Arousal Non Concordance: Quite Common...

Jun 06 , 2021

Intimately Yours Limited

Arousal Non Concordance: Quite Common...

Have you ever been having sex with someone and they exclaim “you’re so wet,” yet you don’t feel turned on at all? You are not alone.

This is called arousal non-concordance and it is a common phenomenon, particularly among women. When we use the term ‘women’, we will be referring to people with vulvas because that is most consistent with the research; however, we know that arousal non-concordance affects people of all genders, including transgender, genderqueer, and non-binary folks, as well as intersex people. Emily Nagoski speaks about arousal non-concordance in her book Come As You Are, where she finds that there is about a 10 percent overlap between how women are responding to a situation and what stimuli they feel subjectively aroused by. This means that when a woman experiences lubrication, it does not automatically mean that they are aroused. For men however, Nagoski finds that there is a 50 percent overlap between genital response and subjective sexual arousal.

Types of Arousal

To begin we must differentiate between different types of arousal. According to the American Psychological Association, arousal is a state of excitement or energy expenditure linked to an emotion. Physiological arousal is arousal that is shown by physiological responses, such as increased blood flow to the genital area and increased heart rate. According to the International Society for Sexual Medicine, subjective sexual arousal is the active mental engagement in sex. It is important to differentiate these types of arousal when exploring arousal non-concordance. When physiological and subjective sexual arousal are not the same, arousal non-concordance occurs.

So Why Am I Wet?

Wetness can be caused by a variety of factors. Genital lubrication is a natural part of your physiological functioning. Healthline explains that genital lubrication is essential to protect from injury or tearing. Furthermore, lubrication is a self-cleaning mechanism that keeps you or your partner’s vulva clean, moist, and free from infection.
You can also become wet from touch even if you do not find it arousing. Bellesa shares that some women experience wetness during pelvic exams or even sexual assault. These situations can be uncomfortable, but they are simply a physiological reaction to touch rather than an indicator of sexual arousal.
Becoming wet during uncomfortable experiences can be a sign that stimuli are sexually relevant, yet not appealing at all. Emily Nagoski, notes that some people get wet even when stimuli are “disgusting or appalling or horrifying.” This just means that the sexually relevant signals in your brain are being cued. A genital response is not desire or pleasure, it is simply sexually relevant.

Consent Is Key

Consent is always important and knowing that wetness does not equal arousal makes consent even more critical. You should always listen to your partner when they share what they are excited about and pay close attention to their words rather than rely on a response from their genitals. Make sure that you and your partners are only participating activities that you are comfortable with and have agreed upon. You can create healthy dialogue to figure out your needs and wants during any sexual interaction.
Remember that wetness or an erection does not mean the person is consenting, it could mean many things and you should never assume it means consent. Amy Frier, a sex therapist, explains this more in depth for men, if you want to learn more.

It is important to note that this concept pertains to survivors of sexual assault as well. According to a rape crisis center in England, survivors of sexual assault are often told that they are not “true victims” because in cases where they produced a sexual physiological response, such as becoming wet during the assault. Knowing that vaginal lubrication does not mean a person is aroused completely destroys this argument and should be noted in the future when issues of sexual assault are talked about.

Aroused But Can’t Get Wet? Here Are Some Things You Can Do

  • Use Lube!
  • Remember the Clitoris
  • Masturbate - You know your body best and can learn what stimulation you enjoy from solo sex.

More Than Sex

Arousal non-concordance does not only have to do with genitals. Nagoski explains that when faced with an emotionally intense scenario, you are experiencing a physiological response and your reaction primarily has to do with the emotion of the stimuli, not the exact stimuli itself. Nagoski discussed this in her Ted Talk by sharing, “Arousal non-concordance happens with every emotional and motivational system we have. If my mouth waters when I bite into a wormy apple, does anybody say to me, you said no, but your body said yes?” Through this, she is allowing the listener to understand that non-concordance happens in all aspects of our physiological lives and is completely normal.
A 2012 study suggests that while men experience more concordance in sexual behaviors than women do, this does not translate to all physiological states. Simply speaking, the difference in sexual concordance does not translate to a difference with non-sexual arousal concordance, we all experience arousal non-concordance on similar levels.

At the end of the day the important thing to remember is this: genital wetness does not automatically mean that you or your partners are aroused, it just means you are being exposed to sexually relevant stimuli. 

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