The Relational and Bodily Experiences Theory of Sexual Desire in Women

A Commentary to this article was published on 26 June 2019

A Commentary to this article was published on 07 February 2019

A Commentary to this article was published on 03 January 2019

A Commentary to this article was published on 17 December 2018

A Commentary to this article was published on 11 December 2018

A Commentary to this article was published on 06 December 2018

A Commentary to this article was published on 21 November 2018

Abstract

We review the theory and research on women’s sexual desire and present a theory that incorporates internalized representations of relational and bodily experiences into our understanding of the full range of desire in women. To this end, we move away from the current tendency to focus on low sexual desire in women and instead consider desire on a spectrum or continuum from absent or diminished to high desire across multiple sexual orientations, including heterosexual, bisexual, and lesbian. We review definitions of sexual desire, as well as the epidemiology and etiology of hypoactive sexual desire, the most prevalent sexual complaint in women, including the biological, psychological, and relationship correlates of inhibited sexual desire. Subsequently, we examine the research on highly sexual women, who tend to experience high levels of sexual desire, sexual agency, and sexual esteem, and distinguish between high sexual desire and hypersexuality. We introduce two important constructs that are integrated into the Relational and Bodily Experiences Theory (RBET) of sexual desire in women: attachment and sexual body self-representations, suggesting that women’s internalized representations of self and other that stem from childhood and their capacity to embody their sexual bodies are integral to our understanding of the phenomenology of sexual desire in women. RBET calls for further research into the links between attachment, sexual body self-representations, and desire, and suggests that clinical interventions for sexual desire difficulties in women should emphasize internalized working models of relationships (i.e., attachment) and integrate bodily based approaches.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    The SDID, defined as low sexual desire, absent sexual fantasies, and a lack of “responsive desire,” was proposed by the international multidisciplinary group of sexual researchers and clinicians to more accurately reflect sexual desire concerns in women (Basson et al., 2003).

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Cherkasskaya, E., Rosario, M. The Relational and Bodily Experiences Theory of Sexual Desire in Women. Arch Sex Behav 48, 1659–1681 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-018-1212-9

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Keywords

  • Women’s sexual desire
  • Attachment
  • Sexual subjectivity
  • Self-objectification
  • Genital self-image