sexual response


Desire and Arousal

Let me briefly break down these two terms. I’ve already covered the basics of sexual motivation and desire. In the simplest of terms, desire is the experience of wanting to engage in sex. Arousal encompasses the physical and psychological events that happen. Sexual response is a collective term for both of these.

What is a model?

A scientific model is not an exact description of reality, it’s a representation created to help us understand complex ideas and processes (like sexual response). I’m going to talk about one popular model, but there are many more!

The Dual Control Model

In the last two decades since it was created, Dr. John Bancroft and Dr. Erick Janssen’s Dual Control Model of sexual response has been used in scientific research, education and even mainstream media (you may have even heard of it already!).

The easiest way to understand the systems of the Dual Control Model is by using the metaphor of the ‘accelerator’ and ‘brake’. The accelerator is ‘sexual excitation’ (what turns you on) and the brake is ‘sexual inhibition’ (what turns you off).

So how does this model help us understand sexual response?

We all vary greatly in terms of how strong our accelerators and brake are, and what hits each one is very different for everyone. There are so many combinations! Figuring out how sensitive each of your ‘pedals’ are and what internal and external things hit each one is very helpful.

It’s also useful to remember that, just like in a car, the brake serves a purpose. Never taking your foot off the accelerator is not a safe way to drive!

Here are some scenarios where sexual inhibition is necessary:

  • the situation could harm you physically, emotionally or socially
  • there is an external distraction that interrupts you
  • you have a more pressing need to take care of

The Dual Control Model doesn’t describe what’s going on physiologically or psychologically during sexual response. However, it’s a great tool for understanding what factors inflence our internal processes.

Practical Advice

I love that this model provides a simple framework to list what excites you sexually and what inhibits or stops your sexual response. Making these lists can help you figure out what you can do in the future to maximise pleasure!

Here are some questions to ask yourself while thinking of times you felt turned on/off in the past…

  • Where were you?
  • What were you doing?
  • Who were you with?
  • Were there sounds, smells, images, tastes, sensations involved?

Be as specific or abstract as you want!

I’ve drawn up a template that you can save and fill in using the questions above as prompts. If you feel like sharing your lists with us, we’d love to see them! You can send them to us on Instagram.