Non-Linear Model of Sexual Response – Rosemary Basson (2000)
Rosemary Basson’s Non-Linear Model of sexual response incorporates the need for intimacy, acknowledges that desire can be responsive (to someone or something else) or spontaneous and may come either before or after arousal, recognizes that orgasms may contribute to satisfaction but aren’t necessary for satisfaction, and considers relationship factors that may impact the cycle as costs or rewards.
The inability to really define “normal” is one of my favorite aspects of Basson’s model. Women (and men) can experience sexual response in a variety of ways. Parts of the model are linear (e.g., arousal and stimulation occur prior to the experience of satisfaction), but other parts are circular and bidirectional (e.g., sexual desire may come before or after arousal and the two may feed into each other).
Three main take-home messages we can learn from studying sexual response cycles:
- Sexual pleasure and satisfaction aren’t reliant on orgasm…though orgasm may certainly be a nice bonus.
- Sexual desire doesn’t always have to come before sexual activity or arousal…sometimes getting physical and experiencing arousal will elicit desire.
- External factors such as relationship dynamics, intimacy, and weighing rewards and costs of sexual experience may play an important role in sexual response.
Try not to focus on “normal”. Instead, shift that focus to you and your partner’s sexual response and communicate your needs both inside and outside the bedroom.
Retrieved Female Sexual Response
Rosemary Basson wrote “The Female Sexual Response” (2000) and constructed a new model of female sexual response that incorporates the importance of emotional intimacy, sexual stimuli, and relationship satisfaction (see figure above). This model acknowledges that female sexual functioning proceeds in a more complex and circuitous manner than male sexual functioning and that female functioning is dramatically and significantly affected by numerous psychosocial issues (e.g., satisfaction with the relationship, self-image, and previous negative sexual experiences).
According to Basson, women have many reasons for engaging in sexual activity other than sexual hunger or drive, as the traditional model suggests. Although many women may experience spontaneous desire and interest while in the throes of a new sexual relationship or after a long separation from a partner, most women in long-term relationships do not frequently think of sex or experience spontaneous hunger for sexual activity.
In these latter cases, Basson suggests that a desire for increased emotional closeness and intimacy or overtures from a partner may predispose a woman to participate in sexual activity. From this point of sexual neutrality—where a woman is receptive to being sexual but does not initiate sexual activity—the desire for intimacy prompts her to seek ways to become sexually aroused via conversation, music, reading or viewing erotic materials, or direct stimulation. Once she is aroused, sexual desire emerges and motivates her to continue the activity.
On the road to satisfaction, there are many points of vulnerability that may derail or distract a woman from feeling sexually fulfilled. The Basson model clarifies that the goal of sexual activity for women is not necessarily orgasm but rather personal satisfaction, which can manifest as physical satisfaction (orgasm) and/or emotional satisfaction (a feeling of intimacy and connection with a partner).