Robert Scott Stewart, Ph.D. Department of Philosophy Cape Breton University Sydney, NS, Canada [email protected] Compare three philosophical discussions of sexual desire and examine them in light of some recent empirical research on sexual arousal and desire. Distinguish between sexual arousal and sexual desire. Argue that properly understood the recent empirical evidence offers support for philosophic positions (or a least doesn’t contradict it). Namely, that sexual desire is interpersonal, intimate connection that represents an existential need, while sexual arousal is restricted to the physiological level an tends to be biologically based. Sexual desire is “multilevel interpersonal awareness” I.e., A’s awareness of B’s desire towards A increases A’s desire, and vice-versa. Incomplete (or “perverse”) sexual desire is narcissistic. I refer to it as sexual arousal. Sexual desire is “a subjection to or immersion in his body.” The object of sexual desire is a particular person, not just to body parts or actions. Thomas Nagel, “Sexual Perversion,” Journal of Philosophy, LXVI, Jan. 16, 1969: 5-17. “Sex is not a matter of frictional force… It is the most intense way we relate to one another person… The excitement comes largely from how we interpret the situation and how we perceive the connection to the other.” “In sexual intimacy, we admit the partner within our boundaries or make them more permeable, showing our passions, capacities, fantasies, and excitements, and responding to others.” Robert Nozick, The Examined Life: Philosophical Meditations Simon & Shuster, 1989), 60-67. Sexual desire is “a need based … on … an awareness … of having a gender which implies a sense of incompleteness that calls out to be fulfilled by the gender of another person.” It is a “desire for mutual baring and caressing between oneself and at least one other person (real, fantasized, or symbolized.” It is the expression of a need to be cared for. James Giles, The Nature of Sexual Desire (University Press of America, 2008), 181182; 93; 87; 174. Sexual desire is non reductionistic – to bodily parts, to particular actions, or mere physiology. It is a self-conscious desire for intimate connection with another (whole) person. Measure physiological and subjective responses to videos containing different levels of sexual activity by different entities in male, female, and male to female transsexual subjects, all of whom self-labeled as hetero- or homosexual. M. Chivers, M. Seto, & R. Blanchard, “Gender and Sexual Orientation Differences in Sexual Response to Sexual Activities Versus Gender of Actors in Sexual Films,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2007, 93 (6): 110801121; and many other articles. See paper. The video: (1)clothed, non-sexual, both men and women; (2) naked, non-sexual, both men and women; (3) naked, solitary masturbation, both male and female; (4) naked, sexual ‘intercourse’, male-male, female-female, and female-male; (5) bonobo chimps having intercourse (in one experiment). Attached to devices to measure female vaginal lubrication or male erection. Simultaneously answering questions regarding level of arousal from watching various video. Both (objective) physiological and subjective responses measured. Men are “category specific,” (heterosexual) women are not. Women are “flexible,” men are not. For women, sexual response comes from level of sexual activity, not gender. For men, sexual response comes from gender of actors, not sexual activity. Female lubrication and evolution Proximate and ultimate biological causes Biology vs. social construction vs. existential needs Women’s lubrication = sexual arousal (not sexual desire) and is biologically based. Male erection = sexual arousal (not necessarily sexual desire) Women’s subjective response = sexual desire Men’s subjective response = sexual desire Sexual desire in men and women differs some but not as much as we might think/ “It’s more for intimacy … I am like a hermit if you like. I am a lonely guy. I don’t have many real time friends or I don’t see them that often. There you are for five years, most of the time sleeping in your bed alone … it’s very nice to have a cuddle” (‘Steve’, 47, divorced IT) Teela Sanders, Paying for Pleasure: Men Who Buy Sex (Devon, UK: Willan Publishing, 2008), 40. Brian Alexander, America Unzipped American’s pursuit of sex is an attempt at intimate connection to avoid personal isolation. “That is why I think the sex explosion is just about over. People will still watch porn, and we will certainly still have sex, and some people will still want to be tied up as some people always have, but the hypersaturation of it all is about to fizzle.” Brian Alexander, America Unzipped: In Search of Sex and Satisfaction (Three Rivers Press, 2008), 302. Americans are ready for a turn away form mere sexual arousal toward sexual desire.