Sexual Arousal: It’s all in your head
Heart beats faster, breathing accelerates, blood pressure rises, breasts swell, muscles tense, blood rushes to genitals causing vaginal lubrication or hardening of the penis…these are some of the changes that take place in our body when we are in that heightened state called sexual arousal.
Sexual arousal is caused by sexual stimulation, a mix of mental and physical stimuli such as touch, feelings, fantasies, smells, sounds, visual and verbal cues, etc. And with the right type and intensity of such stimulation, we reach that peak state of sexual excitement called orgasm.
Now in order for sexual stimulation to transmit into sexual arousal, our mind and body must work together. While hugging, kissing, caressing and all that tactile-type of stimulation play a big role in turning us on, what is going on in our mind can either fuel, dampen or extinguish arousal that stems purely from touch. Our thoughts and feelings about the hugging and kissing determine whether or not the direct stimulation turns us on. That’s why French kissing that hot neighbor versus your creepy landlord will definitely not have the same effect on you. Or, why worrying about penis size while your partner is giving you the best blow job ever will make you go soft.
Because thoughts and feelings during sex have a bigger impact on how our bodies respond to sexual stimulation than touch, all of us are subject from time to time to experiencing sexual difficulties. Problems such as losing one’s erection, not lubricating or reaching orgasm often occur because sexual excitement is being short-circuited by “unsexy” thoughts or feelings. Many of my clients are getting the physical part right, but they’re too busy worrying, judging, planning etc. for their bodies respond to the sensations.
So here are a few tips on getting your mind and body working together during sex.
- Be in the moment. Focus on the “here and now” by directing your attention to what’s going on in your body. When you become aware that you’re distracted by thinking (which will naturally happen), gently guide your attention back to your body, your breathing and your partner.
- Let go of control. Trying to control during sex, whether it’s by worrying about your image, scrutinizing your performance or monitoring your partner’s responsiveness, is problematic because it keeps you from fully enjoying what is happening in that moment. Stop trying to manage or organize the experience of sex. Improvise instead by giving into your bodily sensations and letting them lead the way.
- Get the right “me-you” balance. Being overly focused on pleasing your partner will prevent you from soaking in bodily sensations and getting aroused. Sex should ultimately be a give-and-take experience, with moments where we lose ourselves in the other’s pleasure and moments where we indulge in guilt-free self-centeredness.
- Be proactive. Dare to communicate your wants and needs during sex. There’s nothing more distracting than enduring sexual stimulation that is not pleasurable (let alone painful!). So don’t wait passively until your partner figures out how you like things. Tell them.
- Go for pleasure and connection. Replace performance-oriented sex with pleasure and connection seeking sex. Good sex has nothing to do with doing it right. When we preoccupy ourselves with getting hard or reaching orgasm, our mind is focused on the future and not on our sensations or our partners. Pleasure and connection are there for the taking, right here, right now.