Join 3,379 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Arousal or not? Or am I just nervous? Or out of my mind?
July 1, 2010 8:04 PM   Subscribe

When is arousal not attraction?

How can I tell the difference? Also sometimes I feel sort of OCDish and since I'm likely gay, I check to feel myself to see if I have a boner or not when I see a pretty woman. It's never a boner, but sometimes it feels just a very very bit less flaccid than usual. Not even close to a boner. Am I just nervous, OCD, worried, and/or what?

I know that guys do give me full boners sometimes. I wouldn't classify the woman thing as even a semi boner because I don't really feel it down there... I have to literally feel my pants to notice that it's just a bit less squishy.
posted by antgly to Human Relations (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
antgly.. this is the third time you've asked a variation on the same question. I understand that you're in a confusing spot in your life, but it really may be time to look for someone to speak to in person. Are you in school? if yes, your school probably has resources. Either way, NY should be chock-full of resources for people who are queer or think they might be; looking at coming out support groups may be very helpful to you.

Men get physically aroused all the time, sex and attraction aren't always involved. Hell, I often get erections just from yawning too much. It's a thing, it happens. And that means the entire range of it's-cold-outside-shrinkage to full-on erection.

I'd also advise against this checking. If other people notice it could really be interpreted very badly.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:10 PM on July 1, 2010 [21 favorites]


Anxiety to this degree over sexual orientation, and repeating behaviors to try to reassure yourself about it, sounds like something you should be discussing with an expert on anxiety disorders.

Also, your post really needs a NSFW label on the front page.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 8:13 PM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


How can I tell the difference?

I know that guys do give me full boners sometimes. I wouldn't classify the woman thing as even a semi boner because I don't really feel it down there... I have to literally feel my pants to notice that it's just a bit less squishy.

Haven't you pretty much answered your own question here?
posted by hermitosis at 8:13 PM on July 1, 2010


People can be aroused by things that totally disgust them intellectually and viscerally. It's some kind of reptile brain thing, and it's safe to shrug and ignore.

If this is about something bigger than that, then I third the notion of talking to someone.
posted by Miko at 8:14 PM on July 1, 2010


Also, your post really needs a NSFW label on the front page.

Actually, not at all. (MeTa.)
posted by hermitosis at 8:14 PM on July 1, 2010


Fair enough, I hadn't seen the MeTa.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 8:17 PM on July 1, 2010


Am I just nervous, OCD, worried, and/or what?

Maybe all these things. But mostly, you sound really anxious about trying to figure out your sexuality. But checking to see if you're physically reacting to a pretty girl on the street is not going to tell you whether or not you're sexually attracted to women.

There's two basic ways to figuring out what turns your crank -- being honest about what's going on in your head, and trying stuff out in real life with real people who you like. Sometimes, these two things don't match AT ALL (a lot of fantasizing stuff is not what people want in real life), so ultimately, you've just got to see what clicks.
posted by desuetude at 9:12 PM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've heard it said that young men can be aroused by a breeze blowing the right way. I'll also reaffirm that I hope you'll decide sexuality doesn't have to be a binary, and "both" can be the answer to, "ladies or gents?" And also, yes, this question on the tail of the other two (where you got dozens of fantastic, concerned, well written answers already on sexual questioning) is a screaming red flag for, TIME TO GET HELP. A queer-friendly counselor, a LGBTQ (notice a lot of organizations have added the Q to stand for, "questioning"....that's you!) group, something.
posted by availablelight at 9:19 PM on July 1, 2010


This is in no way a diagnosis, I'm not an expert, etc., so please take it with a huge grain of salt, but this resembles OCD, as it has manifested in a good friend of mine (although the genders were reversed--he is straight but thought about whether he was attracted to guys, obsessively.)

It is very socially inappropriate to touch yourself when you are in public, as I'm sure you know, so be careful. I wouldn't want you to get in trouble, or for you to upset a woman. It is very uncomfortable to see someone touching their genitals and looking at me unless I am fully aware and consenting!

And please see about getting help from a qualified professional.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:14 PM on July 1, 2010


antgly: I think it's probably time to talk to a therapist. You're asking the same basic question as before and the questions are becoming increasingly anxious.

But failing that, is there something specific you're looking for here? Getting the same exact answers you got the other times is not going to do anything for you if you found them unsatisfactory before. What, precisely, are you trying to find out?
posted by Justinian at 10:15 PM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Follow your boner.

Also, your post really needs a NSFW label on the front page.
Really? boner is NSFW? Stop using the internet at work.
posted by sanko at 10:18 PM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, your post really needs a NSFW label on the front page.

Definitely not -- a lot of what makes AskMe so cool is that we aren't judgmental about boners and other embarrassing things.

However, we are judgmental about repeated questions where the asker doesn't seem to be either taking the previous answers into account, or finding new ways to explore the problem. I think you have reached the limits of what an online forum like this can provide, and need to find someone in real life to talk about these things with. There are cool, sex- and gay-positive therapists and counselors out there (and a week from now, you can use your next question to say "I am in place X, how do I find a non-judgmental sex- and gay-positive therapist who can help me understand my sexuality?" if you are having trouble finding one on your own).

If you are in college, there will likely be groups set up for just this sort of conversation; outside of college (or if you are still in high school, say) those places can be harder to find.
posted by Forktine at 10:36 PM on July 1, 2010


Attraction is mental. It's the feeling of wanting to be with someone. If you think "gee, I'd like to date this person or kiss them or have wild monkey sex with them," then that's attraction.

Arousal is physical. It does not require attraction to someone.
posted by zippy at 10:51 PM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm technically accepting the information in the other two posts. My mind just tries to pick at anything indicating that I could be bi even though deep inside I know it isn't so. It just is weird when I have any miniscule amount of arousal without attraction to a person and then I wonder why am I having this is I'm not attracted to this person? I feel that what if I'm miscalculating something about myself. Also most people falsely believe that arousal is attraction.
Kind of like if your penisusis is reacting (even if mine is completely hoped for even if it's not there) that means you're automatically attracted.
posted by antgly at 11:04 PM on July 1, 2010


Let's theoretically say that for a second that I saw a pretty woman and my wingerdinger went up. Does that necessarily mean that I'm attracted to her? If not, then why do most people believe so. That's the kind of message I'm getting here.

Once again note that this is theoretical.
posted by antgly at 11:06 PM on July 1, 2010


antgly: "I'm technically accepting the information in the other two posts. My mind just tries to pick at anything indicating that I could be bi even though deep inside I know it isn't so."

Please listen closely to what everyone in this thread is trying to tell you. It's time to talk to someone in person. Please find a therapist, counselor, or support group that works with LGBTQ.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:57 AM on July 2, 2010


Let's theoretically say that for a second that I saw a pretty woman and my wingerdinger went up. Does that necessarily mean that I'm attracted to her?

No.

If not, then why do most people believe so.

Most people like simple answers and see causal relationships where there is only coincidence.
posted by zippy at 1:56 AM on July 2, 2010


Does that necessarily mean that I'm attracted to her?

Does it matter? What's the difference? Really, what are you hoping to get out of this?
posted by Justinian at 3:04 AM on July 2, 2010


I should clarify my "no" above. I meant that it does not necessarily follow. However, if you feel physical arousal every time you meet someone, then sure, you're strongly physically attracted to them.
posted by zippy at 4:17 AM on July 2, 2010


sometimes it feels just a very very bit less flaccid than usual

Shouldn't this question be "When is arousal not arousal"?
posted by robself at 6:20 AM on July 2, 2010


That is a better question. Pretty much when is it just you being desperate, and you actually being aroused.
posted by antgly at 6:26 AM on July 2, 2010


When I was eleven, I'd get a hard-on in class, and I'd think of which girls I'd looked at recently, to determine which girl my magical boner was telling me was right for me.

One time, I'd been paying attention (for once) to the teacher and nothing but the teacher for the last fifteen minutes, when I felt the tent gettin' pitched. AAAhhh! Was my magic boner saying I had the hots for Sister Maurice? Of course not- guys just...get hardons for any, or even no, reason.
posted by notsnot at 6:46 AM on July 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Let's drop some science-y stuff. I think it's great that you're trying to learn about this.

These people are trying to create a Sexual Arousal and Desire Inventory, and they say this, which is pretty interesting considering your question:
Sexual arousal and desire are integral parts of the human sexual response that reflect physiological, emotional, and cognitive processes. Although subjective and physiological aspects of arousal and desire tend to be experienced concurrently, their differences become apparent in certain experimental and clinical populations in which one or more of these aspects are impaired.
So your you're feeling the physical aspect of arousal when you feel your penis getting slightly hard, but you're not feeling the desire part. That's because although they tend to happen together, it's not necessarily the case.

This article is about arousal during sexual assault, but it has a really good breakdown of the different aspects of arousal. This is particularly relevant:
2. What do we mean by sexual arousal?

Like all simple questions the answer turns out to be more complicated than at first thought. Human sexual arousal occurs as a mental state and as a physical state; in normal sexual arousal both occur simultaneously. However, it is possible to be mentally sexually aroused without showing any genital manifestations of arousal (vaginal/clitoral blood engorgement and vaginal lubri- cation for women, penile tumescence or erection in men). Contrarily, it is possible to exhibit these genital manifestations of arousal but not feel mentally aroused. Indeed, it is even possible to feel disgusted by the genital manifestations of arousal[...]
So, you're not the first person or the last person to wonder about this stuff! If you're curious about it even more, there is a lot of research to do.

However, if it's affecting your every day life negatively please try to balance it all out and spend a limited amount of time on it. If you can't, or if it's really bothering you, please get help, okay?
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:22 AM on July 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Antgly, echoing what other people are saying here, it's really time for you to talk to someone about this.

And stop trying to overthink it. Do what makes you happy. But in order to know what makes you happy, you need to have a sense of self. You need to take ownership of your desires.

Right now what you're asking is the equivalent of, "I can't tell if I like spaghetti. My taste buds react in a certain way when I eat it and my mouth salivates when I think about it. Does that mean I like it?"

You're focusing on the trees instead of the forest. Absent from your analysis is any concept of pure enjoyment.

If you like something, you like something. If you don't, you don't. Stop overthinking it, and please go talk with someone, because there seem to be issues here beyond what your penis does.
posted by Tin Man at 7:41 AM on July 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


It really sounds like you are trying to talk yourself into liking women, when what your really like is men.

Why is this important to you? Does it matter which you like? What will happen if you don't like women?

I agree with several other people that it's time to talk to someone in person to sort things through.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:03 AM on July 2, 2010


"Let's theoretically say that for a second that I saw a pretty woman and my wingerdinger went up. Does that necessarily mean that I'm attracted to her? If not, then why do most people believe so. That's the kind of message I'm getting here."

In case no one's ever really talked to you about this stuff (except all of us! Repeatedly!), that's not really how penises work, actually. If so--if every time a man saw an attractive person they instantly had an erection--society would be an entirely different place.

You're asking a complicated question about the relationship of the brain and the penis. As a penis-owner, I would submit that physical arousal and attraction are actually not that tightly correlated. It's entirely likely that every single man on earth has been aroused by someone he finds unattractive and also very likely that every single man on earth has been unaroused by someone he finds very attractive.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:51 AM on July 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Let's drop some science-y stuff. I think it's great that you're trying to learn about this.

Wow thanks! You really did a good job with your research! Thanks again a billion times!
posted by antgly at 2:05 PM on July 2, 2010


Can just thinking about getting a boner make you get one or just at least arouse you? Maybe this is also an element to it?
posted by antgly at 2:08 PM on July 2, 2010


Maybe this is also an element to it?

An element to what? I'm still not sure what problem you're trying to solve here. Forgive me if I'm repeating myself, I'll drop it after this. But this just seems like a strange excuse for a "huh, boners are weird" conversation.
posted by Justinian at 4:58 PM on July 2, 2010


Can just thinking about getting a boner make you get one or just at least arouse you? Maybe this is also an element to it?

Yes. Your brain doesn't just respond to your senses--it responds to your thoughts.

Try this--think of a situation that was really embarrassing. Re-live it a bit. Do you feel good, or do you feel bad? I'm going to guess that you feel bad. You might even blush or your heart rate might go up. That's not because it's actually happening, it's because your thoughts affect you, just like your sensory input does.

Why does thinking about getting a boner give you a boner? Well, when you think about being physically aroused, your body responds by becoming slightly physically aroused. This is the same general thing as thinking of a sexy memory or image and getting a boner. It's not the sensory input--you could be in bed with your eyes closed--it's what you're thinking about that is cuing your body to become aroused. Your thoughts affect your body's reactions. So it makes sense that thinking about a boner might cue your body to get a boner.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:08 PM on July 2, 2010


« Older Another 'Tell me where to live...   |  I'm taking my almost-7-year-ol... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.