Desire vs. Attraction

For discussion of issues pertaining to sexuality. Warning: Topics within this forum may contain frank discussion of a sexual nature.
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ily
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Desire vs. Attraction

Postby ily » Sun Aug 09, 2009 7:34 pm

I just took Laurie Brotto's survey on defining asexuality. She asked "What is sexual attraction?" and then "What is sexual desire?"
I was all..."Huh...? :think:" I could define attraction, but I had no idea how to define desire differently.
It had never occurred to me that these two things are different. So, how would you define them? Does it matter?

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Dargon
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Re: Desire vs. Attraction

Postby Dargon » Sun Aug 09, 2009 10:17 pm

Desire -> I wanna do it.
Attraction -> I wanna do it with that person.

Simplest way I can think to say it.

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Olivier
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Re: Desire vs. Attraction

Postby Olivier » Mon Aug 10, 2009 1:23 am

Orientation = I like cake.
Attraction = That particular chocolate cake looks like it would be nice
Desire = Want. Cake. Now. (may follow very soon after attraction :) )

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Re: Desire vs. Attraction

Postby Isaac » Mon Aug 10, 2009 4:24 am

Isn't it a classical Rabgerian distinction?

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ily
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Re: Desire vs. Attraction

Postby ily » Mon Aug 10, 2009 11:30 am

Dargon wrote:Desire -> I wanna do it.
Attraction -> I wanna do it with that person.

Simplest way I can think to say it.


That's what I was thinking. So is "desire" any different from sex drive or libido?

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Dargon
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Re: Desire vs. Attraction

Postby Dargon » Wed Aug 12, 2009 12:09 am

I'd say "desire" is the same as drive or libido, so no difference.

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Re: Desire vs. Attraction

Postby Isaac » Wed Aug 12, 2009 5:21 am

Dargon wrote:I'd say "desire" is the same as drive or libido, so no difference.

Is it? This would solve many doubts I have.

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Re: Desire vs. Attraction

Postby pretzelboy » Wed Aug 12, 2009 7:20 am

I tend to think of sexual desire as generally a lot broader a term than sexual attraction. Sexual attraction seems to me to be a particular set of feelings directed toward a person, and sexual desire encompases that and other things motivating people to have sex (like being particularly turned on at some point or something.) Granted, this is largely my own specualtion about what people feel. But being sexually attracted to someone seems to be (often) more of a long-term thing, with sexual desire only occuring at certain points within that time frame. Or something.

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Re: Desire vs. Attraction

Postby Isaac » Wed Aug 12, 2009 8:17 am

Then, pretzelboy, is it different of the drive which make you to desire genital friction and orgasms regardless the way you get them?

Edit to fix syntax.

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Siggy
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Re: Desire vs. Attraction

Postby Siggy » Thu Aug 13, 2009 8:40 am

I've never really gotten the impression that "sexual desire" had a single definition used by everyone on AVEN. It just seems like a vague amorphous concept to me. This could just be a matter of my own ignorance, but I think it's because not everyone is using the same definition.

If I were to take a guess based on its component words, I'd say that "sexual desire" is simply a desire to have sex. When I think of desire, I think it can be caused by any number of things. This includes libido, but it also includes things on a higher intellectual level. For instance, "I want to have sex to have kids," or "I want to have sex to satisfy my partner," or "I want to have sex so people stop making fun of me." But clearly, most people have a much narrower idea of sexual desire.

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Re: Desire vs. Attraction

Postby Lemon » Fri Aug 14, 2009 8:31 am

I think they are the same thing.

I desire to have sex
I desire a particular person sexually

I'm attracted to sex
I'm attracted to a person sexually

Each work has its more common use but they mean the same thing

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Sciatrix
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Re: Desire vs. Attraction

Postby Sciatrix » Fri Aug 14, 2009 2:24 pm

I answered it as attraction being more physical and desire being more mental. That is, to me, the way the words are set up is that attraction isn't necessarily a conscious, chosen thing, but desire--wanting someone--is.

Of course, I experience neither, so I also find the difference a bit of a murky one. I believe I put that on the survey, actually.

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Re: Desire vs. Attraction

Postby Clarity » Wed Aug 19, 2009 11:16 am

From the UBC Sexual Health website the survey takes you to:

http://www.obstgyn.ca/SexualHealth/sexual_dysfunctions/arousal_disorders.php
Many women have a difficult time differentiating sexual desire from sexual arousal and this suggests that the separation of these phenomena by researchers and clinicians may be artificial.



http://www.obstgyn.ca/SexualHealth/sexual_dysfunctions/desire_disorders.php
Sexual Desire Disorders
Women's Sexual Interest/Desire Disorder

* Absent or diminished feelings of sexual interest or desire, absent sexual thoughts or fantasies and a lack of responsive desire. Motivations (here defined as reasons/incentives), for attempting to have sexual arousal are scarce or absent. The lack of interest is considered to be beyond the normative lessening with life cycle and relationship duration.

Sexual Aversion Disorder

* Extreme anxiety and/or disgust at the anticipation of/or attempt to have any sexual activity.



ETA: IIRC, the desire/arousal distinction was originally part of a long-promoted but non-empirical model where you start with desire, which makes you initiate sexual activities, then you go on to arousal, then you orgasm. Or maybe the last one's having sex, not orgasming. Anyway, the important thing is that "desire" in this sense has always been just some murky conceptualization of what happens between worrying about your grocery list and being turned on. Or at least, that's the impression I got.

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Re: Desire vs. Attraction

Postby Espikai » Wed Aug 19, 2009 12:18 pm

When I read that question on the survey, I was really confused and mixed it up with sex drive. I'm a little unsure as to whether or not the term "sex drive" can describe a need to release sexual feelings but not necessarily have sex with another person (which is how I perceive the term libido), or if it only refers to a literal need/desire to have sex (with other people, that is.) If it's the latter, I would probably define sexual desire and sex drive as more or less the same thing, as the need or desire to have sex in general.
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pretzelboy
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Re: Desire vs. Attraction

Postby pretzelboy » Fri Aug 21, 2009 11:15 am

Regarding the issue of sexual desire and responsive desire and all that, Masters and Johnson proposed a 4 stage model for sexuality: exitement, plateau, orgasm, resolution (I think). No one really seemed to like "plateau" all that much though. Helen Singer Kaplan (invertor of Hypoactive Sexual Desire) got rid of it and added "desire," though she was, obviously, not the only person to not that desire for sex can play an important role in things. The DSM currenlty relies on Kaplan's triphasic model: desire, excitement, orgasm. (Of course, it is acknowledged that "resulution" is there as well, but the DSM's model for sexual dysfunction relies on problems at various stages of this model, and there haven't been many complaints of problems with the 4th stage, so it gets ignored, and a model with 4 phases is called tri-phasic.)

A more recent model (for women's sexuality, which is supposedly oh-so-different from "male sexuality") has made a cyclic model that I don't recall the component parts of. (Basically, when having sex, people get more excited about sex, which, according to the model, creates a positive feedback loop.) Evidently, there are a substantial number of "sexually functional" women who often have no desire for sex, but get really interested when they get in a new relationship, or as a result of (welcome) sexual advances are made by a loving partner. This is termed "responsive desire." There was one study that presented some group of women with these three models and they had to decide which best fit them. About a third chose each model, though the women choosing the UBC model were more likely to have "sexual dysfunction" or something like that. (I've actually just read the abstract.)

My suspicion is that the cyclic model is the most accurate for some (but not all) women, and it is probably true of some men as well. (I've seen repots of men in the asexual community who sound that that model fits them.) I'm not sure if anyone studying human sexuality has looked into the possibility that the cyclic model may actually fit some men. When studying gender differences, there are two main approaches: focusing on the similarities and focusing on the differences. Masters and Johnson focused on the similarities, presumably to debunk gender stereotypes. However, many feel that by focusing on the similarities, the result is that women are judged "functional" or not by a model based on "male sexuality" (because sexually, all men are the same. At least this is the assumption that seems to be at work in just everything I’ve read on “women’s sexuality”, even though I’m sure every one of those authors would reject this position if asked about it.) To respond to this, many researchers are currently focusing on gender differences, and how “female sexuality” is very different from “male sexuality.” Eventually, I expect them to realize that this has the problem of pretending that each gender is a lot more homogeneous than is actually the case. (In the work on “women’s sexuality” there is typically acknowledgement of considerable variation among women, but minimal recognition of considerable variation among men.) Other than basic differences in anatomy and physiology, most differences tend to exist in the aggregate, but there is considerable overlap and intra-gender variation, and exceptions to the rule. (For example, adult human males are, on average, taller than adult human females. But saying “men are tall; women are short” would be utter nonsense. )

Similar problems have plagued research on gender differences in other fields and these problems have been recognized in those contexts. Now we just have to see how long it takes for a similar trend to occur in research on human sexuality.

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Re: Desire vs. Attraction

Postby Isaac » Sat Aug 22, 2009 9:11 am

Masters and Johnson's phases fit fine my experience, whilst the triphasic model is nonsense for me. I think that this triphasic model is a political way to focus on an optional phase outside the course by means of dropping two actual phases in order to place desire as the first of three, instead of as the first of five or, even worse, the zeroth before the four. I'm likely to think, by analogy to my experience laking about love, that there are several models that different people fit, better or looser, regardless their sex. In my case this is Masters and Johnson's, but for other people it might be triphasic, cyclic or another to be described.

ADD. Removing plateau and resolution ignores also the sexual reality of many people. If we drop the plateau phase, why do many people delay their orgasms or try to? If we drop the resolution phase, we ignore the so-called valium wank and the cultural link between sex and sleep.

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Re: Desire vs. Attraction

Postby pretzelboy » Sat Aug 22, 2009 12:14 pm

In Kaplan's modification of Masters and Johnson, she didn't, technically, remove "resolution" as much as play it down. (She fully acknowledged the importance of that phase.) Kaplan's model was important for the way that the DSM categorizes "sexual dysfunctions." They point out her four stages and, as I recall, classify sexual dysfunctions according to each stage (more or less). I don't have a copy of DSM-III in from of me, but, as I recall, their diagnoses (other than ones involving pain) can be categorized according to the first three stages of Kaplan's model.

In order to call lack of interest in sex a "sexual dysfunction," you need to make sexual desire normative and include it in your model. Both Kaplan and Lief did this in their proposals for an official diagnosis for not being interested in sex. (I believe that Kaplan proposed her model in her article "Hypoactive Sexual Desire," but I'm just relying on memory in making that claim.)

Another important consequence of Masters and Johnson's model is that by highlighting similarities in male and female sexuality, and by using the same model for both, (for the most part) the same sets of diagnoses are used for both. Whether or not this is a good idea is another matter. Most people seem inclined to think that it probably isn't. I've read that people who actually did studies where they asked women (in non-clinical populations) about what sexual problems (if any) they had, the actual problems that actual women complain of don't really fit the current system all that well.

From the reading I did for AVEN's DSM project, the impression that I got is that no one is really happy with the current system of classifying sexual problems, but historical inertia makes it hard to change things. If the DSM made any radial change of categorization of sexual dysfunctions, it would requite massive amounts of energy spent on educating people about the new system and how to use it. But the current system sucks so bad that most people have to rely on their own (or their institution's) model, and avoiding this kind of situation is one of the main reasons that standardized classifications of diseases and disorders exist. (If everybody's going around doing their own thing, it makes problems for communication. And if everybody is using different operational definitions, it's hard to compare the results of different studies.)

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Re: Desire vs. Attraction

Postby Isaac » Sun Aug 23, 2009 3:19 pm

It's surely not the idea behind the model, but desire phase might be also interpreted as the brute libido we usually consider among asexual. If not desire, properly speaking, a zeroth phase, but it doesn't convince me. I would have to check if it fits my experience. In this case it could be acceptable to consider such a phase, but otherwise it's plainly despising masturbation, which was covered by Masters and Johnson's original.

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Re: Desire vs. Attraction

Postby Brent_S » Thu Jun 23, 2011 3:58 pm

This is my first post, so....HI!

As far as if there's a difference between sexual desire and libido:

I define sexual desire as the mental, psychological, or intellectual desire for sex; whereas libido is the physical desire for sex.

Examples:

No Libido, No Desire, No Attraction: Person doesn't masturbate
Libido, No Desire, No Attraction: Person masturbates w/o thoughts
Libido, Desire, No Attraction: Person masturbates to thoughts of themself having sex
Libido, Desire, Attraction: Person masturbates to thoughts of having sex a person they saw that day.

Note: These are examples, and aren't perfect. But I think they work to show my point.
"Actually, sex just isn't that important to me." [Sidney Harris Cartoon. American Scientist. Magazine. 1984]

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Re: Desire vs. Attraction

Postby Clarity » Sun Jul 31, 2011 8:11 am

Hmm, I might try to define them by saying that desire is psychological arousal (often accompanied by physiological arousal, of course) and can be either free-floating (horniness) or focused on a person (you'll have fantasies of them when they're not around). Attraction, on the other hand, is either desire for someone who's present (or whose image/voice is present)--so arousal while looking at someone, touching them, talking to them, connecting with them intellectually or emotionally--OR the sort of "that cake looks good" acknowledgment that someone's got good facial bone structure, a burning gaze, and moves their hips in a way that would arouse you if you were in the mood or in the right situation.

That second definition of "attraction" is something an asexual could experience--the acknowledgment that someone is physically to one's taste--except the "taste" in question knows it's not sexual, that the potential for desire focused on this person isn't there. I think sexual people often use "attraction" for people who they're aesthetically attracted to as well as actively sexually attracted to, since in the right situation they'd be sexually attracted to the aesthetically attractive person (err, bar that person being a type they'd only be aesthetically but not sexually attracted to).

So I'd say desire is "wanting to have sex" and attraction is "recognizing that a person is someone you'd like to have sex with" whether you feel that desire now or not. Of course that's just my impression of the phenomena.

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Re: Desire vs. Attraction

Postby NanoCircus » Mon Nov 05, 2012 3:06 am

Desire is wanting something from someone, this is usually understood as needing some form of gratification, but gratification comes in many forms.

Attraction is finding something pleasing in someone else and wanting more of it, but again what you find pleasing in someone can take many forms and with both sex isnt necessarily a part of it if you dont want it to be.

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Re: Desire vs. Attraction

Postby KAGU143 » Mon Nov 05, 2012 10:49 am

Very well said!
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