrong way to do it, so try to give yourself some compassion if you’ve been struggling with what your desire type means for you and your relationship. People who experience more responsive desire may feel pressured into starting sexual activity before they’re ready, which can be frustrating and discouraging. Learning more about how you experience arousal in your body will give you and your partner more information to work with, so you can start finding what works for you both.
It’s also important to note that if you don’t feel turned on, that’s okay. You’re allowed to not be interested in sex, whether it’s from time to time or if you find yourself somewhere on the asexuality spectrum. You may also find that your style of desire changes over time.
Understanding how the different desire styles work can help you find ways to improve intimacy if that becomes an issue in your relationship. If you’re looking for more ways to improve your sex life, sex therapy can help you find what works best for you. id you know that there’s more than one way to be turned on? Have you ever experienced a situation where you were turned on mentally, but physically you weren’t aroused? Or maybe it was the other way around, where physically you were turned on, but mentally you weren’t feeling it.
There’s more than one component to desire when we have good sex. Intimacy isn’t fulfilling for anyone if one partner isn’t able to be present and enjoy themselves. It can become really frustrating to feel like your partner isn’t interested in you sexually or like you don’t know how to turn each other on anymore. Understanding more about how sexual desire works can give you more compassion for yourself and your partner as you figure out what works for you both.
In her book Come As You Are, sex educator and researcher Emily Nagoski explores the ideas of responsive desire and spontaneous desire. Some people experience spontaneous desire, which is what happens when you get turned on mentally, then aroused physically. If you think about sex, you start to want it!
On the other hand, responsive desire happens when you’re aroused physically, which in turn leads to mental desire. Being aroused physically doesn’t mean jumping right into sexual activity when you’re not ready yet! Physical arousal can be achieved through stimulating the senses, which then leads to being turned on mentally.
The senses are a powerful way to send information to your brain. Have you ever smelled something that brought you right back to a particular memory or heard a song that shifted your mood? You can use that power to your advantage.
Here are some ways to stimulate each sense to increase your level of desire:
- Hearing: listen to audio erotica (on a dedicated site like Dipsea or even via audiobooks from a library app), try dirty talk, play music that puts you in a sensual mood, moaning
- Smell: light a candle, massage your partner with scented oil (or ask them to massage you), wear clothes that smell like your partner
- Taste: try foods considered to be aphrodisiacs, feed each other, use edible body paint
- Sight: take sensual pictures of yourself (or your partner), send sensual selfies to your partner, watch porn, look at erotic art, dim the lights, try a blindfold to take away this sense
- Touch: dance with your partner, massage your partner, use lube, cuddle, play with temperature using ice cubes or melted wax
There’s more than one road to arousal, and everyone has their own preference. It’s also possible that you experience both types of desire, just at different times. Your desire type isn’t set in stone for your whole life. There can be circumstances in your life where it’s harder for you to get out of your head mentally, so responsive desire works better for you. Or you might typically feel responsive desire, but every once in a while experience a jolt of spontaneous desire. However, you feel desire is okay! Knowing what you’re working with gives you more information to make things work.
It’s a stereotype that men are more sexual beings than women. This may be because, typically, men experience more spontaneous desire than women. Women tend to experience reactive desire, which has led to the idea that women desire sex less than men. That couldn’t be further from the truth.