Sexual motivation and hormones  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Sexual motivation can be defined as the impulse to satisfy sex drive, or libido. In the human species, sexual motivation is a complex phenomenon that is derived from a variety of influences. The pleasure principle is one theory of sexual motivation which postulates that perceived pleasure obtained from sexual activities is the driving force behind motivation to engage in future sexual behaviours. Conversely, other theories hypothesize that sexual motivation occurs based on an interaction between external incentives and internal states. Whether external incentives trigger motivated behaviour is dependent on the internal state of an individual. The higher the internal deprivation state, the more likely an external stimulus will trigger sexual motivation in the individual. A number of factors complicate the direct relationship between internal states and external incentives. In particular, internal states of sexual motivation are governed by numerous factors, including ones’ cognitions, culture, learned behaviours, and levels of circulating hormones.

Hormones are a particularly interesting factor contributing to sexual motivation. Hormones such as testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, oxytocin, and vasopressin all play a role in influencing motivation to engage in sexual behaviours. Likewise, pheromones have also been shown to contribute to sexual motivation. In most mammalian species, sex hormones control the ability to engage in sexual behaviours. However, sex hormones do not directly regulate the ability to copulate in primates (including humans). Rather, sex hormones in primates are only one influence on the motivation to engage in sexual behaviours.

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