Check it out:
We can think about genital response and subjective arousal in terms of two separate but interrelated systems – the peripheral system (the genitals) and the central system (the brain). Obviously the two are connected, but they’re connected in different ways for men and women.
Imagine that the peripheral system and the central system are a couple of friends on vacation together, wandering down the street trying to decide where to have dinner.
If they’re women, would go like this: The peripheral system would notice any restaurant they pass, whether it’s Thai food or pub grub, fast food or gourmet – though not at any of museums or shops – and say, “This is a restaurant.” And the central system would be very selective. “Nah, not safe enough” or “Nah, not clean enough,” or, “Nah, not delicious-smelling enough,” until eventually they come across a restaurant that the central system finds attractive enough. The peripheral system might even notice a pet store and say, “There’s pet food in here I guess…” and the central system would say, “That’s a funny joke.” It’s the central system that decides.
If the friends are men, it would go like this: the peripheral system would only be interested in specific restaurants – Irish pubs, say – and wouldn’t particularly notice any restaurants that aren’t Irish pubs. Once they find an Irish pub, the peripheral system will say, “Hey, how about here?” and the central system would reply, “Yeah, this seems fine,” unless there’s some pretty compelling reason not to, like a bunch of drunks brawling outside. Unless they’re into that kind of thing. The peripheral system gets a say, but the central system has the final word.
I still want to find a way to use the garden metaphor, but I think this is much more satisfying (though, necessarily, a simplification).