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ABSTRACT

Some scholars attempt to explain sexual desire biologically by claiming that sex hormones play a necessary causal role in sexual desire. This can be claimed even if sexual desire is seen to be an experience. Yet the evidence for such biological essentialism is inadequate. With males the loss of sexual desire following hormonal changes can easily be explained in terms of social stigmas that are attached to the physiological situation. Concerning females, the relevance of sex hormones here is even more unclear. Although some women seem to have fluctuations in sexual desire during hormonal changes, other women do not. Even where there are such fluctuations these can be explained by responses to other physiological changes or the meanings that are attached to the situation. Research with non-human primates supports this view of the non-essential relation of sex hormones to sexual desire. A phenomenology of sex hormones is given that shows a possible non-essential relation between sex hormones and sexual desire. Here hormone induced excitations in the genitals may or may not lead to sexual desire depending on the meaning they are given within awareness. This suggests that sexual desire has its origin in the meanings we give our biology and not in our biology itself.