‘Our attractions are not random’: Doctor on what influences desire and lust
Dr Redelinghuys said that desire is shaped by many influences.
Lust and desire play a critical role in relationships said experts. Picture iStock
Desire is a fickle lover. For millennia people have tried to figure out why they might be attracted to a certain someone, but not to another; why a specific body type or feature drives them crazy while other bits and bobs leave them cold. It’s a sexual mystery.
“Attraction is not just a simple reaction to stimuli, but a complex interplay of personal history, cultural norms, and biological impulses,” said Dr Jonathan Redelinghuys of Medicare24. “Our attractions are far from random; they are deeply rooted in our psyche, moulded by our experiences and the world around us. Whether it’s the allure of a particular physical trait or the magnetic pull of a certain personality, each preference is a clue to our deeper selves and the myriad influences that shape us. Understanding this can help us not only in accepting our own desires but also in appreciating the diverse tapestry of human attraction,” he added.
Dr Redelinghuys said that desire is shaped through a web of influences. “Neuroscientists and psychologists have found that certain features, such as facial symmetry or particular body proportions, often have a universal appeal due to their association with health and fertility.”
But this is just one piece of the puzzle he said. “Our individual experiences, from early childhood through adulthood, play a significant role in shaping what we find attractive. This can range from the benign, such as a preference for a certain hair colour, to more abstract influences like the way someone’s laughter can remind us of a loved one,” he said.
He noted that while there are universally ingrained triggers for desire, a large part of it remains deeply personal, and individual.
“Desire isn’t just some fleeting feeling; it’s hardwired into our biology,” said Dr Redelinghuys.
Hormones like testosterone and estrogen play a significant role in this. Couple it with life experiences, the good, the bad and the ugly, and between chemistry and behavioural psychology each individual’s relationship with desire is cemented.
“It’s not all about what happens between the sheets; it’s about the connection that leads you there,” he said.
Desire is a buildup, which in turn is dependent on the myriad of contributing factors. “It is the sum of the collective,” he added.
Desire is impacted too, in many nuanced ways in which age, life stages, and gender influence our patterns of sexual attraction.
“Through different stages of life, our desires evolve, it reflects the changes in our physical and emotional beings,” he said. “In youth, desires may be more exploratory and influenced by rushing hormones and social learning but as we mature, these desires shape into something more refined, influenced by deeper emotional connections and life experiences.”
Gender plays a crucial role in the overall equation. “Men and women often experience and express desire differently, not only because of biological differences but also due to social expectations and personal identity. Understanding these differences are important and engender empathy between people, genders and generations,” he noted.
Kinks and fetishes along with sexual preferences develop over time and also impact individual states of desire said Dr Redelinghuys.
“The development of sexual preferences, kinks, and fetishes can be seen as an extension of our core desires, shaped by a blend of psychological, social, and biological factors. These preferences are not just whims of the moment but are often deeply ingrained aspects of an individual’s sexuality through a mixture of innate tendencies and external influences.”
“Discovering your sexual identity and preferences is an important part of personal development. It’s a journey that can lead to greater self-awareness and fulfillment,” he said, which in turn impacts desire. He noted that any hurdle in this journey could negatively impact mental wellbeing and, ultimately, sexual desire, because “it remains unfulfilled at a deeper level.”
Sexual desire is more than just an instinct or a biological cauldron. It’s a reflection of our deepest emotional and psychological needs.
“When we acknowledge and accept our desires, we open ourselves to a more fulfilling and authentic experience of our sexuality,” said Dr Redelinghuys.
“Embracing the full spectrum of our desires, from the most basic to the most complex, is not just an act of self-discovery; it’s an act of self-love. And in that self-love lies the true power and beauty of human desire, driving us towards deeper connections and more meaningful experiences in life.”