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Unlocking Your Sensual Potential: A Guide to Harnessing Arousal

Unlocking Your Sensual Potential: A Guide to Harnessing Arousal


What’s the most powerful sexual organ?

This may come as a surprise, but it isn’t the penis. It isn’t even the clitoris or anus. It’s the brain! Sex is not a mindless activity—far from it. The brain orchestrates the sexual response cycle and facilitates everything from desire to arousal to orgasm.


So if you’re wondering how to have better sex—you might want to think about what’s going on between your ears rather than just what’s going on in your pants. The mind matters just as much as the body, if not more.

A lot of the time, advice for better sex is oriented around the physical or mechanical stuff only—try this or that position; use this or that sex technique or pleasure product, etc. But, in fact, some of the most effective things you can do for better sex have to do with the mental and emotional realm rather than just the physical. Being present and focused, feeling relaxed, feeling uninhibited and enthusiastic, experiencing heightened empathy, being open to expressing vulnerability and connection, communicating and listening, flirting, banter—all of this can really elevate your sexual experiences.


It’s kind of sad that we’ve come to associate the mental and emotional aspects of intimacy with a sense of burdensome commitment or obligation. So often, with casual sex, it’s like let’s just pretend we have nothing going on in our heads or hearts, fuck each other and get it over with. But even in a casual sexual encounter, ‘clicking’ mentally, not just physically, can really amplify pleasure! That doesn’t mean you have to get married and have babies—but it can certainly mean a more pleasurable and memorable time together!


It’s also well worth understanding that your mental health can impact how you feel sexually and vice versa.


Your brain sends out the signals that radiate through your central nervous system to trigger symptoms of sexual arousal in your genitals, and the pleasure that you experience during a positive sexual experience, is manifest in the release of neurochemicals in the brain.


Common mental health issues like depression and anxiety, as well as the medications used to treat these, tend to impact those same neurochemicals. How you are feeling mentally, and how you are feeling sexually, are likely to have a powerful and intimate correlation.

Just as pleasurable sexual experiences, whether solo or partnered, can have many mental health benefits, sexual trauma can adversely impact your mental health.


Similarly, if you’re in a great space mentally, it’s likely to have a positive impact on your relationship with your sexuality, while struggles with your mental health can sometimes adversely impact your sexual life.


Why do we sometimes get an erection/experience wetness even when we are not aroused, while at other times struggle to get an erection/experience wetness even in a sexual situation?

A rather inconvenient truth about our bodies (true for penis-owners and vulva-owners alike) is that it is possible to sometimes have an erection/experience wetness even when you’re not actually turned on. And it’s also possible to feel aroused yet not get an erection/experience wetness. A seeming mismatch between your mental experience of arousal and the expected genital response is a phenomenon called ‘arousal non[1]concordance’, most famously described in Emily Nagoski’s masterful book Come As You Are (which you absolutely must read). Arousal non[1]concordance is extremely common.

It’s also worth noting that while we’re told that ‘penises get hard’ and ‘vaginas get wet’ when aroused, clits can have erections too, and penises can get wet too! Just as the penis can become engorged with blood when aroused to form an erection, even the clitoris can become engorged with blood when aroused. And just as the vagina can produce lubrication or wetness, the penis can release precum—that’s the penis’s way of getting wet!

So, both wetness and hardness can occur during arousal for both penis[1]and vulva-owners. However, that doesn’t mean that these bodily functions always indicate arousal, or that their absence necessarily indicates the absence of arousal.


Arousal non-concordance is so common, in fact, that we’re all likely to experience it on occasion, and it’s generally nothing to worry about, even though to many it can seem rather confusing, and often leaves one feeling embarrassed. It’s just the body being the body, doing its own thing in its intriguing, wonderful and sometimes seemingly eccentric way.

It’s also why it’s so very important to actually talk about how you’re feeling with your partner, rather than assume consent or assume that they’re not attracted to you simply based on how their bodies seem to be responding.



If porn is anything to go by, it seemed like moaning is something women who are ‘good in bed’ always do during sex. Many women feel this sort of gendered expectation to moan during sex— whether or not they are actually enjoying themselves.


Most porn is a performance, skewed to cater to the male gaze, and most of those moans are just actors doing their job. Communicating with your partner and telling them what you actually like is much more likely to result in more pleasurable sex.


While if you moan when a partner does something you’re not actually enjoying, not only do you have to pretend to enjoy it this once, they’re likely to do the same thing again and again—after all, by moaning, You’ve made them think you enjoy it!

From faking orgasms to moaning and making facial expressions in the ways that we assume we ‘ought to’, based on porn, to feigning comfort in uncomfortable positions because we want to please our partner or seem ‘good in bed’ to them, performative sex is something that people of any gender may find themselves doing.


But for women it tends to be a majority experience, thanks to the combination of mainstream porn being the major visual reference point for sex with its overemphasis on men’s pleasure, the socialization and depiction of women in society as somehow responsible for keeping their partners/husbands happy no matter whether they are happy themselves, and a lack of access to accurate information about how our bodies work in relation to pleasure. Too often we moan only because we think we have to, or because it helps get unsatisfying sex over with.


But no one ‘has to’ moan during sex. If you’re doing it only because you think you have to, and it’s not something you enjoy, know that it’s absolutely okay to stop doing it.

If you’re moaning to get unsatisfying sex over with, why not take the time to understand your pleasure and communicate what you enjoy with your partner so that the sex can become more genuinely satisfying for you as well?


Ironically, while many women seem to feel a pressure to moan during sex, some men seem to feel like they have to stop themselves from moaning with pleasure because it’s ‘not manly’. That’s the problem with rigidly binary gender stereotypes—they constantly get in the way of all of us being able to actually be ourselves.


For people of all genders, feelings of pleasure can indeed elicit moans. Many people are also excited by the very act and sound of moaning, be it their own, or their partner’s moans. If you’re moaning because you’re aroused, or because it arouses you to moan, or because it excites you to excite your partner, then no matter your gender, by all means, moan away!

On the other hand, some people feel more comfortable being quiet during sex, or don’t really feel the need to moan. Again—totally fine, no matter your gender.


There’s no pressure to moan if you don’t want to, and there’s no shame in moaning if you do. You get to decide what floats your boat!


Dirty Talk

In the right circumstances—with a partner with whom consent and mutual respect are already well-established—dirty talk can be incredibly arousing for many people, of all genders. After all, arousal starts in the brain—and erotic communication can enhance sexual arousal and pleasure for many.


Some people may enjoy dirty talk because it’s an expression of uninhibitedness—being able to say things to each other that you wouldn’t be able to say out loud anywhere else can be very titillating.


It may also feel like a marker of how close and vulnerable and unjudging you’re able to be with each other: that you can trust each other enough to explore your ‘wilder’, ‘freakier’ sides together can feel thrilling!

Dirty talk may also allow for partners to verbally articulate fantasies they may not have the ability or intention to act on—simply talking about them can be hot in itself—intensifying arousal and pleasure during sex.


Some may find that dirty talk helps them get out of their own head and feel more ‘in the moment’. For others, dirty talk may feel enjoyably over[1]the-top and humorous—it may provide a moment of lightness and laughter.


But, of course, all of that said, some people may not like dirty talk at all. Some may find it insulting or uncomfortable or overwhelming to participate in—and that’s totally okay too.

Everyone’s sexual preferences and boundaries are different, which is why it’s so important to communicate about whether or not each of you is into it or would be open to exploring something, before trying it out during sex.


So if you’re curious to try dirty talk with your partner in bed, be sure to discuss it beforehand. As Peppy keeps saying, consent and communication are fundamental prerequisites for pleasure.

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