Spontaneous vs Responsive desire, the Scientific Reason Your Partner Wants to Have Sex All the Time and You Don't

couple in bed responsive versus spontaneous sexual desire 728

Maybe it seems like your partner is always down to get down…and you’re basically the polar opposite. Or you wonder why you’ve never experienced the urgent lusty feelings that proliferate Hollywood make-out scenes. Guess what? There’s nothing wrong with you. It probably just has to do with the way you experience desire.

Up until about 2001, the idea that taking a while to warm up to sex was widely classified as sexual dysfunction. But thanks to clinical sex therapist Dr. Rosemary Basson, we now know that there are actually two kinds of desire: spontaneous and responsive—and they’re both totally normal.

Spontaneous desire

According to Pamela Mendelsohn, LCSW, spontaneous desire is exactly what it sounds like: feeling in the mood for sex out of nowhere, or without any stimulation. You’re taking out the trash or scrubbing dirty dishes and thinking, hmm, sex would be great right now. It’s the crazy-passionate drive you see in the movies.

Responsive sexual desire

On the other hand, responsive sexual desire is when the desire to have sex starts after the act is initiated. Something sexy happens and then you’re in the mood. You don’t really crave sex spontaneously, but you enjoy it once you’re warmed up. Here, “arousal is experienced before desire,” says Dr. Basson

In the past, a lot of sex therapists and psychologists characterized spontaneous desire as “male” and responsive desire as “female.” But as with most labels, we now know it’s much more nuanced and complex than that. The reality is that both types of desire are healthy and normal for men and women, and both can lead to a fulfilling sex life. The key to navigating differences in sex drives, says Mendelsohn, is to understand your own experience of desire, and to communicate that with your partner.

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Senior Food Editor

Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City...