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Can Sexual Desire Be Spontaneous Or Responsive Or A Mix Of Both?

spontaneous or responsive sexual desire

When it comes to sex and intimacy, there is no one-size-fits all approach. Everyone experiences pleasure and desire in different ways, whether they have a medical condition like erectile dysfunction or are simply looking to improve their relationship with their partner. What is especially important for those seeking sexual satisfaction is to understand the difference between spontaneous desire and responsive desire - two distinct modes of emotion that can lead to elevated levels of physical enjoyment.

Sexual desire, as I often describe, exists on a spectrum where we find ourselves shifting back and forth between the two types of desires based on various factors. Things like environmental influences, the quality of our relationships, sexual motivations, and a myriad of personal and relational elements--all play a role in shaping this dynamic interplay of desire. 

This spectrum reflects the ebb and flow of desire, evolving as we navigate through the different stages of a relationship. As couples, we collaboratively identify and adapt to the mode that aligns best with our unique circumstances. With that being said, there is no right or wrong way to desire. Both are totally fine and completely normal. It’s about learning how to tap into each other’s desires so we can improve the quality of our sex lives as a whole.

Let’s explore sexual desire, together!

Rich from bdestyle experiencing both situations of responsive desire and spontaneous desire with his female partner

What Exactly Is Sexual Desire (Libido)?

For those of you who aren't familiar with the phrases and "technical" terms, desire (also known as libido) and arousal are two different things (I often find that people get confused with both terms, which is why I need to explain this).

Arousal is a sexual response to the 5 senses or mental fantasy to induce the physiological response in your body when you're sexually excited. For example, we discussed this in the blog, "The Process of an Erection" and that an "erection" begins in the arousal stage. It’s a response to arousal.

On the other hand, "sexual desire" is the emotional response of wanting to have sex. It's the "wanting to want" part or the sexual appetite or baseline interest for sex. For some, it comes first while others it may come after arousal (spontaneous desire style versus responsive desire types)

Overview of Spontaneous and Responsive Desire

In our human sexual desire, there are two types that people commonly experience: spontaneous and responsive desire styles.

Spontaneous desire is the urge that comes from within, without any external factors influencing the desire. If you're this type, you tend to feel mental desire first, followed by arousal.

Responsive desire, on the other hand, is the desire that arises in response to a specific sexual stimuli, or contextual situations.

Both types of desire are healthy and normal, and it's important for individuals to understand their own unique desires in order to have a fulfilling sex life. It's also important to note that desire can change over time and may be influenced by various factors, such as stress, hormonal changes, or relationship dynamics.

Fun fact: "Culturally", spontaneous desire is what most people "perceive" as the traditional model of desire or what the average person thinks everyone is supposed to "always" experience or feel. But this is not always true or the case for everyone. (that's the purpose of this blog, to discuss both types)

Differentiating Between the Two Types Of Desire

When it comes to distinguishing between two types, it's important to consider the subtle nuances that set them apart.

Spontaneous desire is usually characterized by the "random" or passing moments when you feel interested in having sex. It's often the result of internal cues, such as fantasy or thoughts about sex, without any external influence.

Responsive desire, on the other hand, is usually more subtle and is primarily influenced by external stimuli. This could be something like watching a movie, reading a book that arouses you, or being touched by your partner and then desire builds from there.

spontaneous desire vs responsive desire infographic

Another fun fact: Desire can change overtime, meaning you can fluctuate between the two. It can even change as we age. It's our behaviors, including biological, social and psychological factors that influence how we respond to sexual situations.

​Spontaneous Desire Style

​Responsive "Driven" Desire Style

​Our culture/society believes or "expects" this desire style to be the norm, thanks to misinformation from pornography, movies, social media and other online spaces (not always true).

Sexual desire emerges after sexual situations or arousal begins. For instance, when kissing turns into making out and then finally turns into foreplay leading up to sex (desire "builds" after the senses are stimulated/one is aroused).

​Completely normal and healthy

Completely normal and healthy

You may feel like desire happens out of nowhere (random mental thought and then you're aroused), but really, there are biological, psychological and social factors at play.

Our society mistakenly categorizes this as "low libido" or low desire. Our society also thinks that they should "wait" until they have desire to have sex, when really, it's the opposite. You should have sex, for desire to build

​Some experts suggest that this type of desire may lead to more frequent sexual situations or a wider range of sexual contexts. For instance, you're probably more likely to initiate sex with your counterpart (if they're more on the responsive side)

Some experts suggest that responsive desire takes into account relational, social, cultural and contextual aspects. For instance, the "right conditions" for sex to be met as a necessity for sex to happen in the first place.

​Men are not the only ones who feel "spontaneous" desire. Women can, too! At the same time, men are NOT always a spontaneous type. You can fluctuate, although research suggests women tend to fluctuate more between the two types

​Just because you don't feel desire right away, does not mean it's a dysfunction or you're broken. You just need to get in there (warmup/start the process) and desire will build.

It's important to remember that both types of desire are valid and normal, and there is no right or wrong way to experience them. In some cases, the two can even coexist - such as when you may feel an initial spark of spontaneous desire at the beginning of a "NEW" relationship, but as the relationship progresses and the newness fades, you may lean towards a responsive desire type in the presence of your partner.

Reiterating The Differences Between Sexual Desire (AKA Libido) & Arousal

Sexual desire or "libido" and arousal are AGAIN not the same thing.

Sexual desire, or libido, is the psychological and emotional drive to engage in sexual activities. It's the urge you get that makes you want to get intimate with your partner.

spontaneous desire infographic

On the other hand, arousal is the physical response to sexual stimuli. It's the physical or physiological reaction that occurs when you're sexually stimulated. It includes changes in blood flow, muscle tension, and breathing patterns. For instance, getting an erection from being aroused or becoming wet from sexual stimuli that is "arousing".

So, in a nutshell, sexual desire is what makes you want (or interest) to have sex, while arousal is the physical response that prepares your body for it. Now, let’s explore the feelings, motivations and pleasure involving sex.

responsive desire infographic

Exploring the Role of Pleasure in Sexual Desire

In addition to understanding the difference between spontaneous and responsive desire, it's important to explore the scientific concept of pleasure in sexual desire itself.

Pleasure is an essential part of a healthy sex life that can help you experience greater levels of satisfaction and fulfillment in your intimate relationships. It integrates all aspects of sexuality... from physical pleasure to psychological and emotional enjoyment.

In fact, there is a symbiotic relationship between pleasure and desire - meaning that they often go hand-in-hand. When you experience pleasure from sexual activity, it can lead to heightened feelings of desire, which in turn leads to even greater levels of pleasure.

So if you want to increase your pleasure, you'll want to start by increasing your sexual desire.

The Connection Between Emotions and Sexual Desire

It's also important to consider the connection between emotions and sexual desire. Deep emotional connections can play a significant role in both spontaneous and responsive desire. In the case of spontaneous desire, feelings of intimacy are often a crucial part of the equation. The more connected you feel emotionally with your partner, the more likely you are to experience strong surges of arousal that come from within.

With responsive desire, emotional connection, and trust, "also" serve as the foundation for elevated levels of arousal. BUT, when you feel comfortable with your partner, you are more likely to be open to exploring new sexual activities that can result in heightened feelings of pleasure and satisfaction.

Rich is experiencing spontaneous desire while his partner is experiencing responsive desire

Understanding The Connection Between Sexual Motivation and Sexual Desire

Sexual motivation and sexual desire, though interconnected, are two distinct concepts. Sexual motivation refers to the impulse to gratify sexual needs, which can be achieved through direct sexual activity or seemingly unrelated activities. Both, sexual motivation and desire contribute to our sexual behavior, shaping the way we perceive and engage in sexual activities

Did you know that there are over 237 reasons why we have sex? As some researchers try to make this number smaller, this study is one of the first to really dive into sexual motivations and give us reasons why we behave the way that we do.

there are 237 reasons why we have sex by

It's important to realize that sexual motivation is more than just physical desire. It's about feeling emotionally and mentally ready too. And that's okay. It doesn't make you any less of a sexual being. Having a high sex drive also doesn't necessarily mean you're always going to be up for a romp in the sack. There will be times when you're super turned on, but because of issues you're dealing with in your personal life, the motivations to actually have sex just won't always be there.

Your sexual desire or your partner's sexual desire can be affected by stress, anxiety, mental illness, and many other things. As humans, we just aren't going to be emotionally and mentally ready 24/7. And sometimes we might not be in sync with our partner’s desire type, too.

The Gender Debate On Sexual Desire:

It's no secret that men and women can lean in opposite directions when talking about sexual desire. Research suggests that men and women may "get there" differently when talking about the sexual response cycle (the process from arousal all the way to climax/resolution).

It shows that some people will respond much faster while others will "respond" slower and that there can be many fluctuations in between.

There are also some limited studies that point out that women are not as "spontaneously responsive" as men. This could be attributed to a variety of factors, from cultural norms and expectations to biological differences and mental components.

There is of course no real way of measuring someone's pleasure levels, but most researchers will agree.

come as you are by sex educator Dr. Emily Nagasaki that talks about spontaneous and responsive desire

For instance, according to sex educator Dr. Emily Nagoski and author of "Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life (amazon link)":

  • 75% of men may primarily feel "spontaneous desire", as well as 15% of women.

  • 85% of women don't always feel spontaneous desire as well as 25% of men (meaning, responsive desire)

  • Although 15% of women experience spontaneous desire, 30% respond to physical and emotional intimacy. The rest (55%) need to have the right context for sex to happen (internally, externally and interpersonally).

Again, there isn't a specific scientific instrument to accurately measure the "universe of desire", which is why I like to call it a spectrum and that we can just sway back and forth depending on the circumstances. So, take these numbers with a grain of salt...

Men of course do have higher testosterone levels most of the time which could point to the higher likelihood of "spontaneous" desire over a "responsive" style. Women on the other end will likely lean towards wanting to have the right "conditions'' or "circumstances" to be met for them to be open to sex.

"The power dynamics, the safety and trust, the reason sex is occurring, the eroticism available, her relationship to her body, pleasure and the presence or absence of stimuli that she finds arousing."
- Dr. Rosemary Basson
intimacy based female sexual response cycle on

It's also important to note that women (including men) who tend to lean towards a more responsive desire doesn't mean she/they have "low desire" in any way.

No matter what the reason is, it's important for both men and women to understand that all types of desire are valid, and there is no "right" way to experience it. We highly suggest embracing whatever type of sexual pleasure works best for you as an individual and learn to tap into whatever desire style you and your partner have.

But, as we come to learn, desire can change over time, especially as we age. Let's explore this.

How Can Your Sexual Desire Change As You Age?

Remember there are biological, psychological and social factors that influence desire. Before we go into how to tap into you and your partner's desire type, you also have to recognize that desire CAN change in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond.

How Desire Changes With Age by

Desire in your 20s

For instance, in your 20s, you might tend to be in situations where spontaneous desire will be more common. We can assume during this age, you're at sexual peak and are reaching maturity. For instance, hormones are usually at their peak (or at higher levels) resulting in the biological processes in our bodies to be more receptive to spontaneity with little to no sexual stimuli triggers. An example would be a guy experiencing more spontaneous erections as opposed to a guy in their 50s.

couple in their 20s experiencing different types of desire

There are also social factors like "hookup culture" and "wanting" relationships that will influence desire. For instance, desiring a connection (emotional and physical) with a partner or "finding" an appropriate partner. Lastly, mental components such as developing confidence (self and sexual) and learning to express yourself, your needs, desires and learning what pleases you in the bedroom.

Fun fact: Because contraceptives like birth control are widely used or commonly used during this age range, it might increase anxieties around pregnancy or put larger amounts of stress on women's bodies both mentally and physically. This may or may not influence desire or exploring "pleasure" because of fears and pressures around pregnancy.

Desire in your 30s

In your 30s, this self awareness continues and communication becomes easier to express your sexual needs and desires. But in your 30s, "sexual decline" starts to become noticeable affecting the biological processes involved with arousal. For instance, some men who have lived a poor lifestyle up until this point may start developing erection issues (getting one or maintaining one) due to developed health issues.

couple in their 30s experiencing desire changes

Then there are psychological and social components such as life stressors that interfere with Libido (desire). Things like having kids, a stressful career, being sleep deprived are factors that will interfere with spontaneity or response driven styles. In fact, you might lean towards a response driven style even if you don't have kids and are with a long term partner. Sex could become complacent during this age or with a VERY long term partner. It is important to note that if there is a lack of sex, it doesn't mean it's the problem itself, but rather a symptom of something else in other parts of the relationship that NEED attention.

Desire in your 40s

In your 40s, desire will start to wane due to hormonal shifts. For instance, this is a timeframe where women experience pre-menopausal symptoms or start going through body changes that may affect desire. Men on the other hand will start experiencing more erectile issues, and hormonal changes affecting their mood and desire as well.

gay couple in their 40s experiencing desire changes in their relationship

Even though these biological changes will start to affect the desire for sex---your freedom of expression, sexual confidence and willingness to explore pleasure will usually be at an all time high. It's often assumed that with age, you become more comfortable with your own skin and are more knowledgeable about sex, and what turns you on to be able to express this to your partners.

This may in turn, dial up spontaneity. But only if the relationship is healthy and the couple is emotionally intelligent enough to express these feelings so that there are more conversations around how to ask for more pleasure and orgasms. If a lack of communication is present, it might decrease motivation to have sex, regardless if desire is there. Relationship miscommunication and/or disagreements may prevent partners from engaging sexually or acting on their desire.

Desire in your 50s and beyond

In your 50s and beyond, health issues are usually prevalent and intimacy issues such as ED, lowered libido, menopause, vaginal dryness, etc. could interfere with desire and motivation for sex. But, just like your 40s, your willingness to explore and actually communicate with a partner will promote pleasure for individuals with "response" driven styles.

couple in their 50s working together to tap into their desires

This is especially important if the men in your lives do get full blown ED. This is because ED can ruin the spontaneity if left untreated or unmanaged. Men who have counterparts who are a "response" desire type need to learn to navigate this as they need "physical" arousal to fuel their desire type (they need to encourage the conversation around ED, the “current” quality of sex and opportunities to improve the situation). 

Partners (men) who face these intimacy issues need a trusting partner to allow themselves to be able to emotionally regulate their fears or concerns around their sexual issues. This way, they can come up with a solution together on how to navigate pleasure through times of dysfunctions and/or biological issues preventing one from engaging in sex both physically and mentally.

Ways to Enhance Your Sexual Experience with Spontaneous or Responsive Desires

Now that you know the importance of understanding your own desires and pleasure thresholds, let's talk about how you can enhance your sexual experience based on whether you have spontaneous or responsive desires.

If you're with someone who has more of a responsive desire, setting the mood is key. You could try using scented candles, playing some sexy music, and getting some massage oils to get things going. The key is to create an environment that will heighten arousal and make you feel more comfortable exploring your sexuality.

On the other hand, if you have spontaneous desires, it's important to let go of any inhibitions and take pleasure in the moment. Try something new, push beyond your comfort zone, and go with the flow. Don't be afraid to let your instincts guide you!

Remember, the most important thing for any kind of sexual experience is communication. Talk openly with your partner about boundaries, desires, and expectations to make sure you're both on the same page. And always remember to prioritize your own pleasure and desires!

How to Navigate Scenarios When One Partner Is Not Interested in Sex, While the Other Still Has Desire

I see quite a few people ask this question but never see an answer to it so I wanted to address it. What should couples do when one partner "feels tired" and isn't interested in sex, while the other still has desires, or perhaps faces challenges like Erectile Dysfunction?

First and foremost navigating such scenarios requires open communication and understanding from both partners. It's important to acknowledge that both individuals experience changes in their desire levels due to various factors, whether it's tiredness or physical challenges like Erectile Dysfunction. Empathy is key, as both partners' feelings are valid and shared pain can help each other understand one another.

If one partner is tired, it's crucial to respect their feelings and boundaries. Openly discuss the situation, but prioritize their comfort and well-being. Understanding that fatigue affects desire can help create a supportive environment where both partners feel heard.

If Erectile Dysfunction is a concern, it's essential to approach the issue with sensitivity and support. Remember that this challenge isn't a reflection of the man not desiring you or thinking they’re not attracted to you. In most cases, it’s about them trying to figure out how to open up about it without shame, blame or judgment. Openly communicate about it and engage in activities that foster intimacy without putting too much pressure or getting caught in the "blame" game. 

Afterall, erectile dysfunction CAN be treated if you narrow down your root causes, lifestyle, physical and psychological ones.

Other than that, here are three key points to remember when navigating the conversations:

shared responsibility, communication and building emotional connection is key to fostering desire

Shared Responsibility Sharing the responsibility means finding a middle ground where both partners' needs and comfort are considered. Initiate conversations about each other's desires, boundaries, and potential solutions. Explore activities that promote intimacy, such as cuddling, kissing, or sensual massages, which can foster emotional closeness even without sexual intercourse.

Building Emotional Connection Fostering emotional intimacy can help maintain desire even when physical circumstances change. Engage in activities that strengthen your emotional bond, like spending quality time together, sharing feelings, and being open about personal challenges. Emotional connection often leads to a deeper understanding of each other's desires.

Empowering Communication Encourage open conversations about desires, limitations, and preferences. Be receptive to your partner's feelings and concerns, and work together to find creative ways to meet each other's needs. Honesty and mutual understanding are vital to maintaining a healthy sexual connection.

Hopefully, I was able to answer that question and you can use that as a guide to build a better relationship with your partner.

How to Tap Into You And Your Partner's Sexual Desire... No Matter What It Is

Now that you have a much better understanding about sexual desire, I don't want to just leave you hanging without some good tangible solutions to help you improve your sexual life. And luckily there are some really great options out there that will work for everyone.

Experience More Intimacy & Pleasure With OMGYES

This website is a game-changer in the world of female pleasure and sexuality. With a vast collection of instructional videos and interviews with real women, OMGYES aims to educate and empower women to explore their bodies and achieve orgasmic bliss.

I recently did an in-depth review of OMGYES showing how it provides you with various techniques, insights, and experiences that women encounter during their sexual journeys. You'll find everything from clitoral stimulation to G-spot orgasms and other mind-blowing techniques. Trust me; you don't want to miss out on this fantastic resource.

review of omgyes

Respark Desire With Dynamic Toys

If you and your partner have been feeling a little bit bored in the bedroom lately, or if you've been dealing with some confidence issues, the Bathmate might just be the solution.

This device can help you re-spark your desire and bring some excitement back between the sheets. It can help men with confidence issues feel more comfortable and confident in their sexual performance. Which in turn is going to bring more intimacy into the relationship. If you want to learn more about it, I suggest checking out the review of the Bathmate I did not too long ago.

rich holding the bathmate

Improving Sexual Performance With The Phoenix

Lastly, one of the best ways you can improve your sexual performance in bed is by using The Phoenix device. I have personally used this device and recently just published by full 2 year review of The Phoenix along with my personal experience.

I think it's important for men and individuals who are noticing changes in their body as they get older like trouble "getting it up" or "keeping it up". This tool will help when navigating the nuanced waters of desire and "response" to arousal.

If you haven't seen it already and you're looking for a way to improve your sexual performance or looking for ways to help "rise to the occasion", I highly suggest you check it out!

the phoenix


What are spontaneous and responsive desires in relation to sexual satisfaction?

Spontaneous desire arises from within, independent of external factors, and driven primarily by sexual thought while responsive desire occurs in response to specific stimuli or contexts for desire to "build up" over time.

Can sexual desire change over time

What's the difference between sexual desire and arousal?

How do spontaneous and responsive desires differ?

How does sexual motivation relate to desire?

Are there resources to improve sexual pleasure and desire?

Is there a "right" way to experience sexual desire?

Making Room For Both Types

The key takeaway is that it's important to make room for both types of desire in order to have an enjoyable sex life. By acknowledging and validating each type, you can create an environment where both partners feel comfortable expressing their desires without judgment or insecurity.

As always, thanks for listening and I hope this blog helped you better understand how sexual desire can be, spontaneous, responsive, or a mix of both!

Much love,



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