NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Saturday, October 15, 2022

Based on Sex Research: What Gets Women Turned On?

According to a February 2019 article in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, women get sexually turned on by three specific factors: emotional intimacy, experiencing their partner as being separate from themselves and, most importantly, being viewed as attractive and sexually desirable by their partner. I will unpack these concepts briefly in this blog article (see my articles: Sexual Pleasure and the Erotic Self - Part 1 and Part 2).

Sex Research: What Gets Women Turned On?

A group of sex researchers led by Sofia Prekatsounaki, M.S., surveyed over 600 women who were in serious or casual relationships and found that the following three factors increased sexual desire in women:

Women in the survey reported that intimacy, which is a close and deep emotional connection with another person, is an important aspect with regard to women's sexual desire.  

Whereas men usually need sex as a way to connect emotionally, women often need emotional connection to connect emotionally (see my article: Whereas Women Usually Need Emotional Connection to Connect Sexually, Men Often Need Sex to Connect Emotionally).

Emotional Intimacy Turns On Most Women

Celebrated Otherness: Experiencing Yourself as Separate From Your Partner
Aside from the findings based on this research study, Dr. Esther Perel, sex and couples therapist, who wrote Mating in Captivity: How to Keep Desire and Passion Alive in Long Term Relationships, sexual desire thrives on otherness or separateness, which allows for the space between the self and the other.  

This space allows for the unknown, the novel, the unexpected, surprise and risk.  Dr. Perel posits that love and desire aren't always driven by the same things.  

The factors that drive love and desire are the opposite for many people.  While love is driven by commitment, intimacy and egalitarianism, sexual desire is driven by mystery, distance, risk and playfulness.

What Gets Women Turned On?

In addition, the sex researchers for this study found that there was a particular type of "otherness" that was important with regard to sexual desire.  

This otherness was the opposite of fusion of two people in a relationship.  It is not the kind of otherness that results in unrequited love or other forms of disconnection or alienation.  

This otherness emphasizes the autonomy of each person in the relationship as well as an investment in each other.

Object-of-Desire Affirmation: Feeling Attractive and Desirable
This was the most significant factor for women in terms of feeling sexually desirable.  Object-of-desire affirmation means being viewed as attractive and desirable by another person.  

Feeling Attractive and Sexually Desirable

According to the researchers, women often assume an erotic self-focus (instead of a relational self focus) during sexual activities.  

Feeling good about themselves and their bodies is an important element in women's sexual desire and satisfaction.  In addition to feeling good about themseleves, the external validation from a partner is an important factor.

Sex researchers have discovered that when women have sexual fantasies, they tend to be self focused.  

Based on this and other related research, this self focus is more important in terms of getting turned on than who they are fantasizing about.  

They can fantasize about strangers or even faceless individuals as long as they feel they are being perceived by the partner as being sexually desirable and attractive.

The Three Factors Combined: Intimacy, Separateness and Feeling Attractive and Desirable
The researchers revealed that all three factors were important to the women in the study.  They posited that emotional intimacy provides enough trust and safety for feeling like an autonomous sexual being.  This is enhanced by feeling attractive and sexually desirable by a partner.

Increasing Sexual Pleasure
According to Dr. Perel, the imagination if the most important factor for enhancing eroticism.  This includes sexual fantasies.

See my articles:

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 people in relationships (see my article: What is Sex Therapy?).

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.