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What’s this “Arousal” thing I’ve heard of?
Sexual arousal, the type of arousal I’m talking about here, is the body preparing itself for sexual activity of some kind. It doesn’t mean that you have to do anything, and it doesn’t mean you want to do anything. It’s just your body saying “Hey, there might be sex about to happen. I should probably get ready for that, just in case.” Of course, in some cases, your body isn’t grounded in reality and will end up getting aroused all by itself, for no reason at all.
Arousal is also called being “turned on” because it is, in a way, like your genitals (and other areas, like the nipples) have been turned on or activated. Most of the time, your genitals are in a kind of sleep mode, where they don’t really feel any different or respond to touch more than any other part of your body. For instance, most people with a penis don’t have to fight off an orgasm every time they step up to a urinal. Arousal is the state where these body parts become more sensitive and more receptive to touch and other stimulation.
Can an asexual get aroused?
For the most part, yes. Arousal is a physical response, and it does not require sexual attraction. Aces may be less likely to become aroused in certain situations (for instance, when someone who’s “hot” walks by), but if an asexual cannot get aroused at all, then there is likely something other than asexuality at work and consulting a doctor might be in order.
But doesn’t arousal mean someone isn’t asexual?
Of course not! Arousal in no way contradicts, counteracts, or invalidates asexuality. One of the triggers of sexual arousal is sexual attraction, but there are countless other triggers that have nothing to do with attraction of any kind. Arousal does not mean that someone is thinking about sex, wants sex, or has experienced sexual attraction. It just means that certain body parts are exhibiting their typical functionality.
It’s perfectly fine for an asexual to become aroused.
It’s perfectly fine for an asexual to want to become aroused.
It’s perfectly fine for an asexual to enjoy being aroused.
It’s perfectly fine for an asexual to take steps to become aroused.
It’s perfectly fine for an asexual to become aroused by someone else.
It’s perfectly fine for an asexual to not want to become aroused.
It’s perfectly fine for an asexual to be curious about arousal.
It’s perfectly fine for an asexual to not care about arousal.
We’re not going to take away your Ace Club Membership Card if you’re ever aroused, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise (particularly if that someone is not asexual themselves).
How can I tell if I’m aroused?
If you’re wet and/or hard downstairs, it’s a good bet you’re aroused.
I’m not sure I understand. Can you be a bit more specific about what happens when I’m aroused?
Blood flows to the genitals. This “fills up” or “inflates” certain areas. Your genitals may feel “full” or “warm” or “heavy”.
For a female body, this means your labia will enlarge, the walls of your vagina will swell, and your clitoris will become erect, which means that it’ll get bigger and harder, and may come out of hiding from under its hood. Your nipples may also get hard.
For a male body, this means that your penis will become erect, which means that it’ll get bigger and harder and stand up on its own. This is often the most noticeable sign of arousal in a male body, which is why many people refer to arousal as “getting hard”. If you have a foreskin, the head of the penis may emerge from the foreskin. Your nipples may also get hard.
Your genitals will likely be more sensitive and receptive to touch. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it suddenly feels good if something touches them (although it can), but it does mean that you’re more likely to notice if something touches them. In some cases, you might feel a muscle twitch in response to a touch. In many cases, it will start to feel good after a while if you do touch your genitals at this point. That’s called masturbation, and will be covered in a different post.
Your genitals may change color. They’re probably not going to turn bright green or radioactive fuchsia or anything like that, but they may get darker or turn redder or purple. They may not change color uniformly, either. The head of the clitoris or the penis may change while nothing else does.
Your genitals may become lubricated. This lubrication is a somewhat thick, slippery, clear fluid. It is not urine. There’s usually not a large amount of this fluid, although the more you’re aroused or the longer you’re aroused, the more of it there will typically be. If you pinch some of it between your fingers, then pull your fingers apart, the fluid may form a string between your fingers.
For a male body, there may be a small amount of lubricating fluid that flows out of the tip of the penis. This is called pre-ejaculate fluid, also known as precum. It won’t come out in a stream, like urine, or a spurt, like semen. Instead, a few drops at a time will flow from the urethra. This fluid is often not produced right away after becoming aroused. It is not the same as semen and does not typically contain sperm. In some cases, you may even produce this fluid without an erection, if you have been at a low level of arousal for a while. It doesn’t always happen, and doesn’t happen for everyone, so don’t worry if you don’t have any.
For a female body, the walls of the vagina may become lubricated. This is often the most noticeable sign of arousal in a female body, which is why many people refer to arousal as “getting wet”. As the vagina becomes lubricated, the fluid may spread to the rest of the vulva area.
Your pulse and rate of breathing may increase.
You may get a “sex flush”, which looks a bit like you’re blushing, but it’s primarily on your chest. Don’t worry if you don’t have this happen, though. Many people do not.
None of these changes are permanent. As the arousal subsides, all of these changes will go away, whether or not you’ve had an orgasm.
I may get “hard”? Like concrete?
It’s not actually like that at all. Your genitals won’t feel like they’re solid all of a sudden. It actually feels more firm, kinda like a muscle. Harder than usual, yes, but still with some give to it.
Since it’s called being “turned on”, does that mean I’ll get aroused instantly?
Although it’s called being “turned on”, it’s less like turning on a light and more like turning on an oven. It may take a while for everything to warm up. You may not always be aware of the early stages of arousal, though.
How long does arousal last?
Anywhere from a few seconds to several hours. It all depends on what you do. If you ignore the arousal and stop any kind of stimulation (including of the mental kind) that might be contributing to the arousal, it’ll often dissipate within a minute or so. On the other hand, if you encourage the arousal in some way, then it can hang around for pretty much as long as you want it to.
Is arousal always the same?
No. All of the effects are variable. One time, you may end up very wet, but the next time, there might be hardly anything. One time, you might become extremely sensitive to even the lightest touch, but the next time, you might be practically numb. One time you might have a large and very stiff erection, but the next time, you might only get partially hard. One time, you may stay aroused for half an hour, but the next time, you might only be aroused for a minute.
Does arousal feel good?
Maybe. Often, arousal in itself is vaguely pleasant, but doesn’t really feel good. What you do with the arousal can feel very good, though. Sometimes, when you’re aroused, any contact with your genitals will send a shudder of pleasure through your body. Other times, it doesn’t feel much different down there than it normally does. Once you’re aroused, continued stimulation of your genitals may lead to orgasm, which usually feels really good. Both orgasms and self-stimulation of your genitals (called masturbation) will be covered in other posts.
What if I don’t want to be aroused?
Wait a while. It’ll usually fade away if you don’t do anything to keep it around. Thing is, it has a habit of being just noticeable enough that it’ll keep you thinking about it, and thinking about it will keep you aroused. So do something that’ll get you distracted, if possible. Also, try shifting how you’re sitting and adjust your pants. That may sound silly, but pressure on the parts down below (from sitting in a certain way or from clothing pressed against them) can actually trigger arousal.
Having an orgasm, through masturbation or other means, will also often take care of arousal, but that’s probably not the answer you were looking for…
How can I get aroused if I want to be?
First, relax. Don’t push it. Forcing yourself to become aroused and failing leads to stress, and stress is one of the most common arousal killers. Don’t go into it thinking “This will never work”, because if you’re thinking that, there’s a good chance it won’t work.
There are many ways to try to become aroused. This is only a partial list, there are countless others not listed here.
- Think about becoming aroused. Arousal is sometimes a self-fulfilling idea.
- Touch yourself or have someone you’re comfortable with touch you. Touching or rubbing your genitals, your inner thighs, or your breasts and nipples can often lead to arousal. Sometimes even a shoulder massage might be enough to turn you on.
- For males, touching, rubbing, squeezing or pulling on the shaft of your penis may work. The head of the penis may be too sensitive to touch initially. You may try sliding the skin of the shaft up and down gently. Touching or rubbing your testicles or pressing against your perineum may also help.
- For females, touching or rubbing your vulva may work. Cupping your hand around the front of your vulva, and moving your hand back and forth while pressing against the vulva (gently at first) may also help. Rubbing the outside of the clitoral hood or sliding the hood gently might get you aroused, although the clitoris itself may be too sensitive to touch. Note that vaginal penetration may not be all that effective.
- Apply pressure to your genitals. Sit or lie in such a way that something presses against your genitals, in particular, your clitoris or penis. A bunched up towel or blanket, balled up socks, or a folded pillow will often provide the right amount of pressure.
- Think about sex. Even though you’re asexual, thinking about sexual situations (Even if you’re not fantasizing about taking part) can get you aroused. This does not mean that you’re not asexual.
- Watch porn, watch a steamy scene in a movie, or read an erotic story. Even if you’re asexual, erotica can sometimes turn you on. This does not mean that you’re not asexual.
- Use a sex toy. Vibrators will generally work on a clitoris or a penis, and a cock ring will generally work on a penis.
- Repeatedly clench and release your muscles downstairs, the same ones you’d use to stop peeing. (Those are called your PC muscles and these clench-and-release exercises are called “Kegels”.) Try clenching those muscles tight for as long as you can hold them.
- Drive on a bumpy road or sit on a washing machine. The strong vibrations may work to turn you on.
- Press your thighs together repeatedly. This has the effect of moving skin around and applying pressure to your genitals, without direct contact.
- Read a list of tips for how to become aroused. If you became aroused while reading the above, there’s nothing wrong with that.
Is it harder for an asexual to get aroused?
It’s probably harder for an asexual person to become aroused while thinking about sex. It’s probably not any harder to become aroused by touching themselves or through most of the other methods I mentioned above.
Arousal is largely a physical process, and asexuality does not have a physical component. As such, asexuality by itself does not prevent the physical process from taking place.
Of course, although arousal is a physical process, it can often be influenced by your state of mind. That’s why thinking about sex can lead to arousal and being stressed out can prevent arousal. So, if you feel that asexuals can’t get aroused or shouldn’t get aroused, or that being aroused means you’re not asexual, it’s certainly possible that those thoughts might be inhibiting arousal.
Can an asexual get aroused by another person?
Yep. Being asexual means that you don’t experience sexual attraction, but there are plenty of ways that someone else can get you aroused that don’t require attraction. Getting aroused by someone else does not mean that you’re attracted to them, it just means that your body parts are doing what millions of years of evolution have resulted in them being built to do.
Can an asexual get aroused by porn or erotic stories?
Yep. It has been well established that people of any sexual orientation can be aroused by porn or erotic stories, even if the content runs counter to their sexual orientation. Straight women can get turned on by lesbian porn, straight men can get turned on by the sight of a penis, lesbians sometimes enjoy watching gay male porn, and gay men sometimes enjoy watching a woman touch herself. It does not mean that everyone is secretly bisexual, it just means that, for many people, one of the triggers of arousal is the sight of sex, regardless of the specific anatomy involved. This is also true for many asexuals.
I can’t seem to get aroused. Why not? What can I do about it?
In many cases, an inability to become aroused is something you might want to discuss with your doctor, especially if you view it as a problem. This is true, even if you have no interest in having sex with someone else. There may be a treatable physical or psychological reason for your lack of arousal. The following is a list of some specific reasons for why you might not be able to get aroused, but it’s by no means the only possible reasons.
- Stressing about not being able to be aroused is often one of the biggest reasons someone can’t get aroused. If you’ve convinced yourself that you can’t get aroused, then you probably won’t be able to get aroused. Then next time you try, you’ll remember that you couldn’t get aroused the last time you tried, and you’ll be caught up in a downward spin.. Clear your mind of such negative thoughts and try again. Don’t worry if you don’t succeed the first time. Or the second. Or the thirtieth or fortieth.
- Stress or fear can also inhibit arousal. If you’re too distracted by other things, you might keep talking yourself out of becoming aroused. Calm down and relax and try again. Try a different time, when you’re not so wound up. If you’re afraid of being aroused, don’t be. It doesn’t hurt. Many, many people have become aroused (including many you know), without any ill effects. You may enjoy it, if you give yourself permission to.
- Thinking that your body is ugly or your genitals are gross or -ewww fluids-, or something along those lines can make you not want to be aroused. So, on those notes, your body isn’t ugly, your genitals aren’t gross, and there are ways to avoid the fluids (which are easy to get rid of by washing your hands, anyway).
- Some drugs and alcohol can turn arousal right off. Getting drunk or high may end up leading to sex that wouldn’t have happened when sober, but that’s primarily because getting high or drunk tends to lower inhibitions, not because it makes you more likely to become aroused. It’s well documented that alcohol consumption can lead to impotence.
- Taking certain medications can reduce sexual arousal. Two well known culprits are the birth control pill and anti-depressants, but they are by no means the only ones. If you used to be able to get aroused, but you haven’t had as much luck since you started taking a new pill, tell your doctor about it.
- Some physical conditions may make arousal difficult or painful. If you think you may have one of these conditions, speak with your doctor.
What’s a libido? Is it like arousal?
Libido is often called a “sex drive”. It’s an urge to engage in some kind of sexual activity. It’s primarily a mental thing. Arousal, on the other hand, is a primarily physical thing, where the genitals wake up and get ready for some sort of sexual activity. It’s possible to have a libido and not be aroused and it’s possible to be aroused without a libido, although, often if you have a libido, it will contribute to arousal and arousability.
Think of it this way: The libido is when your genitals say “Hey! Hey! Down here! Notice me! I wanna do something! Down here! Hey! Listen!” and generally nag you for attention. Arousal is when your genitals physically react to something. Either one can happen without the other, but if your genitals are nagging you, they’re also more likely to be reacting physically.
Not everyone has a libido. If you’re perfectly fine without having a sex drive, then there’s nothing wrong with that. However, if you used to have a libido and it’s suddenly disappeared, you may want to consult a doctor, as that could be a sign of a medical issue.
For some people, libido is a fairly constant background noise. You may experience it to some extent all the time. For others, it seems to come and go. In particular, if you have a menstrual cycle, you may find that your libido acts up for a few days during part of the cycle, then quiets down until next month.
It is possible to ignore your libido and not engage in any kind of sexual activity, even though it wants you to do something. It’s also possible to decide to engage in some kind of sexual activity, even without a libido encouraging you to do so.
Can asexuals have a libido?
Yes, aces can. To many people, the concept is a bit strange. How can an asexual have a “sex drive” and still be considered asexual? The answer is that asexuality is about attraction, not action. For non-asexual people, the libido often manifests in thoughts like “I’m horny and I would like to have sex with that person because I find them sexually attractive”, while for asexual people, it’s often more like “I’m horny and … uh, what now?” It’s an undirected sex drive. Their body is begging for sexual activity, but it’s not begging for it from a particular source. In many cases, asexual people with a libido will resolve the issue by masturbating, but it’s also possible that they’ll have sex with a partner or even just ignore it and do nothing at all until it goes away.
On the other hand, many asexuals do not have a libido. They never feel an innate urge to engage in sexual activity. That doesn’t mean that they can’t engage in sexual activity (whether that be masturbation, partnered sex, or what have you), it just means that there’s never a compelling urge to do so.
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