The sex coach answers: Is my partner really aroused when they…

The idea of writing about this came from a question I got as a sex coach.

My partner is not always wet when I initiate sex, but she saysthat she wants it. Is this true?

And my answer is that it can easily be true. Yes. She can want sex with you in that very moment and not lubricated.

And let me add, that your male bodied partner can also want to have sex with you in this exact moment without having an erection. 

And let's add something else to the picture too. You can have a hard-on and you can be wet and that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are aroused or even enjoy what is happening with you. 

I’m not saying that the way your bodily responses are always deceiving and you can’t trust them, but I’m saying that they are not always “reliable” to what is happening inside of you. The phenomenon is called arousal nonconcordance. First I read about it in the book Come As You Are from Emily Nagosky. If you want to learn about sexuality this is a foundational piece. Not just because of the arousal noncorcondance studies, but the way it helps you to redefine what sexuality is for you and to see your response and desires in a more authentic way. 

The belief that you are only turned on when you are wet/hard and that you are not turned on when you are not wet/hard can cause you to doubt yourself and/or your partner.

But - you can say - this is what I see in porn, this is what I read in erotic stories and this is even what sex education tells me, that my arousal expressed phisilcally.

Porn and erotic stories are based on the beliefs about sexuality rathe than very real experiences. And arousal nonconcordance is a relatively new topic in research. 

Nobody has more knowledge about your experience than you. Don’t let anybody take this from you. Of course there are layers here and you can learn yourself better and you can self-actualize and most importantly you have to be in the present moment and feel yourself, and what you actually feel is the foundation for the moment, rather than what you should feel and how your innermost feelings should look like from the outside.

One if the most interesting research they were doing about arousal nonconcordance was like this: Men had the “strain gauge” strapped to his penis to measure their erection, while they were watching different kinds of porn. They verbally added some feedback about how aroused they felt (subjective arousal), and the strain gauge genital response (genital arousal). There was 50% overlap between their feedback and the physical response.
When they made the experiment with women with a vaginal photoplethysmograph inserted to measure their genital response, the concordance results were 10 only.
Of course there are plenty of factors not considered here, still it seems that the results show a big difference for both genders, subjective arousal and genital arousal are not always on the same page. Just because something is sexually relevant, doesn’t mean that it is sexually appealing.

Let's add here that your heart rate, your Achilles tendon reflex (the way we measure how effective the nervous system is), and skin conductance (sweating) can react to watching a horror movie the same way as watching relevant porn. And this doesn’t mean that you are aroused by the horror movie (the research was made with the movie Cujo) the same as with the porn. 

You are a human being, a unique one with different experiences, erotic wiring, beliefs, traumas… and the way your body responds to what you are experiencing is also more complex than just saying, “Im wet, so I’m aroused and ready” or “I’m hard, so I’m into this”.

Erections come and go throughout the sleep cycle whether a man is dreaming about sex or not.

Your body can respond differently than your inner feelings for various reasons. One is self protection - like being wet when you are not aroused or even abused or threatened, because your body tries to decrease the physical impact and to shorten the time you spend in emotional distress.

My goal here is not to scare you or confuse you (and feel free to write to me at the if you have questions or read the book that is the main inspiration for this post: Emily Nagosky - Come as You Are.) but to give yourself permission to experience your sexuality, your arousal and your partner’s in an open way that allows you to connect deeply and authentically.

Learning to be aware of what is happening inside of you is essential to have a safe foundation for sex, exploration and play. 

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