It's 2010 : Where the Hell's My Orgasmatron?
October 15, 2010 8:59 PM   Subscribe

Are there any systematic/scientific-method-y ways of learning more about one's sexuality (namely, personal arousal cues/triggers)?

Background: late-twenties female. Within the realm of normal in all relevant ways. In a rockin' LTR. Not on any meds (save a multivitamin). INTJ. Very mildly Asperger's-y, somewhat moreso alexithymic. HOWEVER. I've realized that, while I enjoy sex quite a bit, I really have no idea how to determine what "works" to get me aroused. Is there a book or software program or SOMETHING which can help me determine what gets my blood bubblin'?

Lots of other people realize early on - when getting spanked, or making out with their first boyfriend, or watching porn - what sort of things turn them on. Me? I've felt aroused, sure, but haven't been able to pinpoint what does the trick each and every time.

There are kits to help people determine which types of chocolate or wine they enjoy. There are biofeedback machines to help people learn how to calm the hell down. What sort of resources might exist to help ME learn what sort of images/touches/scenarios/toys/etc. will get my juices flowing?

All suggestions welcome OTHER THAN, 1. Therapy (not an option at present for several reasons), and 2. "Just play around with your partner and see what happens!" I've been doing so for fifteen years, sans any solid results - that's why I'm writing. Thanks, HiveMind!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Hmm, well since it's Friday night I'll bite. I guess I'm dubious about all such litmus tests for things like one's taste in wine, chocolate, art...and, transitively, sex. I suppose one might imagine a future world where our scientific knowledge is so great that we could examine someone's objective traits, like DNA or what have you, to reveal what we now think of as 'subjective' traits. But I don't think there are many sufficient tests to determine such things - I'm even a bit wary of standards like the Myers-Briggs as well. Just always seems to over-simplify.

The two things that stick out to me in your question are 1) that you are alexithymic, and 2) that your in a committed relationship and, even after 15 years of sex, haven't found what sexually arouses you. It would seem to me that perhaps your alexithymia is severe to the point that, even if you were aroused, you might have difficulty identifying it or describing to your partner what it is your feeling or want to be feeling.

IANAD, but my layman opinion would be 1) if you have not been formally diagnosed with alexithymia, please see a specialist, which will probably include the answer you don't want 2) you should probably seek some sort of medical treatment, which, yes, should probably include a therapist. I don't know why you say it isn't an option, but...there are lots of orgs and things that can help you get access to this sort of thing if it's a money/insurance issue.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:29 PM on October 15, 2010

Lots of other people realize early on - when getting spanked, or making out with their first boyfriend, or watching porn - what sort of things turn them on.

I think it is less clear for most people than you think it is. I mean, hell, people are all the time asking "Am I gay?" -- if they can't even figure out if they like men or women, how are they supposed to know if they like being spanked?

My point here is that the ambiguity and confusion you are expressing is a lot more normal than you think it is. I'm not saying that you are doomed to never having a clue; just that you aren't the only person in the room feeling this way.

Have you looked at Nancy Friday's books, My Secret Garden and it's successors? The sheer variety and almost laundry-list cataloging of possible fantasies might help you bracket things somewhat, at least by broad area.

But that only helps on the fantasy front -- what people enjoy thinking about and what people enjoy doing are often radically different things. And I'm not aware of any shortcut on the latter other than diving in and experimenting. Even then, so much is situational -- you might enjoy doing X, Y, and Z with person A, but with person B you will prefer X, Q, and R.
posted by Forktine at 10:40 PM on October 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

You could try looking at this website and seeing which areas of the "map" appeal to you. It won't help with identifying arousal, but you might find some points where you do know you get aroused, and then you could experiment with the practices that neighbour these on the map.
posted by lollusc at 10:52 PM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't mean to be rude, coarse or dismissive, but..

Would it not be possible to do your own experiment in this? Just go to one of those enormous encyclopedic pornography sites and flick through categories until you see/read something that gets you going? Then repeat.

You might try these: for pictures - pichunter, for video - youporn, for literature - literotica. Or for an enormous list of all sorts of sites -
posted by Ahab at 12:21 AM on October 16, 2010

There are biofeedback machines that are inserted into a vagina that attempt to measure arousal. They were originally used to treat vaginal pain but have opened the door to other things. The downside is that not every woman shows arousal through the physical changes in her vagina.
posted by WhiteWhale at 6:34 AM on October 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding Fortine's recommendation of Nancy Friday's books. They are collections of women's fantasies described in detail, in which each woman relates her fantasy in her own words. The fantasies can be very arousing to read. If you mark the fantasies that get you going as you read, you might be able to discover some patterns in the types of things that turn you on.

The book Arousal: The Secret Logic of Sexual Fantasies is pretty interesting in analyzing the theme behind sexual fantasies, to discover why you are turned on by certain things. Again, it may help you discover a common thread once you've figured out a few scenarios that turn you on.

But that only helps on the fantasy front -- what people enjoy thinking about and what people enjoy doing are often radically different things

This is absolutely true. None of my sure-fire get-me-going-every-time fantasies are things I'd want to do in real life... some wouldn't even be possible except maybe through role-playing (which doesn't interest me, but could turn out to be just the thing for you if what turns you on isn't something concrete that your partner could do to you.)

It is possible you are a fairly vanilla person in terms of what you enjoy physically doing sexually, and what you really need are a few fantasies that you can play in your head during sex to help boost your arousal. (As an aside: having fantasies in bed doesn't have to mean you shut out awareness of your partner while you run a private movie in your head... once you know what gets you going you can shift your awareness back and forth between your partner and your mental scenario as needed.)

It is also possible you do require an elaborate real-life scene of some sort in order to really get going. Try reading some BDSM erotica, for instance, and see if anything sparks for you. If so, there are a TON of how-to books on the subject, read up and then ease into trying a few things and see how it goes.

In fact I would recommend just reading as many different kinds of erotica as you can get your hands on. There is such a variety of themes and styles out there. Chick-lit erotica is everywhere right now, as is vampire erotica. But there is also Penthouse letters (collections of supposedly reader-submitted stories of real sexual experiences;) Victorian erotica, also written as first-person experiences but in a rather more fevered and imaginitive tone; erotic novels (these are usually heavy on spanking and dom/sub stuff;) romance novels (not Harlequin... but the thick "historical" romances often have some hot stuff in them;) and on and on. You might even find you enjoy clinical descriptions of sex. There are people who get turned on reading things like Kinsey and Sheri Hite, I also remember reading about someone who really enjoyed reading some sciency-psychology book about sexual deviance. My local Borders has a huge section of erotica and sexual how-to books, if you have a large bookstore near you, go browse!

If you have difficulty with imagination as some Aspies do, it could be that fantasies and mental stuff are never going to do much for you. If nothing you read about really gets you going, but a few things do produce a glimmer of arousal or interest, see if you can figure out a way to experience it in real life. You might find the idea of being tied up (or tying your partner up) only mildly arousing in fantasy/erotica but actually experiencing it could be wildly arousing.

Tl;dr... Read a ton. Experiment a ton. Try anything that even mildly interests you. Also, maybe think about keeping a journal of your reading and experimentation. You may eventually see a pattern or theme emerging.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 6:35 AM on October 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

You may not want to hear this, but what turns me on with one person might not be the go button with another -something that drive me crazy with one person might actually get on my nerves with another. It's always contextual.

There are a few things I never like and probably never will, but that’s the only way I can narrow it down.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 11:11 AM on October 16, 2010

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