What is sexual desire?
Sexual desire looks simple and easy to understand, but it is not. It is a complex concept that involves biochemical, neurological, behavioral, psychological, and sociocultural aspects.
Epicurus believed that humans instinctively pursue pleasure, and that all of their actions, including those that may appear as either virtuous or altruistic, are ultimately aimed at obtaining pleasure for themselves.
Masters and Johnson’s (1966) human sexual response cycle (HSRC) consisted of a fixed sequence of stages of sexual response: Excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution. Desire was not part of the HSRC. Kaplan, in 1974, separated orgasm from the excitement phase, and introduced sexual desire in the first phase of the HSRC model.
Kaplan defined sexual desire as "specific sensations which move the individual to seek out, or become receptive to, sexual experiences. These sensations are produced by the physical activation of a specific neural system in the brain. When this system is active, persons may feel genital sensations, or they may feel vaguely sexy, interested in sex, open to sex, or even just restless. These sensations cease after sexual gratification, i.e., orgasm."
Kaplan viewed sexual desire as biologically driven, influenced by activation and inhibition of neural substrates. She believed that all sexual dysfunctions were caused by anxiety.
In 1987, Levine introduced the three features that characterize sexual desire:
(a) Desire precedes and accompanies sexual arousal;
(b) Desire is the psychobiological propensity to engage in sexual behavior; and
(c) Desire is the energy brought to sexual behavior.
Levine defined sexual desire as “the psychobiologic energy that precedes and accompanies arousal and tends to produce sexual behavior”.
Is passion derived from the unknown, the risk, the surprise, and the playfulness?
Perel believed that passion is derived from the unknown, the risk, the surprise, and the playfulness. Sexual excitement is interwoven with uncertainty and with people’s willingness to embrace the unfamiliar rather than shield themselves from it.
This theory was very interesting for all intelligence agencies.
In 2010, Sims and Meana identified three major contributors for the loss of desire:
a. The institutionalization of the relationship, which was associated with the over availability of sex that removed the excitement and anticipation that used to accompany planning for encounters.
b. Overfamiliarity and the loss of romance. Presex and sexual acts become overly familiar, almost routine, leading sex to be mechanical.
c. Desexualized roles in light of competing priorities, multiple obligations and roles.
Intelligence agencies have realized that handsome men and beautiful women, that can introduce unpredictability and a mix of the unknown, the risk, the surprise, and the playfulness can be very effective.
From Hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), to Hypersexuality, Satyriasis and Nymphomania
Hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) is defined as the “persistently or recurrently deficient (or absent) sexual fantasies and desire for sexual activity” (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). The HSDD disorder can be the result of drugs that decrease brain dopamine, melanocortin, oxytocin, and norepinephrine levels and augment brain serotonin, endocannabinoid, prolactin, and opioid levels. Common symptoms are the loss of motivation to participate in sexual activity due to absent or decreased spontaneous desire, and the absence of sexual desire in response to erotic stimulation.
On the opposite side, hypersexuality (or compulsive sexual behavior) is an excessive preoccupation with sexual fantasies, urges or behaviors that is difficult to control. It causes distress, and it negatively affects health, job, and relationships. It includes excessive masturbation, cybersex, multiple sexual partners, use of pornography, or paying for sex.
Hypersexuality may be a primary condition, or the symptom of another medical disease or condition. For example, it can be a side effect of medication.
The compulsive sexual behavior can be the result of an imbalance of natural brain chemicals. High levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine may be related to compulsive sexual behavior. This disorder can cause changes in the brain's neural circuits, and similar to other addictions, more-intensive sexual content and stimulation are typically required over time in order to gain satisfaction or relief.
Satyriasis was a term used as the male equivalent of nymphomania (today we prefer the terms hypersexuality disorder, compulsive sexual behavior, or sex addiction). In Greek mythology, Satyr was half-beast and half-human, famed for promiscuity. Aretaeus of Cappadocia, in the first century AD, defined satyriasis as a condition of excessive desire in men that, by inducing a state of severe sexual frustration, would lead to sickness and death.
Nymphomania was a term used to describe excessive sexual desire in females (today we prefer the terms hypersexuality disorder, compulsive sexual behavior, or sex addiction). The term has ancient Greek origin, νύμφη (nymph) and μανία (mania), it literally means nymph madness. It refers to excessive sexual fantasies, urges, and behaviors, as well as the impulse to act on them with consenting individuals. Factors that contribute to hypersexual behavior include stressful life events, imbalance in brain chemicals, neurological conditions, and medications.
Intelligence agencies are very interested in finding persons having authorized access to classified information, and having compulsive sexual behavior too. These persons, on one side struggle with feelings of guilt, shame, and low self-esteem, and often feel depression, severe distress, and anxiety. They lie to their partner and family. They often engage in unhealthy substance use, drugs, and alcohol. On the other hand, they can be easily approached by spies acting as sexual partners, can be led to commit sexual offenses, and can be bribed or blackmailed.
Date rape drugs are drugs that incapacitate persons and renders them vulnerable to sexual assault, including rape. Drugs like GHB (gamma hydroxybutyric acid), ketamine and rohypnol make victims physically helpless, unable to refuse sex, and unable to remember what happened. They often have no color, odor or taste and are easily added to flavored drinks without the victim’s knowledge. This is a great recipe for blackmail and bribery.
It is not easy to persuade persons with authorized access to classified information, in the public and the private sector, not to leave their drinks unattended in public places. They must not easily accept open-container drinks. They must attend parties or visit bars with friends that watch each other’s drinks and behaviour. This is only the first step, to protect themselves, their organization and their country.