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The realization that you need to be desired in order to be turned on.


Everyone wants to feel wanted. In fact I would even say it’s a basic need of sex to be desired by your partner. For women it’s especially important. Many women who can feel arousal (but not desire) meaning their bodies can be turned on but they aren’t emotional feeling into sex is common phenomenon. They need to be convinced or get their sexual energy from someone else. As Psychology Today reports recently.

“Most women, for instance, have a strong wish to feel sexually desired. Men also like to be desired, of course. But among the women I see in my office, it’s often much more of a “thing.”

Many women say they don’t feel any spontaneous desire for sex unless it’s stimulated by someone desiring them. As sex therapists, we would say their desire is purely “responsive.” Many women report that feeling desired is what turns them on the most.
Heterosexual human mating tends to be like traditional couples’ dancing. She needs him to ask her to dance. The dancing itself might be nice, but even more important is that he showed initiative and wanted to dance with her. 70% of men are different. They may enjoy it if their partner passionately wants to have sex with them, but they don’t particularly need to feel desired in order to get turned on. Their desire is more “spontaneous.”

But what about the 30% of men that do need their partners to express great desire in order to be turned on? I see men in my office every week who need explicit desire by their partners to get aroused.

A man like this is almost always brought to my office by his unhappy wife, who complains that he rarely, if ever, initiates sex—thus depriving her of the chance to feel turned on by his passion for her. And she’s bonetired of initiating.

He will tell me privately, that he wants her to start sex or he can’t get his mojo going.

“A heterosexual guy whose principal turn-on is to be desired finds himself in more difficult territory. Very few women are interested in consistently being the initiator.

A man like this usually learns to keep his responsive desire a secret. If he tries to explain it to a female partner, often the concept will be so foreign to her that she’ll have no idea what he’s talking about.”

It’s a challenge. 50 Shades of Gray sold millions of copies because it appealed to the very common female fantasy of being “taken”. The desire to be dominated safely is by far the most popular sexual model with women. And men who are responsive (are often the more thinking guys) feel frustrated and voiceless.

So what do you do to solve this? It starts with communication, acceptance and negotiation. And an understanding that sex isn’t “supposed to be a certain way”. Women have been chased around the school yard by boys wanting to pull their pigtails and we expect “handsy” men. It’s certainly not what we always want (nor is it appropriate outside of consenting adults), but it’s what we expect form men. Understanding that sex is play – adult play- and not always about pounding intercourse helps get this message through. As do signals (pull an earlobe or drop a secret word) to indicate interest so that neither one is being pushed away helps with the shut down of rejection of a partner who can’t figure out what you need to be turned on. And learning that your expectations of sex might be getting in the way.

I teach a monthly “School of Sex” series done with humour, inclusion and fantastic speakers. It allows people to sit in the back row and listen to how other people in their community think about sex – without social conventions and limiting beliefs. Really hear what turns on the men and women that live in your neighbourhood can be powerfully healing to someone who feels sexually inhibited. It’s liberating for many people not to feel alone in how they feel sexually.

And as the author of the study succinctly summarizes;

If you’re a woman in a relationship with a man who doesn’t initiate sex as much as you’d like, you may want to keep in mind the possibility that he might need the same thing you do.

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