NYC Psychotherapist Blog

power by WikipediaMindmap

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The Erotic Equation: Attraction + Obstacles = Excitement

In his book, The Erotic Mind: Unlocking the Inner Sources of Passion and Fulfillment, the sex therapist Dr. Jack Morin discusses a concept he coined the "Erotic Equation," which he defines as attraction plus obstacles equals excitement (see my articles: What is Eroticism? and Sexual Pleasure and the Erotic Self: Part 1 and Part 2).

The Erotic Equation: Attraction + Obstacles = Excitement

According to Dr. Morin, for most people sexual desire and arousal are stimulated by the interaction of two forces: An attraction pulls you towards the person you desire, as well as an obstacle that makes the other person compelling, including unavailability or being inappropriate in some way.

Dr. Morin posits that the erotic experience is shaped by this push-pull interaction and the potentially dangerous result (e.g., the possibility of getting hurt by this unavailable and/or inappropriate person).  

He says that people are often most excited by the person they're attracted to when they feel a little off-balance and uncertain, which can bring them to the edge of ecstasy or disaster.  So, the Erotic Equation involves the interaction of impulse and restriction.  

Why Are You Attracted to Certain People?
After talking to hundreds of people, as part of his research, Dr. Morin says there are two main types of attraction: lusty and romantic (see my article:  What Makes So-Called "Bad Boys" So Irresistible?).

With regard to lusty attractions, Dr. Morin posits (and I agree) that lust is a part of erotic health.  At the core of a lusty attraction is a desire for sexual excitement and orgasmic release.  It can be profound, meaningless, playful, hostile or loving.  It can also be intensely animalistic and exhilarating as well as frightening or a combination of these qualities.

Like lusty attractions, romantic attractions can also be compelling and fascinating.  However, whereas lusty attractions are about arousal and orgasm, romantic attractions include a need for a mutually passionate bond.  It also has a deeper goal of the emotional joining of two individuals (not just the physical).

How Do Obstacles Affect Sexual Attractions?
According to Dr. Morin, most people have a stronger response to the person they're attracted to if the attraction is made more difficult by the presence of obstacles that must be overcome.

An example of this kind of obstacle is distance, including physical, emotional and geographic distance.

During an initial encounter, two people often unknowingly play with distance with a flirtatious gaze--looking at the other person and then looking away.  The looking away is what creates momentary distance and excitement.

Flirting is often especially intense when romantic or sexual fulfillment isn't possible.  An example Dr. Morin gives is of two people who are attracted to each other at an airport where each of them is about to board a different plane so they're unavailable to each other.

Another example, which is one I've heard many people talk about, is when someone, who is in a committed relationship, gets much more sexual or romantic attention than they ordinarily would when they were single.  

Part of this is that they're relaxed (compared to someone else who is single and seeking a partner).  But another major factor is their unavailability, which often boosts their erotic appeal to their admirer.

Finding the Optimal Distance to Create Attraction and Excitement
According to Dr. Morin, sexual arousal can be thought of as an electric spark.  If the gap between two people is too large, it's too much distance to bridge and the spark gives out.  But if the gap is too narrow, creating the spark isn't possible.  

So, the couple needs to find the optimal distance to keep the spark alive.  This is especially true in a long term relationship (see my article: To Rekindle Passion in a Relationship Fire Needs Air).

In Dr. Esther Perel's book, Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence, she gives an example of a woman who tells Dr. Perel that, ordinarily, when she looked at her husband, she thought about him as the man who left his dirty socks on the floor.  But one day, when she was at a conference with him and he was standing at a distance from her, she looked at him with new eyes--she saw how handsome and charming he was while he was talking to other people.  

Clients in my private practice in New York City have told me similar stories: A man, who was standing next to his girlfriend in a grocery store, walked to another aisle to find an item.  When he returned to the aisle where his girlfriend was standing at a distance from him, he noticed her attractiveness and sexiness, and he couldn't wait to get her home to make passionate love to her.

In both cases, there seems to be just the right distance where the people look at their significant others differently from how they were looking at them just a few minutes ago.

The same is often true with long distance relationships (see my article: Can a Long Distance Relationship Survive?).  

Distance can increase the passion between two people when they're able to see each other from time to time.  But if there's too much distance and too much time between visits, the ardor can cool off.

The Erotic Equation, which is a term coined by the sex therapist Dr. Jack Morin, indicates that sexual and romantic excitement is often increased by attraction and obstacles.  

There can be many different types of obstacles, including unavailability as well as physical, emotional, and geographic distance. 

In long term relationships, couples often need to find new ways to keep the romantic and sexual spark alive, which can involve looking at your partner with new eyes. This can be facilitated with the optimal amount of distance (see my articles: Have You and Your Spouse Stopped Having Sex? and Reviving Your Sex Life By Exploring Your Peak Erotic Experiences).

Getting Help in Therapy
Rekindling passion in a long term relationship can be challenging.

If you and your partner have been unable the rekindle the passion you once had, you could benefit from working with a couples therapist who has experience helping couples to reignite the passion in their relationship.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

I am a sex positive therapist (see my article: What is Sex Therapy?).

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.