If you find yourself with an hour to devote to social science about women’s sexuality today, watch this:
I’ve discussed Lisa Diamond’s research multiple times on the blog; sexual fluidity is one of a variety of apparent differences (at the population level) between men’s and women’s sexualities (the research is binary, so my description of it is too, sorry).
Around minute 45, she discusses what I generally call responsive desire, in the context of non-heterosexual orientated women and relationships, which makes me want to sing and dance and also think very hard about what the hell the word “desire” actually means. I’ll write a more detailed post soon, but here is my initial thought:
We use “desire” to refer to how much a person “wants” sex, and we also use it to identify and label people based on WHAT they want, without much (any?) reference to how often or how intensely they want it.
Kent Berridge’s excellent research (another hour+ video) on food appetite (mostly in rats) distinguishes between liking and wanting (I’ve mentioned it before here) helps us to understand the distinction a bit, by separating what gives us pleasure from what motivates us to pursue some incentive out in the world.
Responsive desire is what emerges when what we like (Person X’s conversation or massage, for example) gives rise to what we want. Spontaneous desire emerges when what we want something… which may or may not ultimately give us pleasure. Whether or not we experience pleasure in the successful pursuit of a spontaneous desire (“wanting”) is, of course, context dependent. Berridge uses the language “brain states and cues” but we might also say “perception and environment,” very loosely.
Think about that. I bet that’s more interesting than what you’re supposed to be doing right now.