But the dual control model posits that our interest in sex is like a gas pedal and a break in a car
And there’s a lot of preparation going into it. You’re making sure that you’re shaving, you’re wearing your best underwear. Like there’s a whole lot of stuff going on behind the scenes, again, that not a lot of people talk about. Or a lot of us, we sort of omit that from our minds when we think about, oh, you know, that’s the beginning of the relationship.
We tend to not put that much effort into our sex lives. And so really, I think a lot of what is described as spontaneous desire in that context is actually responsive desire, but it’s responsive desire in the context of dating because dating is a really great incentive for people, you know, getting prepared days and days in advance, booking tickets, calling each other, texting each other, sending each other pictures saying, “I can’t wait to see you.”
All of this stuff helps create an atmosphere of hope and anticipation between you. That is responsive desire. That’s not spontaneous. That’s something that’s planned and extended over time. So then when you get together, it’s like, I can’t wait to, you know, rip your clothes off. It feels really spontaneous.
But we forget, Cyndi said, that we’ve actually spent days or even weeks leading up to that. And this applies to hookups and online dating, too.
Cyndi: People talk about that as being the ultimate in spontaneous desire, I would actually argue that that’s the ultimate in responsive desire because that sort of texting back and forth and arranging where you’re gonna meet and what you’re gonna do, that’s all planning.
But as we start to settle into relationships, we tend to not put that much into our dates
So very rarely I think does actual true spontaneous desire happen. It can happen, but it’s a lot rarer than I think we think it is.
August: That is so interesting. So is it then something we can learn from as far as planning and anticipation. Are those two elements helpful for creating the context where we do desire sex?
Cyndi: They are for some people some of the time, but they’re not for all people all of the time got it, which is perhaps not what you wanted to hear, but it is the truth.
We have to look at matters of desire on an individual level, Cyndi points out, especially important if you have what she described as “particulary sensitive sexual systems.”
Cyndi: There’s a, a process called the dual control model that you may or may not have heard about, which is a scientific way of understanding sex. And I’ll give you a very short version of it.
And that traditionally, we would think you would find a thing that you like and do a lot of that. And that’s the gas pedal.
So just find that thing that you like, you like having your boobs squeezed or whatever. It’s like, ‘Great. I like that. All right. I’m gonna put my foot to the floor and go for it. And I’m just gonna do lots of that and that’s gonna create desire.’
But what we also know is that on the other side is the brake pedal and what the brake pedal does is it encourages us to be vigilant. It encourages us to slow down. And so the things that might cause us to be vigilant and slow down, especially in this day and age of things like might I get pregnant if I continue with this. You know, I get an STI if I continue with this, I don’t know this person very well. We don’t have any condoms, for example. Is somebody gonna walk in, is my roommate gonna walk in? Is my mom gonna walk in? Is my, you know, is my partner gonna walk in? Like, you know, any of these kinds of things can activate what we call the breaks mechanism. So that’s the stuff that slows us down.