Exploring Responsive Desire

This week, we're thinking about one of the most helpful ideas we encountered last year: responsive desire, which we came across in the work of Dr. Emily Nagoski, the New York Times bestselling author of Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life.

Across 2019, we heard from hundreds of you about the many different kinds of relationship dynamics and transitions you were navigating: new parenthood, stress, body changes, the start of relationships, the end of relationships, and so much more.

Uneven desire (differing levels of wanting sex) was one of the most universal issues we encountered—it's one we navigate too—and the concept of responsive desire has been one of the most empowering concepts we've come across. 

The first point to grasp is that the model most of us have been taught about sexual desire—that "it’s supposed to be like our fairy godmother, appearing out of nowhere to grant our wishes," as Emily summarizes—is untrue for many people. Our universal application of this model falsely leads people to believe that something is wrong if their desire isn't immediate. 

On the other hand, responsive desire is, well, responsive. It emerges in response to pleasure. Think of it this way: You might not be immediately turned on when your partner approaches you after a long day at work, but if you experience pleasurable stimulation that you consent to in that moment, your desire may emerge. And that is healthy and normal too.

In the last few months of last year, we realized that Caleb has spontaneous desire and Levina has responsive desire. Practically, that's given us something to work with, rather than feeling rejected, shameful, or broken when we aren't on the same page in any given moment. Having this context has prompted us to slow down, schedule date nights (and be strict about being present!), dedicate time to explore non-sexual intimacy, and reflect on how pleasure is guiding us. What we've been learning has been the subject of many a journal entry. Remember, it's a journey, and practice makes progress.

If this week's theme resonates with you, we recommend the following links to learn more about Dr. Emily Nagoski's work:

And, as always, if you want to purchase a copy of A Sex Journal for Couples to be your sidekick on your journey, you can do so here.

With love,

Levina + Caleb