Desire is to own the wanting. To desire something is to say, “I want.” For that, there needs to be an “I” that has the right to want, is entitled to want, is deserving to want, has the self-worth to give permission for “I want.” Plus, the knowledge of what you want. Desire is really a fundamental expression of freedom and sovereignty—as in identity.

There are three primary ways to engage in a sexual experience:

Some people start with the arousal and then the desire follows. So, they engage in sex because they are aroused—they are turned on, excited, physiologically tickled.

Some people start with the desire and then the arousal follows. So they have the thought, the idea, wish. They don’t yet have the feeling, but they like the thought of it and will do what it takes to get themselves turned on and will then engage.

Others start with willingness and openness, but they have neither desire nor arousal. This willingness is rarely portrayed in Hollywood. It’s the woman who is really tired and has had a full day, but she stays open to the idea of sex, her energy grows, and then she’s into it, after having no interest five minutes ago. This model comes out of the research of the psychiatrist Rosemary Basson, M.D., and also gained traction in Emily Nagoski’s book, Come As You Are. If more people could embrace this model—with desire and arousal following sex, not preceding—it would solve a lot of the struggle that many women have with desire.

Here’s what most women tell me when I ask how they turn themselves on: I turn myself on when I take time for myself, when I go dancing, when I get into nature, when I sing, when I make myself beautiful. These are all different ways of saying, I turn myself on when I value myself, when I feel good about myself, and when I’m not in my self-critical mode. What turns women on tends to be the quality of life and vitality that is inside them.

Desire has an element of selfishness to it. In order to cum, you must stop thinking about someone else—you have to be inside yourself. It’s also a surrender. If you feel too responsible for all those domestic tasks, you’re not in a surrender mode. For some women, all they need to do is take off the apron, change the t-shirt, clean up the baby spit, and they’re right in that place of surrendering. But for some women, you need three days away from home to reconnect to that part of you—the playful, non-responsible, mischievous, seductive, flirtatious, sensual, sexual self.

The fact is desire flows, it’s constant. There are things we do to stoke it. Sometimes it involves just saying this is a ritual, and I have a time and place during the week where I set aside my obligations and responsibilities, and I treat myself and get into my sexual self—and gradually into sex. Maybe you get into it by having a nice meal, maybe a glass of wine, maybe you go for a walk, or dancing.