Sexual desire, also known as erotic desire, is one of the most interesting concepts of Sexology. It is also a difficult concept to define, describe and measure.
Sexology, as a science that studies the sexes and everything that surrounds them, is in charge of studying it. To date, many authors have tried to investigate erotic desire, but the truth is that few have been those who have shed some light on this phenomenon.
Psychology, especially in its most applied field, focuses on three levels: emotions, thoughts and behavior. Some authors have tried to place the desire in one of them. However, the desire is so complex that it can not be defined as inherent in any one of them.
Erotic desire is not an emotion, because our emotional states can be changed through cognitive restructuring or behavior modification; not so desire, which has an immutable character that sets it apart from being considered an emotion.
This same character is the one that discards desire as a fact belonging to the cognitive plane. And, needless to say, desire can never be defined in terms of behavior, since we can desire in a certain way and behave in a different way for very different reasons. Therefore, we could say that erotic desire is a fact that connects with the three planes, but does not belong to any exclusively.
Redefining erotic desire
Freud tried to define desire by using the concept of “libido”; to this day it is still used, although it is not a very exact term. It is not easy to define the desire in scientific or operational terms. If at present there is much bias in the investigation of these concepts, a hundred years ago this was greater. Freud himself, speaking of desire, said that “where men love they have no desires, and where they wish they can not love”.
Helen Singer Kaplan made a very important contribution on the theories of erotic desire. This doctor in Psychology introduced the desire in the famous model of the human sexual response of Masters and Johnson (excitement, plateau, orgasm, resolution), leaving this model in the phases “desire, excitement, orgasm and resolution”.
Stephen B. Levine has been one of the most recognized researchers about desire. This American psychiatrist defined it in three components: the impulse, the longing and the motive.
However, one of the best reflections about desire is offered by John Bancroft. This doctor talked about desire as something experiential and not neurophysiological. For him, this fact has to be described by identifying three dimensions: the cognitive, the affective and the neurophysiological.
To this day, there are many authors who research and write about erotic desire. In Spain we have very authoritative voices that have been studying this phenomenon for years. Joserra Landarroitajauregi, Francisco Cabello or Miren Larrazabal are three of the sexologists who have dedicated the most time to him.
Characteristics of erotic desire
There is no universal or official definition of this concept: it has very specific characteristics that make it a very complex object of study. Some of its most important characteristics are the following:
- Uncontrollable. Yes, erotic desire can not be controlled. What is under our control is behavior. Even if we have a certain desire towards something or someone, we do not have to carry it out, but suppressing or changing the direction of that desire is, in principle, unfeasible.
- 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 to desire.
- Anarchic. Erotic desire has no order, it has no concrete hierarchy. Sometimes we want people who do not have an important role in our day to day. 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.
- Incoherent. Has it ever happened to you that you have wished someone you do not like? For that is one of the manifestations of the incoherence of desire. The incoherence of desire meets many areas of our life. We can wish people of different ideology to ours, of different religious confessions, with different lifestyles and even, a priori, incompatible…
- Promiscuous. everything, promiscuous. Promiscuity is the main characteristic of desire. It is the word that best describes it. Within the world of the desires of each person, anything goes, absolutely everything, and no one can command over it, regardless of social conventions, stereotypes, prejudices, beauty canons, 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 are part of us.