Voor de beste ervaring schakelt u JavaScript in en gebruikt u een moderne browser!

Honoursmodule: How sexual desire works

Opslaan in favorieten

* course also open for first year students


Mark Spiering

Entry requirements 

For 1st , 2nd or 3rd year honours students only. 

Recommended prior knowledge


Learning Objectives

At the end of the course the student can:

  • Describe sex as an emotion from a biopsychosocial perspective
  • Explain the incentive-based model of sexual desire
  • Explain similarities and differences between sexual behavior and other emotional activities, e.g., feeding, drug-taking and shopping
  • Differentiate between automatic and controlled processing underlying sexual response
  • Identify different models of sexual arousal (e.g. evolutionary, biological, cognitive, social)
  • Design and conduct a small research study
  • Come to well-developed answers to your own research question
  • Report on research findings in an understandable fashion to others


Sexology (the study of human sexual life and intimate relationships) is perhaps best categorized as an interdisciplinary scientific enterprise, and we will examine what this means as our point of departure for this course. In this context, one topic is elaborated upon in depth: sexual desire. Desire can be viewed as a basic variable, underlying “normal” sexual behavior. Being a psychologist myself, the main focus will be a psychological one. However, students who want to work from a biological or social perspective are very welcome to join.

The course has two parts. In the first part, we will thoroughly read and discuss the book by Frederick Toates (see: Literature) together. With together I mean, I will limit myself in giving lectures and instead ask students to present or discuss pages from the book. This part will end with an assignment. In the second part each student is challenged to do his/her own little research project. You are free to choose a literature or empirical (qualitative or quantitative) approach. If you choose an empirical approach, working together in subgroups is encouraged. Toates’ book can serve as a point of origin for different hypotheses, students 2019/2020 did for example: The impact of pornography on relationship satisfaction; Anorgasmia in women; Intentions to perform safe sex practices and their relation to proceeding behaviour; The relationship of sexual violence and sexual desire; The influence of religion on the attitude towards homosexuality; Sex Robots: equals or objects?; Sexual addiction and its effective treatments; Fetishism and BDSM in popular movies around the globe; Feminist porn, not just for the softies.

Class contents

  • Seminars
  • Selfstudy
  • Work independently on project / thesis


There will be a midway exam about the book with essay questions (50%). At the end, students individually report about their research in a paper of ±2500 words (50%).

Min/max participants



Check Datanose for the exact information.

Study material

Toates, F. (2014). How sexual desire works: The enigmatic urge. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Costs: €40


Registration is possible for students participating in an Honours programme via an online registration form which will be made available on December 1, 10 am till December 5, 11 pm on this website. 

Placement will be at random and within two weeks students will hear whether they are placed for a course. 

There is NO guarantee for placement if you register after December 5, so make sure you register on time! 

For questions about registration please email to: Honours-iis@uva.nl 


Facts & Figures
Mode Honours programme
Credits 6 ECTS,
Language of instruction English
Starts in February