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Spontaneous Desire Vs. Responsive Desire: Sex Therapy Addition

Intimacy struggles are real! Whether it's a solo activity or partner trip, understanding your body's response, wants, and needs can be tricky! There are numerous articles out there aimed at improving your libido, spicing up your sexy time, incorporating toys, and recommendations for internal reflection. However, without a base understanding of your body's emotional and physical response system you mind as well equate approaching sex and intimacy to building a rocket without an instruction manual!

What is spontaneous and responsive desire?

Have you ever watched a steamy romantic series that really got you hot and bothered under the collar? Or are you one who enjoys the passionate stories of romance novels or erotic literature? If so, you may have experienced spontaneous desire! Spontaneous desire is the experience first of mental arousal and second of the physical arousal. The opposite is true of responsive desire: the sensation of physical arousal and excitement first and later the mental. Spontaneous desire can also be equated to a flip of the switch emotional reaction ("I'm horny and bored"), while responsive desire can be connected to a response to your surroundings (e.g. partner dressed sexy, touch, or the situation).

Why is it important to know my primary desire response, or how my desire changes?

Understanding your mind and body's sexual wants and needs can help you tune in to the right frequency of your libido energy! If you're one who needs the mental stimulation first, but tend to fall into patterns of physical arousal as your primary method to 'get in the mood,' it may be time to try spontaneous desire methods. This can include engagement in romance novels, erotic literature, sexy talk with your partner, or certain forms of erotic ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response).

On the opposite spectrum if you or you and a partner(s) look towards mental stimulation first, but physical arousal is what really turns your mind and body on, switching to responsive techniques can be game changing! Examples of engaging in responsive desire methods could include sensual massages, masturbation, or other types of foreplay with partners.

It is also important to note that desire type and preference is subject to change based on life events such as the introduction of a child or children in a relationship, periods of loss and grief, age related or gender affirming hormonal changes, new work or personal schedule shifts, and mental health changes to name a few. Gender identity and sexual orientation can also affect how one feels about their mind and body connection to sex and intimacy. Coupled with gender and sexual orientation, we also have gendered norms and social elements that affect how we approach arousal with ourselves and our partners.

Bottom line, it's best to check in with yourself first and reflect on what's been the best method of personal arousal in the past and currently for you. If changes have occurred in your spontaneous or responsive desire, switch things up on your own or communicate with your partner(s) about what you need. Lastly, if you're still feeling unsure about your desire type, how to communicate your wants and needs with a partner, or not sure how to find balance yourself it's ok to seek guidance from an expert intimacy or sex therapist in your area or state!


Devin Pinkston is a local mental health, intimacy, and gender affirming therapist in Grand Junction Colorado. Call to schedule a consultation today at 970-433-4635.

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