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Sexual Arousal and Response. Chapter 6. The Brain & Sexual Arousal. Cerebral cortex affects thinking Limbic system affects sexual feelings & behavior Electrical stimulation of the hypothalamus triggers arousal

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the brain sexual arousal
The Brain & Sexual Arousal
    • Cerebral cortexaffects thinking
    • Limbic system affects sexual feelings & behavior
    • Electrical stimulation of the hypothalamus triggers arousal
  • The limbic system, a region of the brain associated with emotion and motivation, is important in human sexual function. Key structures, shaded in color, include the cingulate gyrus, portions of the hypothalamus, amygdala, and the hippocampus.
cultural conditioning
Cultural Conditioning

A wide variety in standards of attractiveness…

the senses sexual arousal
The Senses & Sexual Arousal
  • Touch
  • Vision
  • Smell
  • Taste
  • Hearing
  • Touch is the dominant "sexual sense"
    • Primary erogenous zones
      • Areas of body that contain more nerve endings
    • Secondary erogenous zones
      • all other parts of body - depends on learning - conditioning because an area is touched when sexual pleasure is high - e.g., if your partner always rubs your big toe as part of sex play, big toe may become very erogenous for you
      • Skin - the largest sex organ of the body, all of it can be erogenous
    • Both zones vary in sensitivity among the population
  • Is usually next in dominance
    • Self-report: males more responsive than females
      • Women continue to be less likely than men to say they felt aroused to erotic visual stimuli in studies
      • How much of this is cultural? Do women have permission to get aroused by visual images?
    • Equal physiological signs of arousal are found for men and women in genital measurements and in new brain scan studies, we are challenging old ideas here
smell taste
Smell & Taste
  • Smell may arouse or offend
      • exposure to a human pheromone increases attractiveness ratings
        • Even sweat can be a turn on
        • Probably overwhelmed in U.S. by emphasis on cleanliness and hygiene, so body smells turn many people off - not so true in Europe
        • A really bad smell from the genitals could be a warning of STDs. Look carefully!
    • Taste plays a minor role
      • But it sure can be a turnoff, keep your body clean (but not by douching!)

Plays a variable role

sexual language very arousing to some, a turn off to others

note that men in our culture are more inhibited about making sounds - due to strong, silent image? Inhibition during masturbation as a child?

hidden masturbation, quiet and quick, is bad training for partner sex.


What turns you on visually, what turns you off?

  • What sounds or words turn you on, what turns you off?
  • What smells get you excited, which ones turn you off?
  • What flavors (foods, lotions, oils) would you enjoy using to enhance smell and taste?
food chemicals
Food & Chemicals
  • Alcohol
    • depresses cerebral cortex
    • lowers inhibitions, not by improving physiological reactions
    • large amounts have negative effects
  • Phallic shaped foods - candy, bananas, cucumbers, can be a turn on or off
  • Aphrodisiacs:good discussion in text - note that there are probably no genuine aphrodisiacs except possibly yohimbine
  • Placebo effect - role of learning and expectancy important - e.g., if people believe an effect will occur, it may - may become conditioned to presence of certain substances
  • Modern medicine has provided more help for men in the last years.
    • Erectile drugs covered in Chap. 14
    • Exercise and good physical condition verypositive
  • Anaphrodisiacs:a substance that inhibits sexual desire & behavior
    • e.g., alcohol, opiates, tranquilizers
    • nicotine constricts blood vessels, slows vasocongestive response; reduces circulating testosterone
      • Giving up smoking can be a great stimulator for your sex drive
role of hormones in sexual behavior
Role of Hormones in Sexual Behavior
  • Dominant androgen in both males & females is testosterone- men 20-40x more than women
  • Neuropeptide Hormones: Chemicals that are produced in the brain that influence sexuality & other behavioral functions
  • Oxytocin:“love hormone” A neuropeptide produced in the hypothalmus that influences our erotic and emotional attraction to one another
    • Facilitates ejection of milk from nipple during breastfeeding
    • Secreted during cuddling and physical intimacy
    • Increases through the sexual response cycle
    • Autistic children – low levels
sex hormones in male sexual behavior
Sex Hormones in Male Sexual Behavior
  • Free vs. attached testosterone, free (5%) influences libido
    • women’s cells more sensitive, so less testosterone needed to have effect
  • Castration (orchidectomy) : surgical removal of the testes. Usually but not always reduces sex drive and activity
  • Antiandrogens - Depo-Provera : used to treat male sex offenders in Europe and U.S. - ethical problems – also may not work, esp. to degree that sexual assault stems from nonsexual motives, e.g. anger, control
  • Hypogonadism : impaired hormone production resulting in low testosterone - if occurs in adulthood, treatment with androgens often leads to a return of sexual interest and activity
sex hormones in female sexual behvior
Sex Hormones in Female Sexual Behvior
  • Much debate over role of hormones in female sexual behavior….
    • Estrogen - some say not important to sex drive - e.g., not changed after menopause or hysterectomy - variable results after estrogen-replacement therapy
    • Androgens - produced by ovaries and adrenals - evidence does link female sex drive to testosterone levels
signs of testosterone deficiency in both sexes
Signs of Testosterone Deficiency in Both Sexes
  • Decrease in usual sexual desire
  • Reduced sensitivity of genitals & nipples to sexual stimulation
  • Overall reduction in general levels of sexual arousal, possible decrease in orgasmic capacity/intensity
  • Diminished energy levels
  • Increased fat mass
  • Decreased bone density
  • Reduced body hair
  • Decreased muscle mass & strength
sexual response
Sexual Response

Masters & Johnson’s Four Phase Model

masters johnson s four phase model
Masters & Johnson's Four-Phase Model
  • Excitement
  • Plateau
  • Orgasm
  • Resolution
    • Refractory

Male sexual response cycle. Only one male response pattern was identified by Masters and Johnson. However, men do report considerable variation in their response pattern. Note the refractory period: Males do not often have a second orgasm immediately after the first.

masters johnson s four phases
Masters & Johnson's Four Phases
  • Excitement
    • Vasocongestion & myotonia
  • Plateau
    • Time varies a lot here, sometimes age dependent, sometimes training dependant (did you learn to masturbate really fast and really quiet?)
  • Orgasm
    • Possible for males without an erection, especially with aging
    • Possible without ejaculation, especially in Tantra
  • Resolution (sometimes this is not what you want)
    • Refractory period highly variable among males
    • Can be really short with high levels of stimulation for some
sexual response cycle videos
Sexual Response Cycle Videos
  • Men:
  • Women:

  • Orgasm is usually defined in a clinical context strictly by the muscular contractions involved, and also by characteristic patterns of change in heart rate, blood pressure, and often respiration rate and depth.But this way of viewing orgasm is merely physiological, while there are also psychological, endocrinological, and neurological definitions of 'orgasm'. -Levine, R.J. (2004)
  • Not everybody has the same responses, high variability, even within an individual.
multiple orgams
Multiple Orgams
  • 2 or more climaxes within a short period
  • 1970 study - about 16% of women have them
  • Women more likely to have them while masturbating than during coitus
  • Men can experience them in a short time period
  • Possible area to explore with patience
the g spot
The G-Spot

Locating the Grafenberg spot. Usually two fingers are used, and it is often necessary to press deeply into the anterior wall of the vagina to reach the spot.

the g spot1
The G-Spot
  • Grafenberg spot: a localized place in the vagina, which causes pleasurable sensations when stimulated
    • mass media subject
    • not everybody finds it, so do not worry- survey of 1,000 women, 65.9% reported having the area
    • area on lower front wall of vagina
    • sensitive to pressure
    • researchers still dispute the existence of it, source of the fluid, and chemical make-up
    • Collagen injections- no, no, no
    • truly depends on comfort with one’s self, social context, expertise of partner, and personal preference
    • sometimes results in “ejaculation”- source of fluid may be from the “female prostate”- this is normal
videos group activity
Videos & Group Activity
  • Kara Sutra’s clitoral stimulation
  • How to fake an orgasm:
  • When Harry Met Sally:

  • 40 Days and 40 Nights
    • Make 2 lists: one stating why women would fake orgasm, the other stating why men would fake orgasm. Cross off items that appear on both lists. Any differences? Why or why not?