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.
6 thoughts on “Your definition of gross changes when you’re aroused”
Isn’t that weird? I mean, I’ve been confused by the same thing. I think that what you say about just going for it is a really great piece of advice. When something really arouses you, you will get over the gross factor for sure. But, you have to give it a try to see if it arouses you.
In moments like these we need to just let things flow. We should enjoy our spouse in the moment, stop over thinking. Enjoy the open, free no holds significant other. The gross factor shouldn’t be thought of in an intimate moment with our spouse whoem we trust. Great post
Not gonna lie, I thought this was just me. I had no idea anyone else experienced it, our that there’s a physiological reason.
Always enlightening, Jay Dee!
I totally understand this.
Me and my wife have had and are having a great sexual life together, being married for over 25 years. We are pretty open and does a lot and one thing that had taken a lot of time to do was A… sex. I asked and she would not till one day she agreed. I was a great experience and she was enjoying it so much, when she was aroused, never when she was not in the mood.
Then someday after 2 years she just didn’t want to do this no more. They say communication is the best way to have great sex, so it is. It turns out that having multiple orgasms and having the strongest orgasms meant she was out of control. This A… sex was giving her the strongest orgasms and she was having more and more multiple orgasms which came more easily the the other ways of being intimate. BUT this was very scary for her in the sense that she was losing control and enjoying it to much.
We still have great intimate time with a lot of multiple orgasms for her and being intimate, it just doesn’t include that anymore. I am fine with it, being it is about our both being happy and comfortable with each other.
Dan Ariely wrote in one of his books a chapter about this. He and his colleagues actually researched it in an experiment, where they asked men to answer questions about their preferences in sex (they were supposed to imagine they were highly aroused). Then they were asked to answer the same questions, but actually be aroused (OK I know it is questionable). The differences in their answers was kind pretty significant and kind of scary (especially with questions like “would you be willing to get a girl drunk to have sex with her and such). I think it is very interesting and worth reading. And I definitely suggest reading it to people who talk about waiting with sex until marriage to teenagers and to warn them that saying no has to happen soon enough.
I like your blog, by the way ?
Yeah, that same experiment has been done a few times by different groups if I recall. Same results everytime, plus tons of anecdotal evidence from couples I’ve talked to.
Great idea about teaching this to singles though. I may write a post about it as I know I have some singles in my audience.