Male Sexual Desire

One of the most widespread myths is that men maintain constant sexual desire regardless of the circumstances. Is this really true? We explore.
Male Sexual Desire
José Padilla

Written and verified by the psychologist José Padilla.

Last update: 04 March, 2024

Desiring means wanting something vehemently and longingly. Desire is always the aspiration toward something that you don’t have at that moment. It’s a human tendency that drives us toward the search for what’s absent and without which we can’t experience fulfillment. The same thing happens with sexual desire.

Sexual desire encourages the human being to seek a sexual encounter for different reasons. For example, reproductive, social, personal, etc. It arises from a perceived lack at a relational level. This triggers a series of behaviors that aim to bring the individual closer to the long-awaited goal of sex.

Male sexual desire

Sexual desire is a psychological state that seeks to initiate and maintain human sexual behavior. It can be triggered by internal or external stimuli. Basically, it’s the impulse that motivates individuals (in this case men) toward an intimate encounter with another person. In effect, to share intimacy, maintain a relationship, enjoy themselves, experience pleasure, etc.

Sexual desire in men appears at puberty. At this time, it’s often associated with involuntary ejaculations during sleep. Men can maintain this desire until around the age of 50. Then, it begins its decline, accompanied, in some cases, by a decrease in libido as well.

The factors associated with this type of desire are biological, psychological, sexual, relational, and cultural (Nimbi et al., 2020).

Biological factors

Androgens, like testosterone, are essential for sexual behavior to appear in men. Research on the subject has shown that they require a minimum level of androgens to experience sexual desire.

It’s also known that testosterone increases the desire in men for sex without commitment and with a greater number of sexual partners. Satisfying these desires usually reduces blood testosterone levels after intercourse, but not the level of perceived desire (Puts et al., 2015).

Sex hormones are released into the bloodstream by the glands. They travel to the brain, where they sensitize certain regions of the cortex. This makes the individual more receptive to sexual stimuli and thoughts.

Psychological factors

While it’s true that certain moods can promote or inhibit sexual desire, studies on the subject offer conflicting results. Some studies indicate that low levels of sexual desire are associated with a lack of positive affect related to sexuality than with the presence of more negative emotions (Nimbi et al., 2018; Nimbi et al., 2019).

Depression and anxiety have also been found to be associated with low levels of sexual desire. Bancroft et al. (2003) investigated with 919 men. They found that nine percent of those with elevated levels of depression reported an increase in sexual interest. While 42 percent reported a decrease.

Likewise, among men with significant anxiety, 21 percent reported an increase in sexual desire and 28 percent reported a decrease.

Sexual factors

Positive and negative past sexual experiences have direct effects on sexual interest and behavior. In fact, sexual problems can have a negative effect on sexual interest and function in general.

For example, erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation have been reported to be the most prevalent comorbidities among men with low levels of sexual desire (Carvalheira, 2014).

Regarding the sexual response, the level of desire usually increases during any sexual experience (masturbation, intercourse) until orgasm. Moreover, it seems to predict the quality and satisfaction of the orgasmic phase (Paterson et al., 2014).

Relational factors

Murray et al. (2017) conducted a study concerning the male experience in long-term relationships. They found that, regardless of age or length of the relationship, factors such as ‘feeling desired’, ‘exciting and unexpected sexual encounters’, and ‘intimate communication’ were factors that provoked sexual desire.

On the other hand, ‘rejection’, ‘physical and negative ailments’, ‘health characteristics’, and ‘lack of emotional connection with the partner’ were the main inhibitory factors.

Cultural factors

Peer pressure and male gender role expectations have been identified as risk factors for levels of sexual desire. Similarly, it’s been found that the stigmatization of reduced male libido can negatively influence sexual satisfaction (McCarthy, 2009).

Many of the cultural stereotypes or myths about male sexual desire can have an effect on it. For example, the stereotyped idea that men think about sex all day can make men feel pressured to exhibit such behavior. This may not be a problem, so long as they’re not undervalued if they don’t conform to such a standard.

To conclude, sexual desire in men is influenced by different variables. These desires motivate men to seek sexual intimacy, but not necessarily emotional intimacy. What’s more, for many of them, sexual desire and its satisfaction is a way of creating said intimacy and not a consequence of it.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Bancroft, J., Janssen, E., Strong, D., Carnes, L., Vukadinovic, Z. y Long, J. S. (2003). The relation between mood and sexuality in heterosexual men. Archives of sexual behavior32(3), 217-230.
  • Carvalheira, A., Træen, B., & Štulhofer, A. (2014). Correlates of men’s sexual interest: a cross-cultural study. The journal of sexual medicine11(1), 154-164.
  • McCarthy, B., & McDonald, D. (2009). Sex therapy failures: A crucial, yet ignored, issue. Journal of sex & marital therapy35(4), 320-329.
  • Murray, S. H., Milhausen, R. R., Graham, C. A., & Kuczynski, L. (2017). A qualitative exploration of factors that affect sexual desire among men aged 30 to 65 in long-term relationships. The Journal of Sex Research54(3), 319-330.
  • Nimbi, F. M., Tripodi, F., Rossi, R., Navarro-Cremades, F. y Simonelli, C. (2020). Male sexual desire: an overview of biological, psychological, sexual, relational, and cultural factors influencing desire. Sexual medicine reviews8(1), 59-91.
  • Nimbi, F. M., Tripodi, F., Rossi, R., Michetti, P. M., & Simonelli, C. (2019). Which psychosocial variables affect drive the most? Analysis of sexual desire in a group of Italian men. International journal of impotence research31(6), 410-423.
  • Nimbi, F. M., Tripodi, F., Rossi, R. y Simonelli, C. (2018). Testing a conceptual model for men’s sexual desire referring to automatic thoughts, emotions, sexual function, and sexism. The journal of sexual medicine15(11), 1518-1526.
  • Paterson, L. Q., Jin, E. S., Amsel, R., & Binik, Y. M. (2014). Gender similarities and differences in sexual arousal, desire, and orgasmic pleasure in the laboratory. The Journal of sex research51(7), 801-813.
  • Puts, D. A., Pope, L. E., Hill, A. K., Cárdenas, R. A., Welling, L. L., Wheatley, J. R., & Breedlove, S. M. (2015). Fulfilling desire: Evidence for negative feedback between men’s testosterone, sociosexual psychology, and sexual partner number. Hormones and behavior70, 14-21.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.