Unveiling the Intricacies of Desire and Arousal: Understanding Your Libido

Unlock the mysteries of desire and arousal. Understand your libido, triggers, and expectations. Explore the science behind sexual interest

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Table Of Contents

Introduction: Debunking the Notion of “Normal” Libido

How do desire and arousal work for you?

There is sometimes confusion about what is “normal” (we hate that word!), when it comes to libido.

Most of us experience sexual interest that is spontaneous (feeling “horny”), and some that are responsive (felt in response to a cue or trigger that comes from outside of ourselves). We often experience more spontaneous desire in the first 12-18 months of a relationship, but responsive desire is more common in women in longer-term relationships.

Unravelling Rosemary Basson’s Model: A Fresh Perspective on Desire and Arousal

Sex scientists have proposed a number of models to try and explain how desire and arousal work. This is Rosemary Basson’s model – one that was developed as a result of her work with heterosexual women in long-term relationships.

bassons model
bassons model

The Influence of Expectations: Consequences and Willingness to Respond

If we use a food analogy, spontaneous desire is a bit like hunger. Responsive desire, on the other hand, is more like realising we are hungry when we smell the aroma of baking bread as we walk past a bakery. Or watching someone else tucking in to a delicious looking plate of food and suddenly noticing our own appetite. Sometimes we may even start eating something because someone offers it to us, then enjoying the first few bites and realising we are hungry after all!

Basson’s theory is that we tend to be sexually “neutral” – but given the right context, the right cue – and crucially, if we are willing – we will then experience arousal. She recognises that sometimes desire comes before arousal – but at other times, arousal may be felt first.

She also recognises that our “willingness” to become aroused by a cue is influenced by our previous experiences.

If we expect a reward (physical or emotional), we’re more likely to respond to a cue.

If we expect the opposite (pain, boredom, or a negative physical or emotional consequence) – then we won’t feel willing to respond, no matter how good the cue.

It can be helpful to think about how this all works for you. What are your cues or triggers for interest in sex? What has to have happened to create the “right” context? What expectations do you have about the consequences when you have sex? How is this affecting your willingness?

Addressing the Impact of Body and Hormonal Factors on Sexual Interest

At Spiced Pear, we can help you to explore this in more detail, as well as to address how your body, or hormones, may be affecting things.

You can book an appointment with us here.

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A note on our language

Throughout this website, we use the term women when describing people who experience hormonal symptoms. However, we acknowledge not only those who identify as women require access to menopause and hormone health information. For example, some trans men, non-binary people, intersex people or people with variations in sex characteristics may also experience menopausal symptoms and PMS/PME or PMDD, and we warmly welcome everyone who needs this support in our clinic.

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