Giles' theory of sexual desire
Giles' theory of sexual desire is an existential theory of sexuality due to James Giles.
According to Giles, sexual desire has been mainly accounted for in two principle ways, namely, in terms of social constructionism or biological theories. Giles, however, rejects both these views as inadequate. Instead, he frames sexual desire existentially within the hierarchy of needs. This need is based on the experience of one’s own gender as a form of disequilibrium. This creates “a sense of incompleteness that calls out to be fulfilled by the gender of another person”.
The need for fulfilling is expressed through the desire for mutual baring and caressing with one or more persons of the desired gender. That is, to have sexual desire is to desire to have the other person bare or naked before oneself in order that one may caress that person, while at the same time desiring oneself to be bare to the other person’s caress. In heterosexual desire, it is the opposite gender that is felt to complete one’s own gender, while in homosexual desire, it is the same gender that is experienced as offering completion to one’s own gender. Bisexuality is simply the alternation between these two sorts of desires. With the atypical sexual variations (e. g. fetishism or zoophilia) the person of the desired gender assumes a fantasized or symbolic form.
The baring and caressing of sexual desire, says Giles, can take numerous forms. In erotic kissing, for example, it takes the form of a mutual baring and caressing of lips, while in sexual intercourse it is “a baring of the penis to the caress of the vagina, and a baring of the vagina to the caress of the penis”. At a deeper level, however, the desires for mutual baring and caressing are expressions of the desire for mutual vulnerability and care. This is because being naked before another person is a powerful way of being vulnerable before that person, while desiring to be caressed is a way of desiring to be cared for or shown care.
It is these elements of vulnerability and care that enable sexual desire to be a fundamental feature of romantic love. This is because, argues Giles, romantic love is a complex of reciprocal desires for mutual vulnerability and care. This is the Vulnerability and Care Theory of Love. With love these desires refer to psychological and emotional vulnerability. These desires are typically so intense that they naturally spill over to include the desires for physical vulnerability and care, namely, the desires for mutual baring and caressing. The difference between romantic love and sexual desire, however, is that while romantic love implies sexual desire, sexual desire does not necessarily imply romantic love. This is because someone who is in love with another person normally wants the other person to show similar desires back to himself or herself. This feature of reciprocity is not essential to sexual desire.
- James Giles,Social Constructionism and Sexual Desire , Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 36, 2006, pp. 226-238.
- James Giles, Sex Hormones and Sexual Desire, Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 38 (March 2008) pp. 45-66.
- James Giles, The Nature of Sexual Desire, Praeger, 2004, / University Press of America, 2008 p. 181
- Giles, 2004/2008, Chap. 4
- Giles, 2004/2008, p. 82
- James Giles, A Theory of Love and Sexual Desire, Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 24, 1994, 339-357.
- Review of Nature of Sexual Desire Metapsychology Online Reviews
- Review of Nature of Sexual Desire by Itziar Alonso-Albio, Relationship Research News
- Review of Nature of Sexual Desire by Elaine Hatfield, Journal of Marital & Family Therapy
- Review of Nature of Sexual Desire Tifani S. Kislet in Journal of Marriage and Family
- Discussion of Giles' theory Robert Scott Stewart, Cape Breton University