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Sunday, March 5, 2023

Understanding Your Sexual Arousal Type: Spontaneous Sexual Arousal

In my prior article, Understanding Why You and Your Partner Might Experience Differences in Sexual Arousal: Spontaneous and Responsive Sexual Arousal, I began a discussion about the differences between spontaneous and responsive sexual arousal.  

Understanding Your Sexual Arousal Type

I also discussed that differences in how people experience sexual arousal is a common problem for couples and often leads to the demise of the relationship if the couple doesn't get help in sex therapy.

In this article, I'm focusing on spontaneous sexual arousal in more detail, and I'll discuss responsive arousal in detail in my next article.

Characteristics of People With Spontaneous Sexual Arousal
If you're not sure which sexual arousal type you are, see if the characteristics listed below resonate with you and then read the upcoming article article on responsive arousal to see if you identify with those characteristics (I'll post a link at the end of this article when I've written this second article).

According to sex educator and author, Dr. Emily Nagoski, who wrote Come As You Are, 75% of men and 15% of women experience spontaneous sexual arousal and both types are normal.

The following general characteristics describe many individuals with spontaneous sexual arousal:
  • Sex is very important to them.
  • They're curious about sex and thinking about sex most of the time regardless of the circumstances and context.
  • They love any opportunity to talk about sex and if the opportunity doesn't naturally arise, they might create an opportunity.
  • They're very aware of their bodies, especially when they're sexually turned on.
  • Their body is easily and spontaneously aroused sexually for no apparent reason.
  • They're often ready for sex at any moment. 
  • They have frequent sexual fantasies.
  • They're often frequent masturbators.
  • They often use sex, either solo sex (masturbation) or partnered sex, as a way to relieve stress and anxiety.
  • They often exude sexual energy--it's like sexual energy is coming out of their pores and others are often aware of it and can get turned on by it.
  • They're more likely to be the sexual initiator.  If they don't actually initiate sex, they give off flirty vibes and let the other person know, sometimes subtly and sometimes boldly, that they're sexually turned on and open to having sex.
  • They're often willing to have sex anywhere and anytime without any particular external sexual stimulation or sexual initiation from the other person.  If they're particularly turned on, this might mean that they have car sex or other types of public place (parks, movies, dark corners in museums and so on).
    • For women: Spontaneous sexual arousal often includes the following characteristics:
      • Nipples are hard (often visible for women with large nipples)
      • Genitals become wet
      • Clitoris, in particular, is engorged with blood, erect and becomes more sensitive
      • Body temperature rises
      • Blood pressure might rise 
      • Breath is often deeper
      • Skin tone might become flush
      • Licking or biting lips
    • For men: Spontaneous sexual arousal for men often includes many of the same characteristics that women experience, and in addition:
      • A focus on their penis
      • Penis can get hard and erect fairly easily when aroused and for no apparent reason
      • Physical contact including touching the other person's arm, shoulder, back or leg or pressing their leg against the other person if they're seated
      • Voice often becomes deeper
      • Awareness of the other person's body, which they're checking out
      • Complimentary to someone they're turned on by
      • Sit with their legs spread when they're with someone they're aroused by
      • Try to get physically close to the other person
Clinical Vignettes
The following clinical vignettes, which are composites to protect confidentiality, are about people of the same and different arousal types:

Scenario 1: Ken and Jill: 
Two People With Spontaneous Sexual Arousal
When Ken and Jill met at a mutual friend's party, they were sexually attracted to one another instantly.  Ken noticed Jill's sexy vibe and he was instantly drawn to her.  He was also aware of his sexual response to her and to her body.

Jill was also aware that she was sexually turned on by Ken immediately and she was already having sexual fantasies about what she and Ken could be doing sexually later on that night.  She noticed that when they sat down on the couch, Ken sat close to her so that his leg was touching and slightly pressing hers, and she felt tingles all over her body.  

By the end of the night, they were back at Jill's place having passionate sex.  

Scenario 2: John and Ann: 
One Person With Spontaneous Arousal and One Person With Responsive Sexual Arousal
John and Ann met on a dating app. When they met for their first date, John was immediately drawn to Ann sexually.  He could barely listen to what she was saying because he was so turned on.  Although Ann liked John, she wasn't sexually turned on. 

After three dates, Ann had mixed feelings about inviting John up to her apartment, but she invited him with the understanding that she wanted to "take things slowly." Although he was a little disappointed, John agreed.  

After settling on the couch, John initiated a kiss and Ann responded.  Although she enjoyed kissing John, her mind was preoccupied with thoughts about an interview she had the following day, so she told John she needed to end the date early.  Once again, John was disappointed, but he liked Ann and he decided to give things a chance between them.  

For their next date, John arranged for a candlelight dinner at a quiet and romantic restaurant and Ann was pleasantly surprised. By then, she had gotten the job offer and she was no longer stressed about that.  

When they went up to John's apartment, John was very turned on, and Ann wasn't turned on at that point.  But when they kissed, Ann became aware that she felt a sexual attraction for John and they had sex that night.

Discussion About the Two Scenarios
In Scenario 1, both people experienced spontaneous sexual arousal.  They were both aware they were turned on by each other, so they were both ready to have sex.

In Scenario 2, John experienced spontaneous sexual arousal and Ann experienced responsive arousal. For people who experience responsive arousal, context is important.  

Since Ann was preoccupied with thoughts about her upcoming interview, the context wasn't right for her with regard to feeling sexually aroused.

Stress and anxiety can get in the way of sexual arousal for anyone, but this is especially true for people with responsive arousal.  

When John chose a restaurant that had a quiet, calm and romantic environment, he helped to create the right context for Ann, who was also no longer anxious and stressed about her interview.  

Kissing at John's apartment also helped Ann to get sexually aroused (prior to that she wasn't sexually aroused).  

Since she experienced responsive sexual arousal, kissing (or any type of sexual activity) was important to help her to get in the mood.  

If these two people continued to see each other, they both would need to be aware of the other person's sexual arousal type with John slowing down to give Ann a chance to get turned on and Ann being willing to start sex (kissing, touching) in order to get turned on.

As I will discuss in my next article, people with responsive sexual arousal often need the context to be conducive to sexual arousal, and they often don't feel sexually aroused until they begin having sex

In this case, I'm using the word "sex" in a broad sense--not just sexual intercourse--to include kissing, touching and other forms of sexual activity that occur before intercourse. 

Getting Help in Sex Therapy
Since 75% of men and only 15% of women experience spontaneous sexual arousal, discrepancies are obviously common in heterosexual relationships.

A discrepancy in arousal type can get worked through in a relationship if each person understands their own and their partner's arousal type and if they're willing to work on it in sex therapy.

Couples therapists, who aren't trained in sex therapy, often don't know how to help clients with different arousal types.  Often, they focus on helping the clients to improve their communication and work on things that will bring them closer together emotionally.  This can work for some couples, but it doesn't always help others because there are many couples who have great relationships outside of the bedroom, including great communication, but their sex life either isn't good or it's nonexistent.

A skilled sex therapist can help couples understand and work with their sexual arousal discrepancy so that they are more sexually attuned to each other and they can have more satisfying sex (see my articles: What is Sex Therapy? and What Are the Most Common Issues Discussed in Sex Therapy?).

Sex therapy is a form of talk therapy.  There is no physical exam, nudity or touching between the client(s) and the sex therapist (see my article: What Are the Most Common Misconceptions About Sex Therapy?).

Rather than struggling on your own, seek help from a sex therapist who is knowledgeable about sexual arousal types and who has helped couples to overcome problems with discrepant sexual arousal.

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

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.