Sexual Desire: What is it?

At Seventy Thirty, our Exclusive Matchmaking Team have to consider Sexual Desire in the context of long-term relationships.  To understand this, we have decided to do a series of blogs on Sexual Desire, the first, to simply understand what it is.

At a very basic level of understanding Sexual Desire is the body’s way of recognising and or telling you that it wants and needs to have sex. Psychologists support this idea stating that; we create a ‘mental representation’ of a goal involving sexual pleasure[1] before we have sex. However, where does the motivation for sexual desire come from?

All species have an instinctive biological drive or urge to pass on their genes to ensure its survival. We control sexual desire by weighing up the reward of having sex. The reward is more often sexual pleasure and or orgasm.  ‘Sex’ in its true sense is similar to our innate need to feed (appetite for sex) and drink (thirst for sex) and is known in psychology as ‘Motivation’[2]. To explain, think about this for a moment; what ‘motivates’ you to drink water?  The answer is ‘thirst’ and what it does to your body (dry mouth – sore head – low energy level). You need to drink water to bring the body back into a state of normality or feeling of contentment. So, it can be argued then that Sexual Desire is the motivator to have sex! However, remember this…you won’t die from not having sex but you will if you don’t rehydrate. 

As a species we have the ability to hold back from having sex. We undertake what’s known in the Sciences as ‘delayed gratification’, having sex when it’s acceptable and under the right circumstances.  As such, Psychologists believe evolution has brought about a certain element of disharmony between our existence today and to that of our primitive self’s ‘raison d'être’[3] (reason for existence).

We should think about how the brain has adjusted to understand and manage the world around it and be mindful of how we cope with sexual desire.     

If you’re single or in a relationship you will often experience consequences associated with sexual desire.  You will be faced with decisions of appropriateness or unfairness in carrying out sexually motivated behaviours. Consequences act as our moral compass in justifying sexual behaviours. If I do this, what will happen, what do I get out of it and what about the outcome, or the consequence? 

To conclude, we have evolved as social beings, thankfully.  However, our biological yearnings are still prevalent, operating for some, deep within the subconscious and for others at surface level and whom struggle with it day-to-day.  Keep it in mind that our brain structure’s ‘design’ hasn’t changed at all throughout – it hasn’t evolved.  So we can be forgiven for the way we think, feel and exist in 21st century life.  I suggest that our brain was ‘designed’ for a life already lived and in next week’s blog I will explore how life today, influences Sexual Desire in our decision making.


[1] Stoléru.S. (2006). Discssion. In E. Janssen (Ed.) The Psychophysiology of Sex (p.376). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

[2] Robbins, T.W., & Everitt, B.J.(1996) Neurobehavioural mechanisms of reward and motivation. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 6(2), 228-236.

[3] Toates,F. (2014). How Sexual Desire Works: The Enigmatic Urge. Cambridge; Clays.