What About Our Thoughts & Fantasies?
Part of the reason that arousal has been difficult to measure is that there’s often a disconnect between what’s happening in your genitals, your brain, and your consciousness. John Bancroft, PhD, senior researcher and former director of the Kinsey Institute, has studied how arousal develops, and his research pinpoints something important: We need to be aware of our own arousal before we can reallyfeel aroused. “In the male, sexual arousal is typically associated with some degree of penile erection. The man will become aware of this, and focus his attention on the idea of his penis being stimulated,” explains Dr. Bancroft. But, in women, the equivalent — the stiffening of the clitoris — isn’t nearly as noticeable, and “typically the woman is less aware of her genital response unless her genitals are touched.” In other words, it takes more for women to even realize that they’re becoming sexually aroused than for men.
For this reason, the cognitive components of arousal are especially important for women. Just like sensual touching can jumpstart arousal, so too can sensual thought. Reading erotica, watching pornography, fantasizing about an erotic scenario, or even just thinking about sex all trigger a response in the brain — which, in turn, contributes to feelings of arousal. “The biggest sex organ in the body is the brain,” says Dr. Sadie Allison, Ph.D., author of Mystery of the Undercover Clitoris. “Simply talking with a lover in a loving, sexy way can cause a man to become erect, or a woman to become moist.”
But, even the mental triggers for arousal aren’t (typically) the same for men and women. Moreso than men, women tend to be aroused by stimuli that they can “imagine themselves into” — like an erotic story, or an imagined fantasy. One study, which tracked eye movement as people watched pornography, found that both men and women’s eyes were locked on the woman in the film — regardless of their sexual orientation. The theory? Women need to imagine their way “into” the scenario, while men are satisfied by focusing on the visual imagery alone.
Read the full article here.