You might be surprised to know that arousal comes BEFORE desire.
Most people think that you need to have desire first to become aroused.
According to Emily Nagoski, Ph. D. in her book Come As You Are, “desire = arousal in context” and that “desire comes along when arousal meets a great context.”
Let me explain…
What is sexual arousal?
Sexual arousal usually begins in the brain. It is a response to a thought or an image, from having a feeling of affection towards another person, or from feeling the touch of another. Then it sends signals to the rest of your body… especially the genitals.
For men, it can manifest as an erection. For women, it can manifest as swelling of the nipples, vulva and clitoris, and vaginal lubrication “getting wet”.
Although, a genital response is not always an indication of arousal.
What is sexual desire?
Sexual desire is more of an urge or an interest to engage in sexual activities. Once you feel something, you’ll want to do something about it.
What is sexual context?
Context is the circumstances that form the setting or the event. It can provoke sexual arousal or not. For instance, a man seeing a woman having sex (sexual context) would be different than him seeing a woman giving birth (non-sexual context).
In both cases, he can see a woman’s genitalia (normally sexually relevant), but the feeling he would get from each scenario would likely be different. That’s because of the context. Same body parts. A different set of circumstances.
Whether something is sexually arousing or not, is not just context dependent, but also very individual. Ask 10 different women what they find arousing and you may well get 10 different answers.
The important thing is that it only matters what turns YOU on.
Let’s say you are daydreaming about your lover. You start thinking about him doing this and that to you, and before you know it, you’re aroused. Awesome!
Desire follows because now you want to do something about it! You likely weren’t in the mood to have sex with him before, but that’s because you hadn’t thought about it first!
Why do we care if arousal comes first?
We care because if we believe that desire should be spontaneous, then when we don’t have it, we feel helpless to do anything about it.
When we know we can create arousal, we can do something about it and positively impact our sex lives.
Now, that is a wonderful thing!
Did you know?
That testosterone is sometimes called the “hormone of desire”? That’s because it directly affects your ability to get aroused.
Testosterone is vitally important in women. It’s not just for men!
If your levels are too low, you will have a low libido and you won’t be able to “will” yourself into wanting sex either.
If you feel that you suffer from low libido, have your testosterone levels checked, and get hormone replacement therapy, if necessary.
TIP: If you do decide to do hormone replacement, make sure you see someone who specializes in testosterone therapy. Most family doctors are not trained in sex hormones and you need to see someone who is.
The good news is that, notwithstanding a hormonal deficiency (which can easily be corrected), you can ultimately influence your level of desire through your ability to get aroused.
The more aroused you are, the more desire you will feel.
The longstanding myth is that genital response always means sexual arousal. So, if a woman is “wet”, it is assumed that she is aroused, and if she’s not, then she’s not aroused.
While that may or may not be the case, it may also be due to something called arousal non-concordance. This basically means that the genital response doesn’t necessarily match the experience.
You may feel horny, but you aren’t wet. Conversely, you can also become wet, without necessarily feeling horny.
It’s simply that you saw something that was sexually relevant and your body had a physiological response to it.
In men, they can wake up with erections, but they aren’t necessarily horny. In this case, his erection has nothing to do with arousal, and everything to do with nocturnal penile tumescence. Basically, an erection that is spontaneous, and non-concordant.
Therefore, the genital response is not always a component of arousal.
Of course, a man will require an erection to be able to have intercourse with a woman, but if a woman fails to produce vaginal lubrication, she can always use some lubricant.
There’s no shame in that, so use it, if you need it!
How can we improve arousal?
One thing that comes to mind is FANTASIES.
We all have them, but do we indulge in thinking about them often enough?
Fantasies are reveries in the mind and are therefore perfect fodder for cultivating arousal.
It is argued that men are the more visual creatures, but I believe that many women are equally so.
One thing for sure, women respond well to reading erotica.
That is why the book Fifty Shades of Grey is such a hit with women. The underlying feeling is Christian Grey’s desire for Anastasia Steele. He can’t control himself. He must have her.
It resonates with women because, above all, we wish to feel desired.
Do what makes you feel desirable, and then cultivate your own desire!
Photo Credit: istock.com/javi_indy