Erotic desire in sexology

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Joe Dispenza

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Erotic desire in sexology

The complexity of erotic desire makes it very interesting from a scientific point of view. More and more sexology professionals are showing interest in it.

Last update: October 31, 2022

Sexual desire, also known as erotic desire, is one of the most interesting concepts in sexology. A concept that is certainly difficult to define, describe and measure.

Sexology is the science that studies sex and everything related to it. To date, numerous authors have tried to investigate erotic desire, but few have managed to shed light on this phenomenon.

Psychology, in particular, focuses on three levels: emotions, thoughts and behaviors. Some authors have tried to place desire within one of them. However, desire is so complex that it cannot be defined as inherent in just one of these aspects.

Erotic desire is not an emotion, because our emotional states can be changed through cognitive restructuring or behavior modification. Desire, on the other hand, is immutable and in this differs from emotions. Likewise, it prevents him from belonging to the cognitive plane.

And, needless to say, desire can never be defined in terms of behavior, as we can desire one way and behave differently for many reasons. We could therefore say that erotic desire concerns all three areas, but does not belong to any of them.

Redefine the erotic desire

Freud tried to define desire using the concept of "libido"; his approach is still used today, even if it is not entirely accurate. It is not easy to define desire in scientific and operational terms.

In addition to this, if many prejudices still persist today regarding these concepts, let's imagine a hundred years ago. Freud himself, speaking of desire, said that “when men love they have no desires, and when they desire they cannot love”.

Helen Singer Kaplan has made a very important contribution to the theories of erotic desire. This psychologist introduced desire into Masters and Johnson's famous human sexual response model (arousal, plateau, orgasm, resolution), leaving this model in the “desire, arousal, orgasm and resolution” stages.

Stephen B. Levine is one of the most famous seekers of desire, who has broken it down into three components: impulse, desire and motive.

However, one of the best thoughts on desire is offered to us by John Bancroft. He speaks of desire as something that depends on experience and not on the neuro-physiological dimension. For Bancroft, there are three dimensions of erotic desire: cognitive, affective, and neuro-physiological.

Characteristics of erotic desire

There is no universal or official definition of this concept: it has very particular characteristics that make it a very complex object of study. Some more important features are as follows:

  • Uncontrollable. Yes, erotic desire cannot be controlled. What we can control is our behavior in relation to it. Even if we have a certain desire for something or someone, we don't have to satisfy it, but repressing or changing the object of that desire is, in principle, unattainable.
  • Involuntary. Desire is not subject to our will because it is likely that if many people could choose the direction or intensity of their desire, perhaps they would choose another way of desiring.
  • Anarchist. Erotic desire has no order, it has no concrete hierarchy. Sometimes we want people who don't play a major role in our daily life. We can even erotically desire people we have just met, for no apparent reason, more than others who have been in our lives for years.
  • Inconsistent. Have you ever wished for someone you don't like? Well this is one of the manifestations of the inconsistency of erotic desire. The inconsistency of desire is present in many areas of our life.

We may want people who have lifestyles different from ours, who profess another religion, who think differently from us, with whom in short, a priori, we are incompatible.

  • Promiscuous. Above all promiscuous. Promiscuity is the main feature of erotic desire. It is the word that best describes it. In the world of every person's desires, everything is fine, absolutely everything, and no one can dominate it, regardless of social conventions, stereotypes, prejudices, beauty standards, etc.


These characteristics, while making it a very difficult fact to investigate, also make it one of the most curious, intense and beautiful facts that form part of us.

Desire is linked to our intimacy, it happens in the depths of our being and no one has access to it but ourselves. In the world of our erotic desire there are no limits, there are no rules. Therefore, desire is one of the purest and most beautiful manifestations of human freedom.

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