Lust: “Lust Is Not a Wholly Undesirable Feeling or Experience” Why the Principle of 'Lust' Has Been Misunderstood for Too Long

Words: Amelia Flanagan
Illustrations: Moan Zine
Sunday 07 November 2021
reading time: min, words

Historically, the word lust has been plagued with negative connotations, weaponised as it has been to condemn an emotion that, within a safe and consensual setting, is ultimately healthy. But it’s time, writes Amelia Flanagan, for the word to be recontextualised...


Lust. Does it conjure up images of red lipstick, velvet and martinis in smoky jazz bars? Does it make you think of a specific person, or group of people? Regardless, lust still stands as a relatively undesired state, particularly when compared to the ‘ultimate goal’ of love.

For some, lust is the third of the seven deadly sins. A title that, I personally think, is rather dramatic. If we take a very brief look at the Bible for its approach to lust, it is clear to see why it has been given such a reputation:

“But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:28 

This verse makes me smile as it completely ignores women as being capable of feeling lust, she can only invoke the feeling in men. Women’s desires, and indeed lust, have been treated with the utmost secrecy for centuries. Society liked to believe that if it was not spoken about, it simply did not exist. Thankfully, the story is being rewritten in some cultures today, with all kinds of desires being spoken about and accepted. Women are reclaiming lust as their own, to seek it, become it or deny it. Whatever your relationship with it looks like, just make sure that it is one you have chosen.

Ultimately the question is: Is it wrong to wish to be lusted after?

Therefore, we must turn to more contemporary definitions of lust. In the sexual context, it can be defined as sex without the intentional purpose of reproduction, without emotional attachment, or with those who are off limits. By that I mean extra-marital affairs or colleagues, and not your blood relative or someone who can’t consent. The latter is not lust, it is illegal. Aside from sex, lust can take the form of any number of things: power, money, image, fame.

“Of the seven deadly sins, lust is definitely the pick of the litter.” - Tom Robbins, novelist.

I think what Robbins is referring to is that lust pales in comparison to its counterparts. The likes of wrath, greed and envy are all universally pretty unpleasant feelings with equally unpleasant outcomes. On the other hand, lust is not a wholly undesirable feeling or experience, and doesn’t necessarily have to have negative conclusions. I am sure that most, given the option, would pick lust over the other ‘sins’ - although gluttony certainly has an appeal to it!

Ultimately the question is: Is it wrong to wish to be lusted after? To be desired? Should we shame ourselves and berate each other for seeking it? I would argue it is very natural to want to attract the attention of a potential partner. Look to the animal world and you find the most fascinating colours, sounds and dances with the sole purpose of attracting a mate. Are the peacocks and baboons and penguins guilty of sin?

Kurt Vonnegut said it best:

“Tis better to have love and lust, than to let our apparatus rust.”

The final form of lust that I think is important to explore is lust for yourself. Without sounding too cliché and entering the topic of ‘self-love’, I believe that lust for your own life is absolutely something to be celebrated. Imagine if we all had the insatiable desire to give ourselves the best, to nourish, nurture and show up for ourselves in the way that we do for other people. 

Lust is not a wholly undesirable feeling or experience, and doesn’t necessarily have to have negative conclusions

Lust for outside sources can also be a positive experience if we are chasing our desires in a safe, consensual way. As long as we are aware of the potential downfalls that acting on impulsive emotions can bring, why not live a life filled with desire and passion? Sounds more fun to me.

“Why drown in love when you can have so much fun swimming in lust?” - J.M.Darhower.

I wanted to end with this quote by Darhower because it is such a simple question around an often complex topic. Love is so great, you don’t need me to tell you that. The idea that love is the purpose of life and makes the sun shine out of your arse has been pushed onto us all since we could talk. But searching for that can be exhausting. It forces us to live in the future, with the constant loop of ‘what if?’ Lust, on the other hand, is in the moment. It is reckless and unquestioning, which I think leads us into so many adventures. Gives us stories to tell. It challenges the careful planning and consideration that must go into love. If we stick with Darhower’s water analogy I guess love is your life jacket, it keeps you afloat and makes you feel safe. Whereas lust is the scuba equipment that lets you deep dive and explore. Sure it comes with hazards and can give you ‘the bends’ but, for me at least, it is worth it.

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