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Getting aroused and wanting sex - are they the same thing?

Mary Gaydukevich

Psychologist
  • Published:
    25 October 2022
Getting aroused and wanting sex - are they the same thing?

    The body's physiological response to sexual stimulation is not necessarily an indicator of sexual desire. Simply put, an erection in men and moistening of the vagina in women are not always indicators of sexual desire.

The situation when the subjective desire for sexual intimacy and the genital reaction of the organism coincide is called in sexology concordance of arousal. 

    Studies have shown that in men arousal concordance is 50% and in women only 10%. 

    So what does this mean in practice? We are much more likely to be physiologically aroused by completely different sexual stimuli than we are to actually experience sexual desire. 

    In men, this manifests itself, for example, when they want sex but do not get an erection, or when they wake up with an erection without feeling any definite sexual interest. Blood flow to the genitals is a signal that you have encountered a sexually applicable stimulus, but this gives no information about how much you enjoy it. The high non-concordance of female sexual arousal is evolutionarily determined, as it reflects a physiological readiness for fertilisation, fixating on anything that might signify the continuation of the species, regardless of the degree of subjective attraction. 

    There are common misconceptions in our culture about the repression of underlying desires. So, if a married man feels an erection while dancing with a colleague or a woman has secreted vaginal secretions during abuse, they are not lying or denying their secret impulses. 

    The genital response is only an expectation, not an indicator of attraction or pleasure. Our body does not give positive or negative responses about readiness for sex, it only reflects the degree to which the stimulus fits the sexual context, without commenting on how desirable or pleasurable it is. 


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