Recently, researchers conducted a study on sexual desire in men and women. The results are of great interest to us and the work that we do here at the Center.
Male and female subjects, individually, were asked to watch two movies while they were connected to devices designed to measure blood flow to the genitals, a sign of sexual arousal. Researchers explained to the subjects that the purpose was to measure blood flow and arousal.
Each subject was told they would be watching two movies, one on Russian history, and the other, an erotic film. A device was provided to each participant that they controlled; they could move a dial up to indicate a movie was stimulating or down to indicate the movie made them less turned on.
So, while participants told researchers how turned on they felt while watching the two movies, researchers could actually measure how sexually stimulated they really were.
The results were astounding.
Men showed no response to the Russian movie. When the erotic film came on, blood engorged the penis very quickly and at the same time, the subject moved the dial up, indicating he was getting more and more turned on by this film.
Not the same for the women!
Women also indicated no arousal while watching to the Russian movie, and this was corroborated by the blood flow measure. But when the erotic film came on, female participants became aroused and blood flowed quickly to the genitals. But, as arousal and blood increased, participants started to slowly turn the dial down, indicating she was getting less and less turned on. There was a gap, therefore, between what women were feeling and how they were reporting these feelings.
How can this be? Do women not recognize arousal in their own bodies? Do they have judgmental feelings about pornography as ‘bad,’ and therefore are reluctant to admit its influence on their arousal? Does the participant recognize this arousal and try to quiet her desire? Have women been taught to suppress their desire or “turn down the dial” because we are afraid of actually showing our own sexual pleasure?
Fantasy is a healthy sexual expression. Ninety percent of couples have sexual fantasies about someone other than their primary partner. So women may be thinking about other men, or women, or both! Imagine a woman who fantasizes about being sexually ravaged by two men whose only goal is to make her orgasm five times during the session. She thinks of the two men touching, licking, sucking and penetrating her from any angle possible. But she stops this fantasy just as quickly as it starts because in real life she wouldn’t have sex with two men at once. She may even think to herself, “why am I thinking about this, I would never do this, it is so out of my character” or “this is such a dirty thought” or even “this is so disgusting, does this make me a slut ?” For some, guilt overcomes them and even though they are not acting on the fantasy, they feel shame because they believe they are doing something wrong or abnormal. .
In those instances, what do you do? Do you turn the dial down and try to convince yourself that you are not getting turned by seeing people have sex as with a pornographic movie? Or do you turn that dial up and explore what excites you, even if it is something that in the real world, you wouldn’t really do? Next time you are presented with sexual stimuli, try to notice the changes in both your body and mind. Is your body starting to get turned on but your mind it trying to turn it off? No one is judging you based off your fantasies and/or what turns you on, no one will even know! But women need to stop judging themselves. Embrace what turns you on and let your mind go places that you may not want your body to go.