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January 18, 2022
Pleasure & Desire

What if my desire hurts somebody else?

This week I delivered my first TEDx talk in Napa Valley. On the break, I had exciting conversations with people about how they would parent their kids differently and how my talk gave them a new perspective on sexuality and its importance. One woman wanted to engage me about the idea of desire, because I said at the end of my talk that I want to live in a world where we are guided by our own internal desire.

Are you afraid of your desire?

She got really stuck on the idea of unfettered desire. She asked me, “Well, what about people like pedophiles who have desires for children that are really damaging?”

I said, “That’s a dysfunctional desire. I’m talking about people connecting to their authentic, healthy desires—allowing themselves to follow those desires and not judge them.”

“But if we encourage people to follow their desires, what about pedophiles?” she continued to push. “You didn’t talk enough about that. I needed to hear more about that. It wasn’t enough.” I took a deep breath and said, “Well, I had 14 minutes and my talk wasn’t about desire. It was about a bigger idea and desire is a part of that big idea.”

I find it really interesting that she went to the worst-case scenario about desire. Her question wasn’t “What if I desire someone who isn’t my husband?” or “What if the thing that I want makes someone else uncomfortable?” but literally the worst thing imaginable for most people: catastrophic desire.

I’ve found that just bringing up the idea of desire at all puts fear in many people. To really give people permission to identify their desire and to follow it brings up so many “What ifs” that it can seem easier to abandon the idea altogether. And stay where things are–whether that is not feeling desire, not acknowledging it, not going for it, denying it, judging it as not okay, or being frustrated by it. There is a built-in fear that people just won’t be able to handle desire.

In my experience, people are in a lot of pain about desire—especially women. Many people believe they’ll never have their true desires deep down, so they avoid going for their desires at all so they can avert the inevitable disappointment of an unrequited desire and just stay in “not enough”. That’s not the way to really live.

Desire is absolutely necessary. Desire is what gets you out of bed every day. If you had no desire in life, why would you bother at all? You need desire. We all do. My TEDx talk is about the idea that gets me out of bed each day and why it’s so important.

Your desire is within reach

I teach a lot about desire because a lot of women are frustrated, confused and unhappy about their desire. I teach an entire weekend where we address not only sexual desire, but desire for money and abundance—which we all need. At my Sex-Money-Power Women’s Weekend we spend a whole day talking about desire and how to effectively use the energy of desire to spur us on in life and end the pattern of withholding. Many people have a lot to unlearn around this topic because we’re taught that it’s bad, sinful, unladylike, or potentially hurtful, yet learning how to harness your own desire is really important in order to create the life you want!

Ideas like desire and sexual power scare people because we haven’t done a great job of addressing them for the big, complex and important things they are to us. They are not simple and I cannot clarify them in a 14-minute talk. But I know I made this woman think and many other people who were there—so we can continue the conversation about these essential elements of our lives. That’s the point of TED and I’m so glad she talked with me about it so she could continue to chew on the ideas that came up for her.

For yourself, start by noticing whether you do the same thing as that woman did, even in small ways. Does talking about desire make you uncomfortable? Do you sometimes repress the desires that well up in you? Do you go to the catastrophic, worst-case scenario? Or can you see the silver lining and the opening to a new idea?

I think many people have knee-jerk reactions because desire isn’t safe. But neither is life. And it’s not meant to be. If you spend your life trying to stay safe you’ll never take risks—and to live true desire means taking some risks. It’s a built-in function of desire. To strive for more than you have ever had or have ever been, you’ve got to release who you were before. Are you willing?

I believe with all my heart that a world where people are guided by their own internal desires to be more, have more and do something bigger and more expansive—sexually or otherwise—is a better world. In that spirit, I hope you’ll take a risk this week.

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A’magine, formerly Amy Jo Goddard is author of Woman on Fire: Nine Elements to Wake up Your Erotic Energy, Personal Power and Sexual Intelligence and co-author of the best-selling classic Lesbian Sex Secrets for Men. She earned her Master’s degree in Human Sexuality Education at New York University and has been teaching and speaking about feminism and sexuality for over two decades.

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