From dark chocolate & hot tea to slow kissing & sensual touch, there is a wide spectrum of ways to feel orgasmically good. Arousal isn’t always sexual, but it’s certainly always pleasurable. Whether you’re cultivating an intimate relationship with a partner, or deepening the one you have with yourself, it’s undeniably helpful to learn more about the cues your body gives to indicate that you’re ready to go. After all, it’s impossible to communicate to anyone else how to please you if you yourself haven’t explored all the edges of your pleasure!
While it’s important to note that sexual desire can be impacted by medications, hormones, and major life changes, many couples inevitably end up seeking therapy due to miscommunication within their sex lives. Research found that in 48.5% of couples, at least one of the two partners reported a sexual issue as the reason for seeking therapy. Though all forms of communication could improve this kind of disconnect, getting to know each individual arousal type is helpful in repairing and strengthening your intimacy.
The types of arousal one may experience can be broken down into two main categories: spontaneous arousal and responsive arousal.
Spontaneous desire: experiencing desire prior to sexual intimacy being initiated.
Responsive desire: experiencing desire after sexual intimacy has been initiated.
Learning about the sexual arousal types will only bring you closer to yourself (and any of your partners!) so let’s deep dive into both categories.
Spontaneous Sexual Arousal
This arousal type is much more favored in media depiction. It’s common to see the portrayal of spontaneous sexual desire, especially as male arousal, though it’s actually much more rare!
Spontaneous arousal can seemingly come out of nowhere, sparked by the tiniest trigger, such as the mere mention of sex. Essentially, you can think your way into the mood, not needing excessive stimulation to get there. It’s important to note that one may experience this kind of arousal towards the beginning of a relationship, and then eventually evolve into the second kind of arousal.
As Clinical sex educator Gigi Engle puts it, spontaneous sexual arousal is much more cerebral and can be categorized as having "sexy mind" vs “sexy body” A sexy-minded person (spontaneous desire), is someone who only needs the context of a sexual interaction to become fully aroused.
A tip for your type: Be patient with your partner if it seems like they’re not as ready to go as you are. If they’re more of a responsive type, it will take them a bit longer to warm up, and that’s okay! Channel that horniness into some slow, intentional foreplay, which will benefit the both of you.
Responsive Sexual Arousal
Also known as receptive arousal, this kind of desire is not only more common for female arousal, but it is also much less depicted in the media—which leads many to think there’s something ‘wrong’ with them.
This is, of course, not the case! In fact, 75% of men and 15% of women identify with spontaneous desire, whereas 30% of women and 5% of men identify with responsive desire. It’s just a matter of learning the way your body needs to be communicated with in order to reach a sense of arousal.
Responsive sexual arousal goes beyond initial horniness, taking into account the relational and contextual aspects of desire. In other words, you need some revving, which is why foreplay is key for this arousal type. You may find yourself declining sex for not being “in the mood,” and while this is totally normal and valid, responsive sexual arousal hints that starting sexual activity will actually spark your sexual desire. If this is your arousal type, you may need touching, cuddling, or kissing before you get turned on, expecting your desire to emerge as a result of the process.
A tip for your type: Experiment with scheduling your sexy time, maybe even marking it on your calendar! Whether it’s time spent together, making out, or even just cuddling, the cultivation of intimacy will curate the right relaxed circumstances for desire.
Going Deeper: What Are The 6 Arousal Types?
Feel like there’s more to it? That’s because there is! Many psychologists and sex experts who have studied the subject have developed an array of ways to categorize the way people experience their own sensuality and necessary stimulation. Taking it a layer deeper, let’s explore these six subcategories of arousal: physical, visual, audial, cognitive, relational, and emotional. Each related to our senses, you may find yourself relating a few of these, or you may be completely emphatic about just one.
It’s as simple as it sounds! Physical arousal examples include intentional touch, certain kinds of movements, textures, pressures, or speeds, which can all get you in the mood pretty quickly.
What you see is what will get you there. Whether it’s seeing your partner in certain clothes (or lack thereof!), seeing yourself a particular way, or even picturing positions, the quickest way to arousal for you is visual stimulation.
It’s all about what you hear. There may be certain words, phrases, tones, voices, and even vibrations that can trigger you, so consider making yourself a sexy time playlist if you haven’t already!
Similar to spontaneous arousal, you can easily think your way into feeling horny. You’re likely to fantasize to get in the mood, and can even benefit from integrating some of that imagination in the bedroom!
You need a deeper sense of connection in order to feel aroused. Being intentional about communicating what you value in one another before getting into it can be incredibly beneficial for your sense of desire.
When it comes to emotional arousal, you definitely can’t force the mood. There’s a specific feeling you need, known as your “core erotic feeling,” which could be feeling wanted, dominative, or powerful.
Whether you experience spontaneous sexual arousal with visual tendencies, responsive sexual arousal with emotional and relational tendencies, or a different combination entirely, there’s no right or wrong way to feel. It’s all about getting to know yourself more accurately, learning the language around it, and sharing it with your partner to build an even more rewarding intimate connection.