We’re usually told it takes two to tango. But in real life, human arousal doesn’t get much further than self-centered, self-sabotaging, and masturbatory.
Yeah, kind of a downer to start on, but I have a point:
We think of being aroused as a random phenomenon that happens when we see someone who’s good looking, but this idea of arousal doesn’t capture the reality. In fact, viewing arousal as something this simple confines your sexuality to blind luck.
But more importantly, it strips you of your responsibility. A responsibility to yourself, and to whoever you’re in a relationship with. Because arousal, like any experience, has huge elements that you are responsible for.
And if you aren’t consciously making that experience better, odds are you’re unconsciously making it worse.
AROUSAL IN MEN
This will come as no surprise, but when it comes to men, arousal is pretty straightforward. Where male arousal is unique, however, is the role men play in screwing it up for themselves.
Men are almost entirely turned on visually. We see a pair of boobs or a nice ass and it’s as if we’ve been given the most compelling argument in the world that this woman is of prime importance to us. It’s like we start seeing in Predator vision and she’s the only thing that shows up.
Mac, check out this girl…
In this sense, male arousal is a very solitary experience. It’s almost entirely based on things that the man is seeing. This is extended further by the fact that men have been shown to be further turned on by women enjoying sex, especially if they’re confident it’s a result of their own prowess.
It’s a solitary, narcissistic, masturbatory experience. Which explains the popularity of pornography. Especially amateur porn, where we can all pretend it’s us behind the wheel.
Male arousal is simple but focused. It knows what it wants and knows when it’s found it. It is born out of the simple mechanism of looking. Nothing else needs to apply. So long as we can see what we want, we’re good to go.
Research shows that unlike women (as I’ll find go into later), emotion plays an almost non-existent role. As long as the visual cue is there, our arousal apparatus can make a compelling bid for control regardless of what we’re feeling.
Hence the old joke that men don’t need a reason to have sex, they just need a place.
But, whilst emotion doesn’t really play a role in our arousal, the relationship with that arousal, and our perception of ourselves certainly does.
PROBLEMS OF PERCEPTION
It’s all well and good for everyone to laugh at how straightforward male arousal is, but how do we account for all the men who have arousal problems? If it’s so simple, why is it so complicated for them?
One of the main reasons is their habits of perception.
Researchers have noted that men who have problems with their arousal usually don’t pay very good attention to how aroused they are. For whatever reason (shame, insecurity, or a generally poor connection to their feelings), they don’t really notice and tap into when they’re genuinely aroused.
The ‘I want to fuck detector’ hasn’t been properly installed.
The reverse of this is that men who are more self-aware tend to spot quite quickly when they’re aroused and turned on. They’re aware of this feeling within themselves and haven’t built, or have undone, habits of masking it behind defense mechanisms such as repression or avoidance.
Another instance of perception in action is the difference between men who do and do not have persistent arousal issues. Studies have shown that men with persistent arousal or performance issues attribute those issues to deeper problems within themselves. They’re worthless, they’re not good enough, they just can’t do what other men can do – and so on.
On the flip side, men that don’t struggle with persistent arousal or performance issues tend to attribute any instances of those said issues to benign external factors. Instead of getting hung up on being worthless, they just (rightly or wrongly) think ‘it was probably something I ate’ when they finish in a few seconds, or they think ‘I haven’t had enough sleep’ when they can’t get it up.
Where the former blames, the latter shrugs it’s shoulders and tries again.
It’s no surprise that falsely telling yourself there is something wrong with you will perpetuate arousal issues.
Arousal in men can be summed up as an act of perception. We’re aroused by what we see outside of ourselves, and our arousal can be destroyed by what we falsely see inside of ourselves.
Whilst male arousal is simple and straightforward, it’s also important to remember that it entails a healthy habit of perception that needs to be practiced.
AROUSAL IN WOMEN
Female arousal isn’t the unknowable Rubix cube popular culture would have you think it is. Instead, it’s as if someone took the simplicity of male sexuality, and just made it larger and more complex.
Emily Nagoski, in her book Come As You Are, divides female sexuality into two separate types. She calls these spontaneous sexual desire and responsive sexual desire. For ease of explanation, we’re going to rename these:
- She wants to have sex right now
- She could have sex right now but there are boxes to tick first
In the first type, something has kicked off her desire all of its own. Maybe she’s feeling sexy today. Maybe it’s hormones. Maybe you’re just incredibly good looking. Whatever it is, she wants to jump your bones and probably won’t be very subtle about it.
This type is so straightforward it needs no explanation. Take your pants off and have a good time.
In the second type, sex is like a secret level found in video games. It’s always there, can be accessed, and anyone can do it. But in order for someone to do it, they have to do specific things that are seemingly hard to do, uncover, or understand.
It is this second type -the secret level- where everyone fucks up.
Women are far more mentally aroused than physically. In their efforts to understand what the extent of this mental arousal was, researchers Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam trawled through studies and data on the internet and came to some unsurprising, but also enlightening observations.
If you take a look at the women consume en masse, you get telling insights into their preferences of thought. Rather than being drawn to simple pornographic images, women gravitate towards romance stories. In particular, romance stories about a woman pursued by a man of status who is capable of bravery, and danger, specifically in the way he pursues her.
Anna Karenina’s Count Vronsky. Far From The Madding Crowd’s Sergeant Troy. Wuthering Height’s Heathcliff.
But that’s just the top shelf stuff. There are thousand other paperbacks littered with covers featuring bare-chested, long-haired men, clutching swooning women about the waist.
Just as guys like stories of competent men (i.e. Schwarzenegger, superheroes), women love stories of being pursued by that man.
And the reason they prefer a story, as opposed to say, something simple like porn?
Porn is visual. A story is emotional.
The stories that women consume leave clues as to what it is that switches their arousal on. And unfortunately, they’re two of the things men focus on (but fuck up) the most.
Status and bravery.
We’ll start with the latter because it’s the simplest. Whilst yes, diving into a burning building to save a bunch of orphans would probably arouse even the most frigid woman – this isn’t the kind of bravery you need to be doing (or pretending to have done) in order to be the kind of guy who turns women on.
The kind of bravery you need is this:
You aren’t afraid of her.
In all the stories I listed above, the character pursues the woman in question aggressively, despite her feigning disinterest or her shooing him away. They aren’t creeps, but they are persistent. They’re deeply in touch with and motivated by, their desire. So they pursue her at the risk of rejection or social humiliation for themselves.
They are willing the put it on the line for her because they desire her that much.
And this turns women on.
They are aroused by being found arousing.
This is why every guy who hides his desire and treats them as a friend, ends up as exactly that.
The other ubiquitous feature in all the characters is that they possess status. But not in the sense that you or society commonly think.
Any idiot will tell you that having a fast car and lots of money will get you the adoration of thousands of women. But you only need meet some of the guys with these things to realize this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
When it comes to arousal in women, status does not mean something he possesses, or even how other people view him. Status comes down to him having something within his character traits that ranks him highly, in particular, higher than her.
To illustrate, let’s take everyone’s favorite sinking ship story: Titanic.
In Titanic, rich girl Rose slowly becomes smitten with poor guy Jack, despite already being engaged to rich man Calvin.
Calvin is powerful, socially connected, traditionally handsome, ambitious, traditionally masculine, and possesses a general sense of self-mastery.
Jack, on the other hand, is poor, hangs out with the even poorer, is boyish-looking, unconcerned with success, reckless, and is completely unfamiliar with tradition.
He has nothing that Calvin or Rose don’t already possess in greater quantity. Yet despite this, Rose becomes smitten with him.
Jack, despite his flaws, is better than everyone else at being true to himself and living a good life. He outranks everyone on the boat when it comes to this.
So she, and every woman who watches the film falls in love with him. It single-handedly secured Leonardo DiCaprio’s sex life for all eternity.
Having status isn’t about superficial, obvious things. It’s about subtle nuances of character that reflect some kind of unique value that exists within you. Status is about recognizing that value within yourself and acknowledging it’s worth regardless of what anyone else thinks.
This is why these men in romance novels without any ‘status’ actually have so much. Their value is internal, that’s why they’re so unafraid to pursue her.
DANGER AND EMOTIONS
Any amount of status and bravery only works provided it makes her feel something. If they don’t spike her emotions, then she isn’t going to be aroused. Simple as that.
Interestingly, this goes further than you might think.
In primal tribes in the Philippines and Amazon, researchers have found that, during courtship, women are quite happy to put up with all kinds of violent displays -such as the presentation of severed heads- provided that the man in question has an emotional side that she can access.
This, whilst an extreme example, highlights a truth (and pitfall) of female arousal:
Women have a tendency to forgive more unsavory traits if she feels something / has an emotional connection with him.
Speak to any woman and they can provide an example of experiencing this. The cliched bad boy relationship where the passion is just too seductive to ignore his glaring faults.
But this tendency, whilst making her prone to falling for the wrong guy, also works in reverse:
It helps her avoid the really wrong guys.
Remember that joke about how men don’t need a reason to have sex they just need a place?
Well, women don’t just need a reason, they need a pretty foolproof one as they’re actively looking for reasons not to.
Where male sexuality is like a homing missile, female sexuality is like a suspicious observer, looking for clues that might suggest the guy she’s attracted to really isn’t the good guy he appears to be.
Maybe he’s using her for sex, maybe he’s a liar, maybe he’s a complete creep.
Whatever it is, women always seem to have a sense about guys they should avoid. And if that sense is triggered, then the arousal soon turns into disgust.*
As Mark Manson points out in Models, female arousal in many ways is very self-centered – Their arousal is all about them being desirable. The more power that desirableness has over a man, the more arousing he becomes. The more he has emotional sides to his personality that only she can access, the more arousing she finds him.
It’s one big narcissistic circle jerk.
And it’s the exact same thing for men.
Men are aroused as much by the tits and ass they see as they are by their own ‘incredible’ sexual prowess. Like women, male arousal has a huge element to it that’s incredibly narcissistic.
It’s not so much being aroused by someone else, but being aroused by the idea of how arousing you are.
It’s kinda embarrassing when you look at it like that.
We’re aroused by feeling special. We’re aroused by feeling better than others. We’re aroused by feeling desired.
This, in itself, seems shallow and empty. And in many cases, it is.
But on the flip side, it also explains why genuinely liking someone from an authentic, un-needy place is so arousing for them. It tickles the narcissistic side of them that wants to be truly valued.
But it does so in a healthy way.
The idea of being aroused by the self isn’t exactly new. A similar, but different spin on it comes from the work of Carl Jung.
Jung believed that every man had a feminine element to his psyche and that every woman had a male element to hers. And it was these elements that we projected onto the opposite sex.
A projection that was dependent on the maturity of our relationship with ourselves.
If a man’s relationship with his feminine traits were unconscious, repressed, and feared, he would project that onto women. Instead of getting to know them, he would instead submit himself to his projected image of them.
His entire view of the opposite sex was wrapped up in his own emotional baggage.
Likewise, if a woman’s relationship with her masculine traits were immature, and revolved around her animalistic social and physical prowess, she would naturally project this onto men, and look for men who fit these shallow criteria.
In other words, her shallow self-knowledge would leave her chasing men with big muscles but little substance.
What happened with both sexes is that when they began to understand their opposite traits -men became more emotionally and spiritually mature, and women became more independent, creative, and spiritually mature- they would begin to view the opposite sex as individuals rather than generic projections.
The more they worked on themselves, the more they were aroused by what’s right for them.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
This might seem like a lot of information, but arousal comes together in both sexes quite nicely. And, conveniently, it has a lot to do with self-improvement.
Before any actions are taken with anyone else, you have to sort out your relationship with yourself. If you don’t, you’ll struggle with impotence, have no idea you’re aroused, or end up chasing the wrong people, ignoring the warning signs, and constantly wondering why there’s ‘something wrong with you.’
But once you’ve cleared that up, arousal begins to interact in beneficial ways.
For guys, it comes down to action. Not only are you very easily motivated to take action, but you’re also aroused further by your own prowess at doing it. Walking towards her is like stepping your foot on the accelerator.
This is reciprocated in women by them being aroused by you taking the risk of hitting on them. Sure, they’re not going to be into you 100% of the time. Sometimes you’re not their type, sometimes they’re just not going to be in the mood. But the rule stands. The more in touch with your own arousal you are, the more likely she is to be with hers.
This is why when I speak to guys whose relationships have become sexless, I always ask them:
‘Are you still putting the moves on her? Are you still taking her out and hitting on her like when you first went out?’
9 times out of 10 they’ve stopped doing this. They’ve stopped triggering her responsive sexual desire.
And it’s no surprise that when you’re stumbling around in sweatpants, looking like the same guy she sees every day, she’s not going to get a whole lot of spontaneous sexual desire.
People are into people being into them. It’s arousing.
But as long as you’re not into yourself, you’re going to have a hard time being into others.
This means if your sex life isn’t where you want it to be, the first person you have to look at is yourself.
What is your relationship with your own arousal? Are you relying on blind luck? Ignoring it? Or are you not making it clear what your needs are?
Because human sexuality is a need. A fun one. And developing a healthy understanding of your own arousal is the fastest way to get it met.
*In plain English this means don’t fucking lie – she’s wired to sniff you out so it’s a dumb strategy, as well as gross. All you’re going to screen for are women that are ignoring their gut feeling about you because they’re too emotionally needy to be alone. They’d rather be with a creep. Is that who you really want to attract?
Liked this article? Help me make an impact, and SHARE it on social media.
If you want to go into more depth with any of the topics I write about and build a structured plan for applying them to your day to day life – then check out my Dating and Personal Development Coaching service for a free 15-minute consultation.
And be sure to check out my free ebooks on dating and anxiety.
If you want an easy way to stay up to date on the latest content, like me on Facebook, and you’ll always be the first to know.
If there’s anything in this article you want to go in more depth on, or you just want to get in touch – drop me a message here! It’s completely free.