What is Sexual Desire? How does it change with age?

“What is sexual desire, and how do you know you’re feeling it?”

Natalie Angier explored that question in “Birds Do It. Bees Do It. People Seek the Keys to It,” published in the New York Times on April 10, 2007. This exploration of sexual desire concluded that although sexual desire is universal, what turns us on (and how we know we’re turned on) is as “quirky and personalized as the very chromosomal combinations that sexual reproduction will yield.”

The article says,

For researchers in the field of human sexuality, the wide variance in how people characterize sexual desire and describe its most salient features is a source of challenge and opportunity, pleasure and pain. “We throw around the term ‘sexual desire’ as though we’re all sure we’re talking about the same thing,” said Lisa M. Diamond, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Utah. “But it’s clear from the research that people have very different operational definitions about what desire is.”

I suggest that not only are our reactions varied and individual, but they vary even more as we age. Certainly I would have answered the opening question differently thirty years ago. I would have said, “Sexual desire is a driving urge of attraction. I feel tingling in my genitals, and a feeling of physiological hollowness yearning to be filled. I fantasize touching my lust object, kissing him, discovering what he looks like, smells like, what noises he makes, how he makes love.”

Today, at age 63, I’d answer differently: “Sexual desire is a yearning for intimacy, for touch, for bonding with my beloved man.I fantasize arousing him, connecting with him, becoming joined in intimacy and ecstacy. It is both physical and emotional, though without the electric arousal I used to feel — that takes much more warm-up.”

What about you? how would you define and describe sexual desire now, compared to when you were younger?

If you’d like to answer Richard A. Lippa’s survey on sexual desire, which is mentioned in the NYT article, click here.


  1. Lorraine on October 9, 2023 at 11:13 am

    I found these articles fascinating, but how do i ask my husband aged 82 that I would like to kiss me down there in a sexy way

    • Joan Price on October 9, 2023 at 11:26 am

      I don’t know how easily you and your husband talk about sex, Lorraine. Here’s a suggestion: “There’s something that would really turn me. May I tell you?” (Pause while — I hope! — he nods vigorous or says, “Of course!” ) “I would love it if you would use your mouth on my clitoris to arouse me. That would really excite me!” Then, if he agrees, give him words or moans or other signals to help him do it the way you’d like, because we’re all different, and he can’t be expected to know.

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