Sex is enjoyed by many, but it is also a largely unknown world. There are many concepts that are confusing or raise more doubts than anything else.
Today we are going to clarify two concepts in the field that are much listened to and also very little understood, in addition to relating and exemplifying it with the sexual reality of various groups. Let’s look at the differences between sexual desire and sexual attraction., Summary views.
Main differences between sexual desire and sexual attraction
Before going into more detail on sexual desire and attraction, it becomes necessary to talk a little about two concepts that we will be using a lot throughout this article.
The first is sexual orientation, by which we refer to the destination of our sexual attraction, that is, to the gender or genders we like, or if we don’t. We have heterosexuals, homosexuals, bisexuals and asexuals, although like everything in this world the existence of other sexualities is raised based on the data obtained.
What you have to understand is that there is no sexual orientation for absolutely everything. Whether we love smart people (popularly referred to as sapiosexuality), love blonde women, or get tattoos from men are not sexual orientations. In all these cases, we would speak of preferences towards one or a set of characteristics in particular, rather called affiliates, even if we should not fall into the mistake of putting all the affiliates in the same bag as pedophilia, necrophilia and other pathological tendencies.
Gender expression is a set of behaviors, traditionally linked to what society considers “masculine” or “feminine”. It’s how we adjust to what is meant by being a man or a woman in the most stereotypical sense.
What is sexual attraction?
We say that we feel a sexual attraction to someone when that person, in a colloquial sense, “puts us down.” In other words, feeling sexual attraction to someone implies that that person has certain characteristics that arouse some kind of sexual interest in us.
This attraction is always aimed at someone in particular, and it is not possible to control it at will. So whether someone attracts us sexually or does not attract us in the most absolute way is something that we cannot control, nor can we increase or decrease it.
What is sexual desire?
Sexual desire could be understood as the desire to have sex. In this case, when we speak of “sex” we have to understand it in its broadest sense, including any sexual practice, both with other people, such as intercourse, and individually, as one would. masturbation.
How to distinguish the two
While it is true that sexual attraction and sexual desire go hand in hand, everything has its place in any healthy relationship. Sexual attraction is not always accompanied by sexual desire, and sexual desire can arise without the need for sexual attraction.
Sexual desire is something that it is not always present and should not occur in the presence of something that is sexually attractive to us. That is, if we are dealing with someone who turns out to be our preferred sex (eg, straight man versus woman), we shouldn’t be arousing sexual desire at that time. We can even be with our boyfriend or girlfriend, with whom we feel sexual attraction, but at this moment we do not feel sexual desire, it has not woken us up.
Sexual desire can be altered, unlike sexual attraction, and as we discussed with the case of masturbation, it should not be directed at anyone in particular (it can be impersonal). This is easily understood with the case of cis men (or trans women who hold the penis) upon awakening. It is common for the penis to be erect and it is during the morning that we are most likely to end up masturbating, without anyone having aroused this sexual desire in us.
Sexual desire being modifiable, it is possible to work, Both as part of therapy and on their own. For example, at this precise moment we may not feel any desire for sex, but if we start looking for pornography, we may be turned on by the desire to have sex. It can also happen the other way around, that we have a very strong desire for sex and should not be expressing it now. To turn it down, we try to imagine things that “cool” it (eg, thinking about people of the non-preferred gender, thinking about our grandmother, watching a video of something very unpleasant … )
Sexual attraction cannot be changed, although this idea has been (and continues to be) fairly prevalent in mainstream culture. You might think that, throughout our lives, our sexual attraction to other people may change (for example, we start to ‘put on’ someone we didn’t like before), but that doesn’t mean an absolute change. of our sexual attraction, but rather that it fluctuates.
This fluctuation in sexual attraction is involuntary. Whether it varies over time depends on many factors, such as knowing new information about who is putting us now, getting used to their business, or a change in our tastes that caused us to watch this person in a concrete way. The other, very different, is the idea that we can change these changes at will, that is, someone suddenly attracts us sexually.
To understand all of this better, imagine a person who is unfaithful to their partner and goes for a consultation to deal with this problem. The therapist will not be able to reduce this person’s sexual attraction to their lover.But she will be able to teach ways to reduce this woman’s sexual desire and avoid leaving the marriage pact with her spouse. The sexual attraction to the lover will not go away, but the right impulse control techniques can be learned to avoid committing infidelity.
Understanding the differences between sexual desire and sexual attraction, we can understand why conversion therapy, a pseudo-therapy that is ineffective and causes more harm than good, does not work.
Until recently, homosexuality and practically any sexual orientation other than heterosexual was considered a serious deviation, In many cases, mental illness. Feeling attracted to people of the same sex was seen as a problem and, like any “problem”, possible solutions were sought, with conversion therapy being the proposition for this.
In this “therapy”, the problem of sexual attraction to people of the same sex was addressed.. However, and as we have already mentioned, sexual attraction is not voluntarily modifiable, unlike sexual desire.
It is not possible to magically switch a person from homosexual to heterosexual, and in fact, the APA itself has reiterated it in several statements in this regard: there is no scientifically proven cure. which serves to change sexual orientation and attraction, nor is it recommended to submit to everything.
Since it is not possible to change sexual attraction, “therapists” have focused on preventing the person from engaging in homosexual behavior. For this, they produced aversion for people of their sex, through various techniques of questionable ethics.
In other words, when he was in a situation where he saw people of his gender, who were sexually attracted to him, instead of arousing sexual desire, a deep discomfort awoke in him. This meant that instead of having sex with other men or women (depending on gender), I avoided them.
As a result, the person showed an avoidance of what he loved before, in a way dysfunctional to face his new reality. This avoidance would be comparable to that practiced by people who are afraid of heights, who avoid sticking their heads on balconies or catching planes, or who are afraid of cockroaches and cannot see them without being attacked.
In short, far from “curing”, they inoculated them with fear, as John B. Watson inoculated little Albert in 1920. people who had this type of treatment were more likely to have depression and presented suicidal ideation.
The case of asexuality
To fully understand the differences between sexual desire and sexual attraction, we can highlight the case of asexuality. in short, asexuality is the absence of sexual attraction to others, men and women, or other gender realities.
Asexual people can fall in love i.e. they can feel romantic attraction and can also have sex because they feel sexual desire. In case they decide to have sex there is nothing, neither physical nor psychological, that prevents them from enjoying their own sexuality. They can masturbate as much as they want and have sexual fantasies in general.
All of this may come as a surprise because, as we discussed in its definition, asexual people have no sexual attraction. Just because they don’t have sexual attraction doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy sex. They may not feel sexually attracted to a man, woman, or non-binary person, but if they have the opportunity to have sex, they don’t have to refuse.
Anyway, you have to understand that lack of sexual attraction to others is not a psychological disorder which should be treated as a problem of lack of sexual desire. Just because no one is sexually attractive to us doesn’t mean we’re dead inside or haven’t explored our sexuality enough. In the same way that there are heterosexuals, homosexuals and bisexuals, there are also asexual people and, as the world of sexology is an ever-evolving science, which is constantly finding new information, who are- us to assume what is normal and what is not? ?
- Carreño, M. (1991). Psychosocial aspects of romantic relationships. Faculty of Psychology. University of Santiago de Compostela.
- Regan, PC; Atkins, L. (2006). “Sexual Differences and Similarities in Frequency and Intensity of Sexual Desire.” Social behavior and personality. 34 (1): 95-101. doi: 10.2224 / sbp.2006.34.1.95.
- Beck, JG; Bozman, AW; Qualtrough, T. (1991). “The experience of sexual desire: psychological correlations in an academic sample”. The Journal of Sex Research. 28 (3): 443-456. doi: 10.1080 / 00224499109551618.