Do you feel like you are never really in the mood for sex until your partner is making sexual approaches towards you? Suddenly you are turned on and ready for some action even though a couple of moments ago it has not even crossed your mind that you could be having sex right now. In turn, it can feel like you have a low sex drive because you don’t usually initiate such intimacy or you think sexual desire should normally happen spontaneously in relationships.

The difference between responsive and spontaneous desire

You might experience something called responsive desire. Most commonly seen in women, it can be differentiated from spontaneous desire, which is frequently seen in men. Typically for men, desire, meaning the motivation for sex, comes before the physiological response. This simply means most men feel a want for sex mentally before their body is aroused. For women, this looks a little different. The first step in a woman’s path towards sex is physical arousal, which can be followed by the mental desire but doesn’t have to. Alas, in general, it would be ideal if the body and mind are aligned for a great experience and comfort. 

Men and women are different, or are they

When are women more likely to experience spontaneous desire? This usually happens early in relationships or after their partner was physically absent. Also, emotional distance can increase the likelihood of spontaneous desire. Even though the difference in desire can partially be explained by the different socialisation of males and females, research on arousal and the physiological changes that come with it has improved our understanding of this variety in desire that people experience. Keep in mind, however, that sexual desire and arousal is much more complex than shown in this binary and that men, women and intersex, as well as nonbinary people, can all experience spontaneous and/or responsive desire while having a fulfilling sex life. Desire can change over the course of your life and with new experiences.

How to gain power out of being a responsive desire type

Often people of the responsive desire type express a need to be sexually intimate to feel closer to their partners. Furthermore, it can be a means to increase emotional closeness and commitment as well as express one’s appreciation for their partner. There is a need for the assurance that there is emotional safety within the sexual context and that the partner is present, responsive and attuned. 

If you are in a relationship you can start having conversations about what each of you needs, to help you be mentally interested in sex and physiologically ready. Thinking about when you are in the mood and in what context you desire your partner the most, is the first step to effectively communicating to them when you are aroused the most and opens up space where both of you (or more if you are not in a strictly monogamous relationship) can talk about what works best for you and your desire style. Knowing what turns you on gives you the power to let go of insecurities around your sexual desire and can help you and your partner communicate better about initiating sex and intimacy and empower your sexual wellbeing. 

If you’re seeking out some professional help with issues like this, you can book an appointment here.

Sara Felber is a Student of psychology from Graz, Austria interested in a variety of issues concerning sex, relationships and LGBTQ+ topics. She is currently researching guidelines on the sexuality of psychiatric inpatients and is interning at the Willingness Sex Clinic.


Basson, R. (2001). Female sexual response: The role of drugs in the management of sexual dysfunction. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 98(2), 350–353.  

Grande, D. (2018, February 14). Gender differences in desire. Psychology Today.

Gillen, K. (2019, April 5). The scientific reason your partner wants to have sex all the time and you don’t. PureWow.