Often people are confused about how their reactions to things change when their aroused vs not aroused. Here’s an example from our anonymous questions page:
My wife loves anal stimulation with a finger or two during oral. But when I go anywhere near otherwise, I get told to stay away. I’m confused by her inconsistency.
But, this could be anything. I know there are more than a few women who, when in the midst of sex, are more than willing to engage in oral sex, but when not aroused…the idea is a bit of a turn off. To quote more than one of them “well … you know … he pees out of there”.
How does this happen
Well, it turns out there are two mechanisms at play here.
The first is that there is a part of our brain responsible for registering things that disgust or gross us out. That’s it’s job. To keep us away from potentially harmful things. When we see something gross, we naturally want to stay away.
When we’re aroused, however, the brain diverts blood flow away from this part. This makes it less responsive, and ultimately, fewer things gross us out.
The second I mentioned in the post on the dual control model of arousal. There is another part of our brain that tells us whether “now is the time for sex” or “now is not the time for sex”. It’s made up of two sections of the same part of the brain. When you are stressed, more of it registers as the “now is not the time for sex”, or the brake pedal of arousal, as it were. When you are relaxed and you’re in a sexual context, more of it registers as the “now is the time for sex” part, or the gas pedal of arousal.
So, when you get aroused, when it’s clearly a sexual context and you are enjoying yourself, more of that part of the brain is registering triggers as “go” signals instead of “stop” signals.
In short, yes, it’s normal, that’s how your brain is supposed to work.
This causes some odd effects
This confuses a lot of people. For some, they are confused why their spouse can seem so into a particular action in the moment, but then afterwards they say they didn’t enjoy it. In fact, I’ve heard some say that a particular activity made their spouse have the largest orgasm of their life and were obviously enjoying it during sex, but then afterwards, they swear they didn’t enjoy it and never want to do it again. In fact, they get mad at their spouse and blame them for “forcing” them into it.
That reaction is understandable if they don’t realize that their brain works under a completely different set of rules during sex and not.
For others, it makes for difficulty talking about specific sexual acts, because they can’t get over the juxtaposition between their brain’s reaction in the bedroom and outside of it.
How do we deal with this?
Firstly: recognize what is going on. Understand that it’s okay to be aroused by things when you’re already aroused, even if they don’t at other times. Neither one is the “real” you, it’s just you responding to different contexts.
Secondly: if you want to try something new, but are having trouble getting over the mental hurdle, wait until you’re really aroused. You’ll find it easier to just “go for it”.
I hope that helps clear up some confusion for some of our readers.
37 Questions for spouses to ask each other about sex
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