What is sexual desire?
Sexual desire is one of the components in sexuality that motivates or drives humans to seek out sexual objects or to engage in sexual activity. It is important to understand that sexual desire is different from sexual arousal, sexual activity, and sexual feelings. There is a line between sexual desire and other sexual components. Sexual desire, however, only expresses or experience as a wish, need, or craving for sexual contact.
Sexual desire varies along three dimensions:
- Quantity : intensity and frequency of wish to engage in sexual contact or activity
- Quality : the wish to engage in a specific activity (eg. intercourse) and very specific other (eg. partner)
- The origin of desire : whether it is internally generated or as a response to external stimulus
Everyone has different expressions and experiences in sexual desire. There are three factors that have been associated with sexual desire: individual factors, interpersonal factors, and social environmental factors. Physical and psychological health are individual factors that have significant influence on sexual desire.
- Physical Health: people with serious physical illness such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease are likely to have lower sexual desire than healthy adults.
- Psychological health: those with major mental illness such as depression, who tend to experience decrease in sexual desire.
- In addition, age and gender have been associated with sexual desire as well. Growing older potentially means a decline in sexual interest, for both women and men. While to see in gender perspective, in general women reported feeling sexual desire less often than men.
Looking through interpersonal factors, one of the most important factors that is associated with sexual desire is passionate love. Couples that are satisfied, committed, and manage a healthy relationship are likely to increase sexual desire. This also should not be generalized as couples with low sexual desire have a dysfunctional relationship. It is important to take note that sexual desire can change because of other factors such as partner’s health, age, and hormonal changes.
Another factor we should look up to is social environmental factors. Social factors have some variables that influence sexual desire such as social norms, laws, religious doctrines, and cultural stereotypes. As in society we often hear about stereotypes such as men has a high desire, uncontrolable and powerful urge for sex. While in some cases, this stereotype leads men hard to express their problem regarding the reduction in their sexual desire, arousal, and other aspects of sexual responses as a natural part of the aging process. Alike for women labelled as sexually disordered when they may experience desire differently than men.
Understanding our own sexuality can be challenging, but this is something only we can find out on our own. There are both physical and mental health providers out there that can facilitate and help with understanding adolescents development. It is important to educate ourselves about our own body and sexuality, so we can get a better understanding about one’s self.