The Nature of Sexual Desire

The Nature of Sexual Desire

The Nature of Sexual Desire

The Nature of Sexual Desire


Although there has been much discussion about things like the causes, loss, and maintenance of sexual desire, there has been little research into the nature of sexual desire itself. Consequently, most of the discussions on these topics have gone on without any clear idea about what it is that is being discussed. Readers will be interested that at last there is a full-length book that attempts to say what sexual desire is. Further, this book takes an interdisciplinary and intercultural approach, drawing on a wide range of texts and research.

Drawing on such diverse sources as psychology, philosophy, and biology, a thorough discussion of sexual desire is presented. Giles starts by showing why sexual desire is an existential problem and then follows with an examination of the nature of desire. From here the sexual process is examined and its relation to sexual desire is explored. This view of sexual desire is then used to explain the nature of romantic love, different orientations in love, and love's relation to sexual desire. It is argued that sexual desire has its roots in desires for vulnerability, care, and the experience of gender.


Anyone who studies sexual desire will learn that no particular discipline has exclusive claim on this topic. Thus, philosophers, psychologists, biologists, and poets all have much to say about this most pressing of human desires. To try, therefore, to approach sexual desire within the confines of only one traditional discipline is to miss out on what has been gained here by other disciplines: it is to see sexual desire from only one angle.

It seems to be this awareness of the multifaceted aspects of not only sexual desire but also of various sexual phenomena that has given rise to the interdisciplinary subject of sexology. For sexology is just the attempt to cross traditional boundaries and see sexuality and thus sexual desire, which lies at its core, in all its dimensions. Although my training is mainly in philosophy and psychology, it is in this interdisciplinary spirit of sexology that I have undertaken the present study. This means that those readers coming from a strictly, say, psychological background might be taken aback to see discussions of contemporary psychological research and ancient Indian erotology taking place side by side. However, drawing on such diverse sources not only enables us to form a more well-rounded view of sexual desire but also helps us to disentangle the universal aspects of sexual desire from its merely culturally specific features. Further, it serves as a check on the various biases, such as ethnocentrism, that are wont to plague such discussions.

The ideas in this book have been developed through my teaching of courses in human sexuality, philosophy, psychology, and social anthropology . . .

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