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How Sexual Desire Works: The Enigmatic Urge

  • Considers evidence from both psychology and biology, offering readers a broad integrated approach which shows links between otherwise isolated bodies of knowledge
  • Links to historical, social, philosophical and theological issues, enabling readers to appreciate the broader relevance of the material
  • Concepts are explained, where necessary, with the help of diagrams

By: Frederick Toates(Author)

576 pages, 12 b/w illustrations

Cambridge University Press

Paperback | Sep 2014 | #214966 | ISBN-13: 9781107688049
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £29.99 $38/€33 approx
Hardback | Sep 2014 | #214965 | ISBN-13: 9781107050013
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £71.99 $92/€80 approx

About this book

There are countless books on sex and an endless fascination with the subject. Varieties and vagaries of sexual desire have long been documented, but there has been little engagement with cutting-edge scientific research to uncover the biological and psychological bases of sexual desire. Here, Frederick Toates uses the insights of modern science to show how a wide range of desire-related phenomena – fantasy, novelty-seeking, sexual addiction, sex-drug interactions, fetishes, voyeurism, and sexual violence and killing – start to make sense. For example, the role of the brain's neurochemical dopamine can now be much better understood in terms of wanting, and a distinction between wanting and liking has been established. Also, an understanding of the layered organization of the brain, sometimes described as hierarchical, can be used to explain temptation and conflict. This is a fascinating book with great social relevance to society and its problems with sexuality.


1. What is enigmatic about sexual desire?
2. Explaining desire: multiple perspectives
3. Sexual desire in a broader context
4. An incentive-based model
5. Sex and levels of organization
6. Sexual attraction
7. Shades of desire from simple to complex
8. Details of the brain and desire
9. Arousal
10. The consequences of sexual behaviour and associated expectations
11. Sexual familiarity and novelty
12. Inhibition, conflict and temptation
13. How did sexual desire get here?
14. Setting the trajectory: link to adult sexuality
15. Sexual desire in interaction
16. Representations of sex
17. Sexual addiction
18. Variations in desire: general principles
19. Some forms of desire at the fringes
20. The toxic fusion: violence and sexual desire
21. Sexually-associated (serial) murder
22. Concluding remarks

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Frederick Toates is Emeritus Professor of Biological Psychology at The Open University and Vice-President of the Open University Psychology Society.

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