What’s the Difference between Desire and Arousal?


The Emjoy Team

June 14, 2019
What’s the Difference between Desire and Arousal?
Sexual Wellbeing Audio App
Science-backed content
Personalized Journey
Discreet and effective
Download now
"One is not born, but rather becomes, woman. No biological, psychic, or economic destiny defines the figure that the human female takes on in society; it is civilization as a whole that elaborates this intermediary product between the male and the eunuch that is called feminine." - Simone DeBeauvoir, The Second Sex

Why is sex so god damn complicated? The more we learn about sex and sexuality, the clearer it is that our historical understanding of women’s anatomy and sexual desire has been woefully limited. Take a read of the first chapter of Simone DeBeauvoir’s prolific The Second Sex and you'll discover how until the 20th Century (!!!) in the West, the vulva and vagina were described as anything from an inside-out penis to the real location of a woman’s brain. So, don’t blame yourself for not knowing exactly how your body works - it is only in the last few decades that it has even been socially acceptable in the West to study or learn about a woman’s sexuality. Up until then, it was considered either uninteresting, unimportant or strictly taboo.

eye roll

One of the most common questions that we get asked at Emjoy is about sexual desire and arousal. What are they? Are they the same? Are they linked with libido? Which comes first?

There is no right way to have sex, feel aroused or experience your libido. We are all different. And like I said before, we are still learning about how the vulva and vagina actually work! What we do know is that there is a common misconception that arousal and desire are the same, when in fact, they are not.

Desire is emotional: it’s your libido. It is wanting, or not wanting, to have sex.

Arousal is the physical symptoms your body produces when you are turned on: heart rate increasing, lubrication between your legs, dilated pupils.

You can be unexpectedly aroused, and you can feel unexpectedly desirous; like going to a doctor’s appointment and suddenly finding yourself fantasizing about them; or sitting on top of a washing machine and finding yourself more and more aroused from the vibrations…

Desire is as changeable as the seasons. We all know there’s a big difference between the honeymoon period in a new relationship and the part afterwards - it’s almost expected for us to stop having good and frequent sex. We are used to the idea that over time, our desire for our partner diminishes - as if we’ve run out of desire, like an old battery.

There are lots of different ways you can initiate both desire and arousal - separately or together. One of the main things that we work on with you in our app is building desire, from the ground up. You can head on over to the “Desire” section for a whole session on Desire vs. Arousal and techniques to incite them.

Sometimes, arousal can happen first and lead to desire. Maybe someone kisses your neck and you feel aroused - which then makes you want to have sex. Watching a steamy movie can also generate arousal in you, which can lead to desire; or looking at saucy pictures. It’s proven that looking at visual stimulation increases desire and arousal.

The good news is, you can have control and agency over your desire and arousal. You can incite them. You can plan them. You don’t need to take pills that often are only slightly more effective than a placebo. It’s perfectly natural and normal to have fluctuations in your desire, and for your arousal to manifest in different ways. The key to taking control, of course, is to first understand them. So perk up your ears - it’s gonna be a wild ride.

Download the Emjoy App and get started on the “Understand Desire” collection designed to help you understand and control your desire and incite arousal.

Discover and reconnect with your body at your own pace

Explore a wide diversity of wellness audio guides and stories that will take your routine to the next level. Download the app for free and let’s emjoy!

Get Emjoy App

Emjoy – the App to Spice Up Your Sex Life

+500 science-backed wellbeing audio sessions and +300 erotic stories to boost your sexual wellbeing & increase your pleasure with new techniques.
Get Emjoy
Get Emjoy App