arousal nonconcordance

Our genitals often respond in a different way than we want them to. But instead of misjudging ourselves and our arousal, we need to know that when our genitals respond to a stimulus, it basically translates to the fact that the stimulus is sexually appealing but not sexually relevant.

In her book ‘Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life’, Emily Nagoski explains that the sexual response can be broken down into two mechanisms: an accelerator and a brake. The functioning of these two mechanisms is mutually exclusive, which means that both the accelerator as well as brake can be activated at the same time by a stimulus.

There is evidence that there is a lack of overlap between how much blood is flowing to a person’s genitals — hence causing them to swell and/or tingle — and how ’turned on’ that person actually feels. This phenomenon is called arousal nonconcordance.

This arousal nonconcordance is different for men and women. There’s about a 50% overlap between how much blood flows to a man’s genital response and his ‘subjective arousal’ (the feeling of being ‘turned on’), and there’s about a 10% overlap between women’s genital response and subjective arousal.

The common mistake that we make during arousal nonconcordance is that we think that our genitals are more reliable and trustworthy than us and we neglect our inner voice. We believe a person’s genitals know better of what turns them on than the person herself. This mistake is quite silly and we can better understand when we perceive this phenomenon in a non-sexual context. For example, your mouth may salivate when you have a rotten mango in your hands, but that does not mean you enjoy eating rotten mangoes. Mouthwatering is an automatic response and we can’t conclude our true desire based on that.  

In the end, it boils down to trusting your inner voice as well as that of your partner’s. Consent and communication are essential keys to engaging in a much more fulfilling sexual experience with your partner.