Need vs. Desire

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The “need for sex” and the “desire for sex” may or may not be the same thing. Some believe the purpose of desire is to meet the basic human need for sex and for the survival of the species.

Some consider sex, in any of its definitions, a basic human need, but others don’t prioritize it among what is needed to keep the body alive on a consistent basis, such as food, water and air.

Some people don’t have either a need or a desire for sex, and some people have sex with no desire for the act.

Some who do consider sex a basic need include intimacy, human touch, sexual identity and expression in that definition, and people may desire for these needs to be fulfilled. Some elderly and disabled people face challenges in having what they view as their basic human sexual needs fulfilled when they desire sex.

The sourced articles below should provide more information on the “need for sex” versus the “desire for sex.”

  1. Sex And Sexuality

    “Four broad lines of thought are prominent regarding sexual desire: (1) whether it is merely a biological drive or an intentional mental state; (2) how it should be defined; (3) whether it is benign or malignant; and (4) whether it admits of perverted forms.”

    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,, 10/19/2018

  2. 5 Things People Get Wrong About Desire

    “Desire is variable. Simple enough. Then why do we expect that our lover’s desire will be a match for ours? Many, many people have little to no sexual desire and yet live in thriving partnerships. They achieve this because the level of honesty in the relationship is equal to the level of commitment to meeting each other’s sexual needs, even when they are widely divergent.”

    Jaime Grant,, 8/31/2018; (Broken link removed 4/2024)

  3. The Difference Between Spontaneous And Responsive Sexual Desire

    “Another myth is that desire is a prerequisite for sex to happen and this is also totally false. A helpful way to understand desire is to know the difference between two major kinds of desire.”

    Pamela Mendelsohn, LCSW,, 7/30/2018

  4. SIECUS Announces Search For New President & CEO

    “SIECUS affirms that sexuality is a fundamental part of being human, one that is worthy of dignity and respect. We advocate for the right of all people to accurate information, comprehensive education about sexuality, and sexual health services. SIECUS works to create a world that ensures social justice and sexual rights.”

    Zach Eisenstein,, 5/1/2018

  5. Living With Muscular Dystrophy: Sexual Education

    “Sexual pleasure and intimacy are fundamental and innate human needs. Individuals with physical disabilities often find it difficult to meet these needs because of such factors as impaired mobility and lack of knowledge about sexual health. People with physical disabilities are often seen as asexual and not capable of having sex, and sexuality is often not considered a concern among this population. These misconceptions can result in individuals with physical disabilities not receiving basic sex education or advice and guidance when issues arise.”

    Leanne Beers,, 2018

  6. It’s Time To End The Taboo Of Sex And Intimacy In Care Homes

    “Imagine living in an aged care home. Now imagine your needs for touch and intimacy being overlooked. More than 500,000 individuals aged 65+ (double the population of Cardiff) live in care homes in Britain. Many could be missing out on needs and rights concerning intimacy and sexual activity because they appear to be ‘designed out’ of policy and practice. The situation can be doubly complicated for lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans individuals who can feel obliged to go ‘back into the closet’ and hide their identity when they enter care.
    Little is known about intimacy and sexuality in this sub-sector of care. Residents are often assumed to be prudish and ‘past it’. Yet neglecting such needs can affect self-esteem and mental health. …
    The most common story among study participants reflected the idea that older residents have moved past a life that features or is deserving of sex and intimacy. One male resident, aged 79, declared: ‘Nobody talks about it’. However, an 80-year-old female resident considered that some women residents might wish to continue sexual activity with the right person.”

    Paul Simpson,, 4/27/2017

  7. How To Communicate Your Sexual Needs And Desires To Your Partner

    “Often it starts with growing up. We rarely openly discuss sexual issues with our parents so we do not learn how to communicate about sex and our needs. It doesn’t occur to us to develop sexual communication skills even though they are very important in our relationships. From our childhoods we have only learnt to be uncomfortable and embarrassed with the subject. The idea of discussing our sexual needs can fill us with embarrassment, and there can be a fear of rejection or humiliation. Many couples often engage in the sexual act blindly believing that they know what their spouse wants based on pornographic viewing, or reading. This can result in an unpleasant and awkward sexual act which each partner pretends is satisfying, while their real needs and desires go unrecognised and unmet.”

    Annie Gurton,, 3/22/2017

  8. What My Disability Means For My Sex Life

    “Those are all things that are considered basic human needs, and asking for help with them is perfectly fine and acceptable. When it comes to my sexuality and the needs that come with it, however, things get more complicated. … People are often surprised to hear that those of us with disabilities have sexual desires. We do, it’s just not as easy for us to fulfill them.”

    Spencer Williams,, 10/27/2016

  9. I’m Transgender, And I’m Allowed To Enjoy Sex!

    “I am a transgender woman, and I LOVE sex. I will not be shamed because of the circumstances in which I exist, and I will not stay silent to avoid making others uncomfortable. For most people, sexuality and intimacy are a basic human need, and I will not be denied that by anyone because of who I am.”

    Callie Wright,, 3/9/2016

  10. Social Representations Of Sexuality For The Elderly

    “Sexuality is inherent to every person, present in all aspects of life, including old age, and individually influences the way each person manifests, communicates, feels and expresses. It can be seen from the identity perspective, explicit in the way the individual establishes his/her relationship with him/herself and the world. It is present from before birth and lasts until the moment of death. It is an integral part of the personality of human beings and their development is completed as a basic human need, such as the desire for contact, intimacy, emotional expression, pleasure, love and care.
    However, there is a gap in health promotion actions related to elderly sexuality. The absence of a vision that is directed toward this experience has caused important physical and psychological consequences for the elderly. There is a need for open dialogue about sexuality with this age group. The wall that surrounds this issue only predisposes individuals, including health care professionals, to strengthen existing taboos and to consummate the vulnerability of the elderly facing psychic and physical problems (for sexually transmitted diseases, STDs), due to a lack of information and debate on the experience of sexuality as an important practice in healthy aging.”

    Maria Amélia Crisóstomo Queiroz, Rejane Martins Enéas Lourenço, Manuela de Mendonça Figueirêdo Coelho, Karla Corrêa Lima Miranda, Rachel Gabriel Bastos Barbosa, Sara Taciana Firmino Bezerra,, 7/2015