Finding my turn-ons.
February 10, 2021 12:36 AM   Subscribe

What are some resources for discovering what turns me on? I know my turn-offs but not turn-ons.

I've had good sex in the past so it seems something(s) must turn me on, but I have no idea what it was that did it. I've tried those "what turns you on" quizzes but they seem to have a chicken-and-egg problem: if I knew enough about myself to answer their questions, I wouldn't need the quiz!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

I'm afraid the only way to find out is to find a cooperating partner who is open to a bit of experimentation and is adventurous enough to do them. Obviously, this would require someone you trust intimately to not go over the line and stop when you find it uncomfortable or no-go.

(I'm not a therapist or sexologist of any sort, unless you count reading 3000 romance novels some sort of accomplishment. :D )
posted by kschang at 2:27 AM on February 10, 2021 [2 favorites]

Agree that exploring and experimenting with a partner is all to the good, but fantasising and exploring your sexuality in your mind and with the use of erotica and/or porn can also help. Of course fantasy is not the same as reality, but you might find, for example, that some extreme D/s fantasies translate into a milder liking for constraint or control in real life.

I like Dodson and Ross's approach to sex which focuses on getting to know your own body and orgasm- you might find some tips on their website.
posted by Balthamos at 3:25 AM on February 10, 2021 [2 favorites]

Nancy Friday's books on sexual fantasies may be a good starting point. They are not erotic fiction, per se... she asked people to contribute their fantasies for the collection so they are more like written descriptions of what thoughts and fantasies real people say turns them on. Most of the books are from a female perspective (My Secret Garden, Forbidden Flowers, Women on Top) but there is one from a male perspective as well (Men in Love.) These could be useful just to give yourself a taste of what-all is out there and working for others, as far as what they think about to get the sexual energy flowing.

Steve and Iris Finz have written a series of books of sexual fantasies in which the "contributions" read like erotic stories told from a first-person perspective (I put contributions in quotes because they are less open about the sources of these fantasies and it's likely they are simply writing these themselves rather than publishing contributions.) Again, these books present a broad range of types of sexual fantasies, so you can get a better idea of what kind of stuff you think is hot.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:10 AM on February 10, 2021

Audio erotica is a nice way to explore. There's quite a lot of quality, sex-positive content out there on sites like Quinn, and it gets at both the mental and physical aspects of arousal.

If you are a cis women, I also strongly recommend Come as You Are by Emily Nagoski.
posted by veery at 6:16 AM on February 10, 2021 [2 favorites]

I am afraid I don't have resources, just a perspective.

Maybe focussing on specific things that turn you on is not the right thing for you? I definitely don't work this way. It's a holistic thing for me. If someone is really into me, that turns me on. That's a vague, abstract thing, and not properly reducible to a set of specific actions. I mean, I could ask someone to 'play at being really into me', but I don't think that would be the same.

I am not trying to directly compare your sex life to mine, but just offer another angle on this: reducing sex to a series of specific 'turn ons' might be the wrong way of thinking about it.

Sex doesn't have to work that way.
posted by 0bvious at 8:07 AM on February 10, 2021 [5 favorites]

I embarked on this very project as a young adult, and what I did was just consume a lot of different kinds of erotica and porn and see what turned me on. I went about it very deliberately, like homework almost. It can feel embarrassing to do this if you’re not used to it, and you may decide it’s not for you, but I found it very helpful!
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:17 AM on February 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

I really love this answer by fritillary in a previous ask:

What if you're turned on by other things? Could be: Novelty. Cruelty. Surprise. A certain look or turn of phrase. Watching yourself be desired. Being naughty. Being the boss. Giving up power. Fantasy. Roleplay. Extreme sensations. Extreme feelings. Adventure. Feeling dangerous. Feeling threatened. Free-wheeling conversation. Laser sharp or really diffuse focus. Unusual mental states. Pain. Loss of control. Getting out of your head. Denial. Ignoring. Having to work for your pleasure. Humiliation. Roughness. Tenderness. No holds-barred energy exchange. Laughter! Brattiness! Boldness! Silliness! Games! Teasing! Providing. Being treated. Secrets. Openness. Anticipation. Seeing your S.O. be competent or admired. Going all in on a project, side by side...
posted by danceswithlight at 11:27 AM on February 10, 2021 [6 favorites]

One aspect of this that might make things very challenging is if you are demi-sexual. Research is not going to get you terribly far if your libido is mostly activated by your emotional bond with your partner(s). Was there anything about your previous good sex experiences that you could point to as a pattern? Think beyond physical acts?
posted by birdsquared at 5:36 PM on February 10, 2021 [3 favorites]

I do wonder if it'd be more clarifying if you asked yourself why you want to know what turns you on? Is it so that you can communicate those desires with a partner? Maybe you wonder if you're "broken" or "not normal" for not seeing turn-ons the same way other people seem to? Idle curiosity?

A lot of what makes up the human psyche is often hard to define in concrete terms, and is usually not easily reducible to lists. For instance, I could say I'm interested in a partner that takes a dominant role, but there are so many caveats and nuances to that statement for me that it would still require negotiation with a partner that was interested in filling that role for me.

Also seconding birdsquared: it's probably good to think outside the box on this for yourself. And be kind with yourself; introspection is a journey, not a destination.
posted by Aleyn at 11:59 AM on February 11, 2021

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