Have you ever wondered about the many wonderful and weird things that turn people on? Brushing hands, a particular scent, muscular shoulders, spicy food, facial hair, the smell of cut grass, crooked teeth; the list really is endless. Fetish, kink, quirk – call it what you will – everything is a turn on for someone. One person’s ‘weird’ is another’s ‘wonderful’.
But what if you struggle to become aroused? Or if you feel sexually excited, yet your body isn’t responding as you’d expect? Getting turned on isn’t as simple as flicking a switch.
Why am I turned on?
While different things do it for different people, sexual arousal generally manifests in the same way for most of us for the same reason. The classic signs of arousal? For men, the blood vessels in their genitals dilate and the penis becomes hard – they get an erection. For women, their vagina becomes moist and blood rushes to their sexual organs in preparation to receive sperm and fertilise an egg. It’s your body’s way of getting ready to procreate.
But it’s not always convenient to feel aroused. For men, an unwanted erection can be embarrassing. For women, the increase in blood flow can cause perspiration and reddening of the cheeks. Whatever your gender, feeling turned on is very distracting. We can’t always control when we feel sexually aroused. Think about something mundane, take a walk, have a cold glass of water – there are ways to assist your body in cooling off, but sometimes it’s just a waiting a game.
Why am I turned on by this?
Ask a textbook and it may well tell you that humans are turned on by sexual characteristics. We’re attracted to physical features that suggest procreation and make passing on your genes more likely – that’s evolution for you. Depending your culture and heritage, an attractive physical characteristic might be broad shoulders signifying a man’s strong genetic make-up, or wide hips that suggest an ability to bear multiple children.
But as society becomes more accepting of the wider gender and sexuality spectrums, and we learn about other cultures and their perceptions of beauty, it’s no longer a ‘sure thing’ that a male will find a female with an hourglass figure sexy. Men fancy men, women fancy women – anyone can be attracted to anyone, and that’s a wonderfully freeing concept. What used to be considered ‘weird’ is becoming accepted (although slowly in some places).
Equally, thanks to the internet, many people are discovering different, more unusual stimuli that get their motor running. It could be a picture of someone in tight clothing, watching people eat fruit, seeing concrete being poured, or even a particular ringtone that triggers the physical arousal response.
The associations your brain makes might be obvious to you, or a complete mystery. While the evolution argument accounts for some arousal, there’s little science behind why certain things (crunching leaves, squishing putty, touching the corner of a book) turn people on.
Why can’t I get turned on?
Not in the mood
Arousal starts in the mind for men and women. Stress, anxiety and distraction can prevent your brain from reacting as it usually would to sexual stimuli – your mental state might be stopping your turn ons from registering properly, causing erectile dysfunction or vaginal dryness. Make time for sex, practice mindfulness to handle stress and talk to your partner about anxieties.
I don’t fancy that
Sometimes what used to do it for you doesn’t anymore. If you only ever have jam on toast, you might think you only like jam. Maybe one day there’s no jam, and you try some honey. You might realise that honey is just as good, if not better, than jam. Taste and people change, so if you go off jam, don’t worry – you still like toast – simply look for something else that makes your mouth water. Sexual tastes are similar – the more variety you experience, the more likely you are to find different stimuli
If you’re struggling to feel aroused, you might consider talking to your partner about new things to try: introducing toys, watching an erotic movie, or trying some role play.
But what if you feel sexually aroused and your body isn’t responding the way it should?
I just can’t
F: Women can experience physical problems with arousal, although it’s not talked about much. Pain during sex or vaginal dryness can both occur if your feelings of arousal aren’t manifesting physically. Sometimes these can be caused by hormonal changes, menopause or other health issues so it’s worth speaking to your GP. The take-away advice here is to use a good lubricant – even if you’re not having problems. Lubrication makes sex more fun for both men and women, reduces chafing, and can liven things up.
M: However aroused they feel, many men will struggle to get or maintain an erection at some point. Occasional erectile dysfunction (ED) affects 1 in 10 men during their lifetime – stress, alcohol or tiredness can all be causes. But if ED is a persistent problem and you’ve ruled out other health issues, ED treatment can give you a new lease of (sex) life.
Visit the LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor Erectile Dysfunction Clinic to see if you’re suitable for treatment.