Sexual desire is defined as interest in sex and in being sexual. It is usually the first phase of a sexual response. Three are three elements to desire:
- Sexual drive (biological). Sex drive can be experienced as sexual thoughts and fantasies, actively looking for sexual activity, or tingling and sensitivity in the genitals. Sex drive is variable among women, and can vary individually as well, based on activity, levels of stress, and overall health.
- Personal attitudes (psychological). Your beliefs, values, and expectations can impact your natural sex drive. Your attitudes result from a combination of your culture, your religious beliefs, your personal history, and your family and friends. Typically, a positive attitude about sex results in greater sexual desire.
- Motivation (psychological / emotional / interpersonal). Motivation is your willingness to behave sexually with a particular partner at any particular time. Motivation is considered to be the most complex component of desire and many experts consider it to be the most important.
Desire is known to decline with age in both men and women, however women are two to three times more likely to be affected by a reduction in their sex drive starting in their late 40s and 50s. The effect of aging is variable – some women experience a significant decrease in sexual desire beginning in their midlife years, others notice no change, and a few report increased interest in sex at midlife. Increased interest may be a result of freedom from contraception (once they hit menopause) or by the increased privacy they experience once their children (if they have any) leave home. While hormones may reduce episodes of spontaneous desire (the mental interest in having sex before there is any stimulus), receptive desire (interest in having sex when your partner initiates it) doesn’t seem to be affected in the same way.