Sexual desire (or sex drive, or libido – however you want to call it) is a rather misunderstood concept to this day. This is not surprising. Due to the lack of sexual education in the majority of the world and mixed signals regarding sex in the media, it’s natural that people are confused.
There are many sex scientists who are working hard to illuminate our bodies and our relationship to sex. Dr. Emily Nagoski has done an incredible job explaining the human sexual desires response mechanism. She wrote the book. Take it as you areDr. Nagoski explains how science explains sexual desire, and the complex nature of why we are able to turn on and off certain aspects.
The Dual Motor of Human Sexual Desire
We tend to believe that men are more sexually driven than we are. Women are different Wanting sex is a big deal. It is believed that men are more sexually inclined than women to think about sex and desire sex.
It’s natural that this sort of false understanding of sexual desire has deep roots in our society which is based on patriarchal values. Many still believe that sex is over with male orgasm, and that male pleasure has more value than female pleasure.
However, more and more research has shown that men and women don’t have different levels of sex drive. Rather, different people have different sexual desire response styles – some have spontaneous and some responsive. Dr. Nagoski explains in her book the dual model of sexual accelerators/sexual brakes that govern how we sex.
Dr. Nagoski also dispels the myth of sex drive difference between men & women, explaining that differences between men & women are less important than differences Within each group. Therefore, it’s not about men and women but rather different people and their individual sexual desire responses.
Sexual Accelerator Explained
The sexual accelerator Sexual excitation system (SE). is part of the dual sexual desire motor responsible for ensuring that we’re turned on and ready for sex. This part of our nervous systems reacts to different stimulants as we go about our daily lives. If something clicks, we get the signal telling us to “turn on!”
What’s interesting is that the accelerator works without us knowing about it. As Dr. Nagoski writes in her book, “SE is constantly scanning your context (including your own thoughts and feelings) for things that are sex-related. It’s always at work, far below the level of consciousness.” Knowing that, no wonder that so many people aren’t aware of different things at play when it comes to being horny.
Sexual Brakes Explained
Our sexual brakes, also known as the, are another important and powerful component of our sexual desire mechanism. Sexual inhibition system (SI).. They’re there to stop us from having sex.
As the accelerator does, brakes scan our environment for potential triggers while we go about our daily lives. But instead of sending the signal to “turn on!”, they send a signal to “turn off!” at a particular smell, sound, imagery, etc.
It might seem that brakes are there to stop all the fun. But they actually have a very important purpose. Dr. Nagoski explains, “this brake is responsible for preventing us from getting inappropriately aroused in the middle of a business meeting or at a dinner with our family.” Our sexual brakes are there to make our lives easier.
What does it mean for my sexual desire?
We can gain insight from the existence of sexual brakes and accelerators into how we can improve our sex lives based on our individual circumstances. Once we get to know our sexual accelerators and brakes, we’ll better communicate with our partner about what we want from the relationship. This is also true for our partner.
The dual sexual desire motor can be used to heal trauma and identify any unhealthy relationships. Sometimes, we may be putting ourselves in situations such as having to have Sex with an Ex who won’t commit to a serious relationship without knowing why we do it.
If we take the time to discover what drives us to have sex, and what ignites our passion in the bedroom we can stop the destructive behaviors and start to enjoy sex without having to deal with the consequences of having the wrong partners.
Context is important for sexual desire
However, there are other factors that can affect our libido. Context is also a key factor in whether you are feeling on or off when it comes to sexual situations.
Dr. Nagoski also segregates context into two categories
- Emotional context It involves our inner world, stress, love and other emotions that play an important role in how we have sex.
- Cultural context it’s about the world we live in and the society and its norms. As we all know, society’s norms have an impact on how we sex.
Context is crucial in activating our sexual accelerators. If we’re stressed, then our brakes might be working overtime, completely silencing the accelerator signals because when the “flight, fight, or freeze” mechanism is at play, there is no place for thinking about getting laid in your brain.
The same holds true for our body image. Our image of what’s sexy and what’s not can be impacted by the media and the message we are told every day within a society with certain beauty standards. If we don’t look the way someone tells us that we should look, our brakes might always be on, turning us off from sex.
Understanding the context and how it interacts with the dual sexual desire engine can help overcome our struggles to get turned on or want to have sex.
Everyone’s Different but Normal
It can be difficult to understand our sexuality and desire when we first learn about them. However, the beauty of our sexuality is that we’re all different yet completely normal.
No matter what our fantasies, turn-ons, and needs are, we’re normal and deserve to have all those needs met by our sexual partners. It also means that if we feel that the flame in the bedroom had died down with our long-term partner, it’s not the end. If both parties spend the time learning about each other’s brakes and accelerators, it’s possible to rekindle the flame and discover new highs of sexual pleasure.
Karolina Wilde works as a writer about sexual wellness. Her work has been published by The Ascent and P.S. She has published work on I Love You and Sexography to over 25,000+ people. She can be found podcasting, reading or creating TikTok videos during her spare time.