should you stimulate the genitals to create desire?

It’s been amazing recently to see other sex educators talk about non-concordant arousal, responsive desire, and non-penetrative orgasms – the three big issues I address in the book. I’m so glad people are getting the same message from lots of sources, because that’s how a culture shift begins!

Unfortunately, it’s often been most helpful to me as a lesson in how NOT to teach about it, or else how people might misunderstand the research.

Take Dodson and Ross’s video about responsive desire:

With due worshipfulness to goddess Betty Dodson, they’ve got this wrong.

Yes, arousal precedes desire! But “arousal” in the research refers to CENTRAL arousal–that is, the activation of your brain’s awareness of sexually relevant stimuli–not peripheral arousal, which is the response of the genitals.

You don’t stimulate or arouse the GENITALS in order to create desire; you stimulate or arouse the BRAIN. The genitals are one route to brain stimulation, and some women find that very effective. Lots of other women would find genital stimulation unpleasurable or even aversive when they’re not already turned on, because our perception of sensation is context dependent. You have to create a sexy context before you “STAMPEDE towards the clitoris, Watson.”

How? Watch some woman-friendly porn, read a romance novel or some erotica, fantasize about your partner (or whoever!), or even just touch less sensitive parts of your body like your neck and breasts and belly.

But that’s just to increase stimulation to your sexual excitation system – your sexual gas pedal. At the same time, you need to decrease stimulation to the sexual inhibition system – the sexual brake. Stress, depression, anxiety, and loneliness are often serious SIS stimuli, very much reducing sexual interest (though for some people, negative mood or anxiety actually INCREASES sexual interest). A woman who gets home from a shitty day at work and follows Betty’s advice to “put some oil on your fingers and play with your clit” will likely find she has to overcome the physical tension in her body and the mental chatter in her brain in order to focus on the sensations between her legs. You have to take time to reduce the distractions and stress before you can activate arousal and then desire.

If you’re the partner and want to generate desire, use your knowledge of her as an individual both to turn on the “ons” and turn off the “offs”: what makes her feel cared for, safe, affectionate, stress-free, sexy, and beautiful?

You gotta preheat the oven – or at least, MOST women have to pre-heat the oven. Between 10-25% of women can jump right into clitoral stimulation and do great.