Role of Sexual Desire

man woman kissingPart of the reason why infidelity is so common stems directly from our sexual desire.

Our desire for sex, whether we are conscious of it or not, is one of life’s most basic and fundamental needs (see sexual desire, love and attachment; Buss; Barash & Lipton; Ridley).

To begin with, we want to apologize for coming across as sexist. But when talking about sexual desire, some sexism is involved. There are in fact some sex differences between men and women.

Our sexual desire influences a lot of our behavior and we are not always aware of its influence. man woman in embrace

For example, why are most women so concerned about their appearance—looking young and beautiful—even putting on makeup to enhance their beauty? In fact, it is estimated that people spend more money on trying to appear beautiful than we as a nation do on education (see Etcoff).

And why are men so obsessed with status, respect, and success? And why are they so concerned about their height?

People care so much about these issues because they are directly linked to our sexual behavior.

Why is sex so important?

Because whether we like to acknowledge it or not, our sexual desire underlies much of what we do.

The long story, told short:

For a more detailed discussion about how evolution shaped our human nature, please see the section on evolution and human behavior (also see Buss, Tooby and Cosmides, Pinker, Ridley).

Here is an abbreviated version:

Evolution shaped human behavior—how we think, feel, and behave. And most of the time we are not aware of the motivations that influence our behavior—life kept many of the factors that influence our behavior hidden from us (we don’t really need to know why we do the things we do, just as long as we do them).

Evolution rewards life forms that survive, reproduce, and help relatives get ahead (this is called inclusive fitness; see Hamilton). Evolution rewarded humans that were sexual in nature—we are all the descendants of individuals who were driven and motivated to act on their sexual impulses. Accordingly, people today are stuck with the sexual desires which drove our ancestors to reproduce.

Whether we like it or not (again, evolution didn’t care whether we liked what we were doing, just as long as we did it), cheating is a part of our sexual makeup. For millions of years, people who cheated on their mates reproduced faster than more sexually reserved individuals (cheaters won at the game of creating offspring). So now the desire to cheat is a universal part of our human nature–something we inherited a long time ago from our cheating ancestors.

This, however, does NOT mean that EVERYONE will cheat; it only means that the tendency to cheat is innate–it’s part of who we are.

So, why do some people act on their desire to cheat while others remain faithful...?