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Sex Drive? There's No Such Thing

A new book casts doubt on some cherished assumptions.

Source: kiuikson/Shutterstock

Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life is the punny title Emily Nagoski, Ph.D., gave her new book. Speaking about it in an interview with New Scientist, she declared, flatly, that there is no such thing as a "sex drive":

"A drive is a motivational system to deal with life-or-death issues, like hunger or being too cold. You're not going to die if you don't have sex."

Nagoski has heard the one about the perpetuation of the species over and over again, and is still not buying the argument that there is a sex drive: "When it comes to sex, there just isn't any physical evidence of a drive mechanism."

She thinks we have confused "spontaneous desire" with what she calls "responsive desire." The spontaneous version of a drive feels like it comes from out of the blue, as when we feel hungry. With regard to sex, the spontaneous version of desire occurs, for example, when a stray thought about sex makes you want to have sex. That's different from when you experience something that actually is arousing, as, for example, when your partner starts kissing your neck.

Spontaneous desire, Nagoski says, "is totally fun. But you're not broken just because you're not experiencing it. Spontaneous desire isn't necessary for sexual pleasure."

We tend to think that the spontaneous version of sexual desire is universal, when really, it is mostly a guy thing. For about 70 percent of men, Nagoski explains, spontaneous desire is "their primary desire style." But that's true for only about 10 to 20 percent of women.

Nagoski thinks there is another important way that women differ from men in their sexuality : Their sexual responses are more variable. She also thinks there will never be a "pink pill" that is comparable to the blue one for men.

[For more on the link between marital status and sex, see here.]

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