Arousal is psychological and arises in the mind

Arousal is psychological and arises in the mind

Sexual arousal arises in the brain and is a form of nervous excitement. In other words, the nervous system is disturbed (more agitated than its normal resting state). Both our breathing and heart rate are elevated due to the brain activity. Sexual arousal occurs initially subconsciously. But at some point, we become conscious of our arousal. Adrenalin causes blood to flow to the sex organ and makes orgasm possible. For men, this mental arousal causes blood to flow to the penis, which is trapped thus causing an erection. A man becomes conscious of his arousal because of the acute physical sensations of having an erect penis. But the penis becomes many times more sensitive than the clitoral organ ever does. A woman does not have clitoral erections.

The clitoris is an internal organ and does not have the same mechanism (the penis has) for trapping blood. The clitoral organ is only ever tumescent. Only once mental arousal has been achieved, does the sex organ becomes sensitive to stimulation in a unique way (that leads to orgasm). The stimulation that leads to orgasm is instinctively supplied (or obtained) and involves massaging the corpora cavernosa within the tumescent sex organ.

A woman has to be anti-social to obtain the focus on eroticism she needs for orgasm. A responsive woman rests her fingers over her vulva to gauge whether her genitals are responding to possible fantasy scenarios. Even responsive women do not experience arousal (during masturbation alone) as a pressing state of excitement as men do (that inevitably leads to orgasm).

Once conscious of our arousal, we typically (especially during masturbation alone) use a conscious mechanism to achieve orgasm. This conscious mechanism involves focusing our mind on explicit aspects of eroticism that we anticipate (from experience) will cause us to become aroused enough to achieve orgasm. A woman keeps her eyes closed when alone so that she can fully concentrate her mind on the fantasy that appeals at the time. Women are aroused by abstract erotic concepts rather than images of genitals and penetration. Women have to make conscious effort to become aroused by using fantasies that have nothing to do with their real-life sexual experiences.

The idea that a man has an orgasm with his head full of non-sexual thoughts (such as work priorities or a sporting event) is unthinkable. His mind is fully occupied by the erotic sights, sounds and sensations of sexual activity with a lover. A man is easily aroused by many different stimuli. Anticipating sexual activity with a lover is sufficient to cause male arousal. During masturbation his mind is focused on a fantasy or visual stimulus such as pornography. A man is motivated to masturbate because of the sexual thoughts he enjoys.

Men think about sex much more frequently and explicitly than women do for biological and hormonal reasons. There are many erotic triggers that cause male arousal in the course of a day: from women in the street to advertising for women’s underwear. Men are also aroused by kissing and caressing a lover. There are no similar triggers for female arousal. Women are embarrassed or offended rather than aroused by sexual references.

Women engage in sex hoping that one day something will magically happen. But arousal doesn’t work this way. Ideally, arousal is the initial trigger for engaging in sexual activity. But even a responsive woman is rarely conscious of her own erotic arousal. When a partner is present, emotional and social factors dominate so a woman is never consciously aware of being aroused. A heterosexual woman engages in sexual activity because of male initiative. Lesbians have sex because they think they are supposed to or because they enjoy the sense of emotional bonding that comes from sensual pleasuring.

Much prejudice is based on the belief that people can consciously control their sexual responses. It is understandable that women might think this way because women rarely experience responsiveness. Men should know better. No one chooses the erotic stimuli that cause their sexual arousal. Yet some heterosexual men think it should be possible for gay men to be aroused by vaginal intercourse. This equates to telling someone to stop feeling tired, hungry or thirsty. We cannot change our body’s subconscious responses.

Men ideally want to ejaculate into a lover’s body so their orgasm is typically observed. A man expects his lover to assist with and share his orgasm. Simultaneous orgasm is often claimed to be the ultimate satisfaction. But it is not possible for two people to orgasm as the exact same moment. Orgasm occurs in the mind of the individual at a moment that cannot be predetermined because it is fixed by their individual arousal cycle. Orgasm is private and personal to us. It is a selfish pleasure. A woman may be pleased that a man has been able to use her body to obtain his sexual release but she is not aroused by his ejaculation in the way that a homosexual lover might be. Sexual phenomena are much more vital to men than they are to a woman. Responsive women only ever orgasm when alone. This is because they need a high degree of mental focus on eroticism to achieve orgasm.

Aspects of control and domination, as well as the way a man might negotiate his own pleasure, are all core to arousal. Pain is often used as a conceptual turn-on in erotic literature. We use BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Dominance, Submission, Sadism and Masochism) for arousal because it involves revelling in the control of others (of doing something to someone else). Typically in heterosexual situations, the man inflicts pain on a woman. Some men enjoy the idea of the role reversal. But in real life, pain is not arousing for the receiver. Spanking is used as a token form of punishment.

Similar situations are recognized in anger, in fear, and in epilepsy – all of which are physiologically related to sexual response. (Alfred Kinsey)

Excerpt from Learn About Sexuality (ISBN 978-0956-894748)