Sexual desire isn’t desire in the strict sense
in which desire it’s longing for something you
don’t have, for example a car or a girlfriend.
Sexual desire involves bodily pleasure and certain mental
states or processes. It is closer to emotions, such as
love and caring, than it is to desire in its usual sense.
Much of sexual arousal is triggered by a sense of revenge.
A man is dating two women, and one of the women is
aroused by the fact that she is having sex in a bed
in which her sex partner has had sex with her rival.
What may look like pure physical arousal, or raw animal
instinct, is in far the most cases much more complicated.
Two people having sex anonymously with hoods over their
heads may look like a case of pure physical pleasure.
But thoughts of the anonymity contributes
to (or subtract from) the sexual desire,
in which case the sexual desire
is not purely physical.
Sexual desire in this (partially mental) sense
can be morally wrong, even if everyone involved
consented to the act in the fullest sense.
It can be wrong if, for example,
the thoughts directed toward the
other person are morally reprehensible.
In a scenario from the film Dangerous Liaisons
a charming and good-looking man, who can get almost
anyone he wants, starts to get bored because
everything is so easy for him, so he plans to seduce
a woman who despises him because of her virtues.
His sexual desire, in this case, is fueled by the thoughts
of her willfully abandoning her moral principles.
This kind of sexual desire may be thought
to be morally reprehensible, not because
it involves deceit, but because the thought-
components of the desire can be morally criticised.
Many of the cues for arousal have nothing to do
with sexually-related body parts (the chief catalyst
for male arousal) but with something situational.
Such cues are psychological rather than physical or visual.
The rousing cue of sexual transgression
[outrageous acts] that are inordinately
exciting because they’re so fraught with danger.
More attention is paid to men’s secret or forbidden desires
but these powerful activators of erotic impulse seem
to be equally shared by women.
This suggests there’s something about abandoning
ourselves to our id and behaving in ways which
are considered risky but turn us on