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Men vs Women: Why and How Do We Experience Sexual Arousal

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"Life can be divided into two; the things that make you feel (emotions) and the things that make you think (logic)." Those were the words of the psychology author 'Mark Rozen Pettinelli.' Man is constantly thinking or feeling; emotions are core to the existence of humans. The number of emotion we experience daily are countless, and the brain uniquely helps to interpret these emotions and inform us of our needs and desire to satisfy these emotions. Emotions can range from being happy to sadness, surprise, fear, anger,  disgust, and sexual arousal. They are often triggered by stimuli around us, and there is always a constant need to address them. The way an agitated person wants to experience calmness can be likened to a sexually aroused person's need to experience sexual satisfaction.

Some people refer to it as being turned on or sexually excited. It is different from sexual desire, which is just an emotional want for sex.

What Causes Sexual Arousal

Sexual arousal is triggered by sexual stimuli. The stimuli could be external or internal.

External stimuli: These are stimuli people often refer to as erotic because they easily elicit physical and mental sexual responses. It could be touch, visual, scent, or auditory.

  • Touch: It could be of a human or a non-human object. It involves touching sensitive parts or erogenous zonesof the body like nipples, buttocks, clitoris, or penis. It could also be elicited by simple sexual gestures, like kissing and cuddling.
  • Visual: Many people feed with their eyes first and ittakes their mind into a sexual zone. Visuals like viewing nudity or pornography can help trigger sexual arousal.
  • Scent: Because sexual stimuli interact with human emotions, a simple way is to create a relaxed, romantic, or erotic environmentthrough scent, which can tentatively cause arousal through its soothing effect. It could be a particular scent associated with a person that generates erotic thoughts or nicely scented candles in a dimly lit room.
  • Auditory: It is what we hear, like listening to erotic materials or sounds (like moans).  It is seen as secondary when compared to the other three stimuli.

Internal stimuli: These are the triggers that emanate from within the body. These stimuli are also largely influenced by external stimuli. Internal stimuli are majorly controlled by hormones, but their direct link is unclear. The hormones associated with arousal are testosterone, cortisol, and estradiol. Testosterone has shown to have a strong effect on the central sexual arousal mechanism and plays a vital role in men's arousal. For women, the connection between sexual arousal and hormones is complex, but polyamorous women are believed to have a higher level of testosterone which helps with their arousal.

 Sexual arousal usually results in many physical signs, which are different in men and women. It is also believed that psychologically, men experience arousal differently from women.

Sexual Arousal in Men

It is believed that one stimulus is enough to trigger a man's sexual arousal. A moan, gasp, or a view of an erotic image can quickly get a man aroused compared to a woman. It is why many adult men less than 60 years think about sex at least once a day.

The quickest noticeable sign of a man's arousal is the penis erection. Other physical responses are erect nipples, penis veins prominence, tightened or retracted foreskin, the release of pre-ejaculatory fluid, swollen and ascending testes, thickening of the scrotum, and pupil dilation. Other recorded physiological responses among men are increased heart rate and blood pressure.

Sexual Arousal in Women

Many people think that it is harder for women to get sexually aroused; it is a hasty generalization because that will apply for some women, others can get aroused by visuals (like seeing the ideal erotic figure). Though visual works quickly on men, it takes a more complex route with women because they are more emotional, subjective and they need to analyze the entire situation. It has been established that life is either logic or emotion; In trying to think about an action, there is a tendency to lose the feeling. Due to society and other emotions like fear and anxiety, women tend to be more logical with sexual decisions which can slow down arousal. To address this issue, Esther Perel, a Psychotherapist established that, 'women need the plot (like romantic novels) to anticipate and desire the sexual act.'

Societal factors aside, women can easily be aroused by an erotic environment, like the sensual scent, soothing voice, and sensual music. Touch also goes a long way to trigger arousal.

The commencement of a female's arousal is signified by vaginal lubrication (wetness). Other physical responses are nipple erection, clitoris and labia erection, internal lengthening and dilation of the inner two-thirds of the vagina, widening of the areola, and pupil dilation. Women also experience changes in their organs during arousal like changes in the vaginal shape and position of the uterus within the pelvis. Other noticeable physiological responses include increased heart rate and blood pressure, feeling of being hot and flushed, and sometimes tremors.

Conclusion

Arousal in men and women has the same resultant goal (which is sex), but the process involves in getting aroused sexually is different for both genders. Everyone is different, so also are the stimuli for arousal unique for each person; but one common factor is that while men's arousal process seems straightforward, women's own are mostly considered complex. While a single stimulus can get a man aroused, a woman will require simultaneous or combinations of stimuli to cross over a sexual threshold to achieve arousal.

The place of societal expectations cannot be vital in addressing sexual arousal. These expectations can negatively affect arousal for both genders. The expectations result in numerous thinking processes and apprehension thereby, inhibiting sexual emotions. These expectations are worse for women than men, making it harder for them to get sexually aroused.

The easy route to achieving sexual arousal for anyone is to remove the thought process and flow with the emotion.

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