Sexual motivation

Singer, B. and Toates, F. (1987). Sexual motivation. The Journal of Sex Research, 23(4) pp. 481–501.



We discuss the long‐standing “sex‐as‐drive‐or‐appetite” controversy—whether sexual desires may arise on their own, from internal states, or whether they only arise when attractive stimuli are presented. The issue is approached through integration of sexual motivation within an umbrella theory of motivational systems that closely follows currently dominant incentive motivation theories. In this formulation sexual motivation, like hunger or thirst, emerges from an interaction of external incentives and internal states. Deprivation acts to enhance the palatability of incentives but does not create an internal goad. That is, there is no aversive internal sensation associated with sexual deprivation. Through this perspective we integrate sex with findings from other motivational systems such as hunger or thirst and clarify otherwise puzzling phenomena: why orgasm and sexual motivation can be decoupled; how female sexual motivation arises and is similar to males'; how novel stimulation affects sexual motivation; and why measured sexual motivation seems to vary with experimental technique. Sexual self‐stimulation is accounted for under this model. Predictions are generated for the outcomes of both human and animal experiments. Finally, practical implications are discussed.

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