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Sunday, June 5, 2022

What Are Your Core Erotic Themes?

The concept of Core Erotic Themes was developed by sex therapist and researcher, Dr. Jack Morin and discussed in his book, The Erotic Mind: Unlocking the Inner Sources of Passion and Fulfillment.

Core Erotic Themes

See My Related Articles:

What Are Core Erotic Themes?
According to Dr. Morin, each person has three categories of sex scripts (see my articles: Understanding Your Sex ScriptChanging Your Sex Script and Changing Your Sex Script: Understanding Your Sexual Motivation):
  • Cultural scripts: The culture you grew up in
  • Interpersonal scripts: Between you and another person or persons
  • Intrapsychic scripts: Within your mind
    Intrapsychic Sex Scripts
Of the three types of sex scripts, the intrapsychic script is the most idiosyncratic.  This script is made up of challenging life experiences beginning from early childhood.  Since each person is different, there are an infinite number of intrapsychic sex scripts.

Dr. Morin wanted to find the connecting threads between sex scripts, so he came up with another term from drama: Themes.

Dr. Morin distinguishes sex scripts from erotic themes by comparing them to scripts and themes seen on a TV program.  

For instance, on the popular detective program, "Columbo," which can still be seen in reruns, the theme of the show is that the viewer gets to see who committed the crime in each episode and then gets to see how Detective Columbo goes about solving the crime.  Although the theme doesn't vary, the script varies with each episode.

Whereas scripts are detailed, themes can be summarized in a sentence or two.  

In addition, although most people are capable of having many intrapsychic sex scripts, they usually only have only a few erotic themes.

Core Erotic Themes

Dr. Morin defines the Core Erotic Theme (CET) from each person's peak erotic experiences. As the name implies, these are sexual experiences which are the most arousing, the ones that stand out in your mind as being the most exciting and sexually satisfying.

Your CET links your current peak sexual experiences with crucial challenges and difficulties from your childhood and adolescence.

According to Dr. Morin, although the link between CETs and unresolved challenges from your childhood might seem counterintuitive, in order to understand your erotic mind, you need to know that "high states of arousal flow from the tension between persistent problems and triumphant solutions."

Even though you don't need to know your CETs to enjoy sex, if you take the time to understand them, you can develop a greater ability to understand and influence your sexual choices.

Examples of Core Erotic Themes (CET)
In order to understand CETs, the vignettes below, which have common CETs experienced by millions of people, illustrate the connecting thread between the CETs and the challenging childhood experiences of these two individuals, Laura and Ted (the names and characters in these vignettes are fictional):

A Core Erotic Theme: Being the Object of Pursuit:  

Laura
When Laura was growing up, she was told by her mother countless times that she was "the smart one" and her older sister, Ellen, was "the pretty one." 

She grew up being resentful towards Ellen because she wanted to be "the pretty one."  

Feeling inferior to her sister, Laura tried to get boys' attention by being flirty and coy when she was a teenager.  She wanted these boys to pursue her so she could feel attractive and desirable. But she was usually disappointed to see that the boys she liked were more attracted to her sister.  This confirmed for Laura that she less attractive and inferior to her sister.

Even when she got older and she got more attention from young men, Laura never felt quite secure unless a young man pursued her persistently to show that he was really interested.  

Even after she was happily married, Laura's peak sexual turn-on was when her husband, Joe, initiated sex.  When her husband took his time to seduce her and initiate sex, she felt sexually desirable and it made sex much more pleasurable.

Laura's favorite sexual fantasy was doing a role play with Joe where Laura was a high-priced escort. As a much sought after escort, she could choose among hundreds of men, who wanted her for her beauty, sensuality and charm (see my article: The 7 Core Sexual Fantasies).

Joe would take on the roles of the different men who pursued her hoping to be chosen.  Each of these men would try to persuade her with money, extravagant gifts and compliments to her beauty hoping to gain her favor.  

Laura felt like a queen who could either bestow her attention on these men, if she chose to, or dismiss them without a second glance.

As part of the role play, when Laura chose one of her admirers, she told him that, even though he was paying her, he would have to do what she wanted sexually.  In response, Joe, played the all-too-willing pursuer who would do whatever Laura wanted.

    Analysis of Being the Object of Pursuit: Note that this fantasy is not only sexually satisfying for Laura, it is also psychologically and emotionally healing because it allows her to feel attractive and sexually desirable after years of growing up feeling unattractive compared to her sister.  Even though Laura knew Joe found her attractive in real life, she got to experience herself as being wildly attractive to hundreds of men in this fantasy--so much so that she was now the one who would choose them and they would do whatever she wanted. This was in stark contrast to her childhood experience of her mother telling her that her sister was "the pretty one" and her teenager experiences when she felt rejected by men who preferred her sister.

A Core Erotic Theme: Being the Catalyst For Turning On a Shy, Ambivalent Woman: 

Ted
Ted grew up as in a strict, conservative household where everyone placed his father's happiness and well-being above everyone one and everything else.  As a result, Ted learned to be a people pleaser (see my article: Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families and People Pleasing).

When his friends began dating in high school, Ted was still too shy to speak to girls. His first sexual experience was in college with Dee, a young woman his friends set him up with at a party.  

Dee was sexually experienced. She was attracted to Ted, but she realized, based on Ted's awkwardness, that he never had sex before.  When she saw how shy he was, Dee took the initiative to lead him to one of the empty bedrooms at the party where she proceeded to kiss and fondle him.  

Ted got so nervous that he ejaculated before Dee finished taking off his shirt.  Ted felt so humiliated that, despite Dee's kindness and patience, he rushed back to his dorm and avoided Dee and his friends for days.

As Ted matured, he had better sexual experiences with women over time, but he continued to feel insecure throughout his early 20s.  

To cover up his insecurity, he once tried to imitate other young men's behavior by posing as a  "player" or "womanizer" (see my article: Understanding the Emotional Dynamics of Men Who Identify Themselves as "Players".  But he didn't feel good about himself when he gave women pickup lines and tried to manipulate them into having sex with him, so he stopped after that one time.

When he was in his late 20s, he met Sheena at a local bookstore.  Sheena came across as shy and quiet.  Initially, she was ambivalent about having sex. But Ted was patient and he soon discovered that, underneath her shyness, Sheena could be very passionate when she was turned on.  

Although he was no longer a people pleaser like he had been as a child, Ted loved taking his time to please Sheena sexually.  He especially loved seeing her transform from being a shy, sexually reticent woman into to passionate and sexy woman--especially knowing that he was the catalyst for her transformation.  

This experience changed how he felt about himself. His sexual fantasies about being Sheena's catalyst became a part of his Core Erotic Theme. In those fantasies he imagined being the catalyst for shy, reticent women. 

    Analysis of Being the Catalyst For Turning On a Shy, Ambivalent Woman: Note how being in this role served Ted in terms of his history of being shy and feeling sexually inadequate.  Before he met Sheena, Ted carried that young shy boy inside him even after he was an adult. But when he met Sheena and he watched her transform before his eyes from being shy and ambivalent to being on fire, he experienced himself as a man who could turn women on.  So, this experience was transformative and healing for Ted, and it became part of his Core Erotic Theme.  This is a common theme for many men--the fantasy of turning a prim and proper woman into passionate woman consumed with desire.

Getting Help in Therapy
Struggling with unresolved problems on your own can be frustrating.  It can also keep you feeling stuck.

Rather than struggling on your own, seek help from a licensed mental health professional.

Overcoming unresolved problems will allow you to live a more fulfilling life.

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

I am a sex positive therapist who works 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.