Erotic Desire: A Concept in the Field of Sexology

Sexology has a lot to say about erotic desire. Furthermore, the complexity of this subject makes it one of the most interesting to study. Hence, more and more sexology professionals are showing an interest in researching it.
Erotic Desire: A Concept in the Field of Sexology

Last update: 16 December, 2020

Sexual desire, also known as erotic desire, is one of the most interesting concepts in the field of sexology. It’s also a concept that’s difficult to define, describe, and measure.

Sexology is the science that studies the sexes and everything to do with them. To date, many authors have tried to investigate erotic desire. However, the truth is that very few have managed to shed any light on this particular phenomenon.

Psychology in its most applied field has three main focus levels. These are emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Some authors have tried to include desire as inherent in one of these three categories. However, desire is so complex that it’s impossible to place it in only one category.

Erotic desire isn’t an emotion. This is because your emotional state can be changed through cognitive restructuring or behavior modification. But this isn’t the case with desire. In fact, desire has an unchangeable character that stops it from being labeled as an emotion.

In the same way, desire doesn’t belong in the cognitive category. Furthermore, it goes without saying that it can’t be included in the behavior category. This is because, for a number of reasons, you might desire something or someone, yet you may behave in a totally different way. Therefore, it can probably be said that erotic desire connects with all three levels of focus. However, it doesn’t exclusively belong to any one of them.

An amorous couple, displaying erotic desire.

Redefining erotic desire

Freud addressed the topic of desire using the concept of “libido”. In fact, it’s still used today, even though it’s not a very accurate term. Indeed, it isn’t easy to define desire in scientific or operational terms. As a result, there’s a lot of bias surrounding this topic today, but there was even more bias a hundred years ago. Freud himself, speaking of desire said, “Where such men love they have no desire and where they desire they can’t love”. 

Helen Singer Kaplan made a very important contribution to theories of erotic desire. She had a Ph.D. in psychology and introduced the concept of desire to Masters and Johnson’s famous model of human sexual response. Their model included four stages: excitement, plateau, orgasm, resolution. However, Singer Kaplan amended these to desire, excitement, orgasm, resolution.

Stephen B. Levine is one of the most recognized researchers in the field of desire. He defined desire as having three components: impulse, longing, and motive.

However, one of the best writings on desire came from John Bancroft. This doctor spoke about desire as something experiential, not neurophysiological. He identified three dimensions: cognitive, affective, and neurophysiological.

Today, many authors research and write about erotic desire. In Spain, highly authoritative voices have been studying this subject for years. Joserra Landarroitajauregi, Francisco Cabello, and Miren Larrazabal are three of the most famous long-term sexologists.

Characteristics of erotic desire

There’s no universal or official definition of this concept. This is because it has very particular characteristics that make it a very complex subject to study. However, some of its main characteristics can be described as follows:

Uncontrollable. Desire can’t be controlled. But what you can control is your behavior. For instance, you might have a certain desire for something but you don’t necessarily follow it through. However, suppressing or changing the direction of that desire is, in principle, unfeasible.

Involuntary. You can’t choose what or how much you desire something or someone. Indeed, if you could, it’s likely that you’d change it in some way.

Anarchical. Erotic desire has no order and no specific hierarchy. Sometimes, you desire people who have no place in your everyday life. You might even desire people you’ve only just met, for no apparent reason, and more so than someone you’ve known for a long time.

Inconsistent. Have you ever desired someone you don’t even like? That’s one of the inconsistencies of desire. This can spill over into many areas of your life. You can desire people with different ideas, religions, lifestyles, and even those who are totally incompatible with you.

Promiscuous. Promiscuity is desire’s main characteristic. Furthermore, it’s the word that best describes it. In your own world of desires, absolutely anything goes. Anything and everything. Nobody can dictate it, it transcends social conventions, stereotypes, prejudices, conventions of beauty, etc.

A couple embracing.

Final note

The characteristics we mentioned above make erotic desire a difficult subject to investigate. However, they also make it one of the most intriguing, intense, and beautiful elements of your life. Desire is related to intimacy. It happens in the depths of your soul, and nobody can access it except you. In your world of erotic desire, there are no limits, no rules. In fact, desire is one of the purest and most beautiful demonstrations of human freedom.

It might interest you...
Clinical Sexologist – Characteristics and Myths
Exploring your mind
Read it in Exploring your mind
Clinical Sexologist – Characteristics and Myths

The clinical sexologist is a figure surrounded by a certain aura of mystery. Let's describe the discipline itself before we begin to talk about the...



  • Alfonso, V. C., Allison, D. B., & Dunn, G. M. (1992). Sexual fantasies and satisfaction: A multidimensional analysis of gender differences. Journal of Psychology.