hi everyone! my name is sarah, and welcomeback to everyday consent. today weâ€™re going to talk a bit about arousal,and weâ€™re going to learn why itâ€™s important to separate how aroused someoneâ€™s body mightlook, how aroused that person actually feels, and whether that person actually wants tohave sex. letâ€™s start by thinking about some commonlyknown physical signs of arousal. youâ€™re
lack of errection, probably familiar with some of the following:increased heart rate hardened nipplesheavy breathing erect penis or clitoristightened scrotum swollen labialubricated vagina
the messages that we often hear about thesesigns is that they are equivalent to arousal itself. in other words, that if someone hasan erect penis or a lubricated vagina, then they must be aroused, and we even sometimeshear that if they are aroused, then they must want to have sex. the reasoning behind this conflation is complex,but it is partly because so much of the language that we use around sex and desire is in theform of euphemism and metaphor. think about the saying, â€˜is that a gun in your pocketor are you just happy to see me?â€™ the speaker is talking about an erect penis, but namingit as sexual excitement. romance novels do this a lot too, using phrases like â€˜histhrobbing desireâ€™ and â€˜her yearning dampnessâ€™.
using these bodily changes to communicatearousal is so instinctual, that one of the most common ways to tell someone that youâ€™returned on is to say â€˜iâ€™m so hardâ€™ or â€˜iâ€™m so wetâ€™. and because we talk aboutthese two things so interchangeably, it can be easy to assume that they are actually thesame thing. buuuut itâ€™s not quite that simple. the bodyand the mind donâ€™t always line up so easily. and if you think about it, you probably alreadyknow this. this tends to be most widely understood when it comes to penises and unexpected erections.if you have a penis, youâ€™ve likely experienced this. even if you donâ€™t have a penis, youâ€™velikely heard stories about things like erections first thing in the morning, unexpected erectionsin class or in the grocery store, or even
erections caused by certain fabrics. theseare all pretty common examples of erections that are not at all linked to arousal. similarly, itâ€™s also a common experiencefor a penis owner to be very aroused, but unable to achieve an erection. if this isa chronic problem itâ€™s often related to erectile dysfunction, but a person can alsobe perfectly healthy and experience a lack of erection every once in a while. okay sarah, so we can have an erection whilenot aroused, and we can be aroused without an erection. but how often does that happen?and what does this mean for people without penises, what does it mean for people withvulvas? now thatâ€™s where things get interesting,
and where we turn to research for the answers. multiple studies have been conducted whichmeasure the genital response of subjects while watching short clips of different kinds ofpornography, and some of these studies also included clips of animals mating instead ofhumans, as well as clips with no sexual content at all. they did this by attaching a â€œstrain gaugeâ€to the penis and by measuring blood flow to the vulva, and having the participants separatelyrecord what they perceived to be their own level of arousal. what these studies havefound, is that there is quite often a difference between subjectsâ€™ genital response and theirreported level of arousal. this discrepancy
is called arousal non concordance. these studies also found that there are significantlydifferent patterns in male versus female respondents. annoyingly, i havenâ€™t been able to findany information about the gender identities of participants or whether these studies includedany intersex individuals, so we simply donâ€™t know how these trends play out in populationsother than cis women and cis men. but what these studies did find is that inbiosex males, genital response and reported arousal, though far from lining up perfectly,were correlated enough to be considered highly statistically significant. one source saysabout 50% of the time. in biosex females, however, they did not correlateenough to be considered statistically significant
at all. the physical response and reportedarousal matched as low as 10% of the time. what this means is that, as a group, cis mentend to have concordant arousal, where genital response can be considered predictive of subjectivearousal, whereas cis women, as a group, tend to have non concordant arousal. itâ€™s importantto note that this is statistically speaking. any single individual could land anywhereon the concordance spectrum, but there is a striking difference between these two groups,and this difference has been replicated in multiple studies. so all of this is discussing the differencebetween genital response and arousal. itâ€™s important to note that even actual arousalis also different from wanting to have sex.
thinking back to those people in the lab beingstudied, of the ones that did report that they felt aroused, itâ€™s unlikely that allof them actually wanted to start having sex right there in the middle of the lab. andthis is true just generally. iâ€™m not going to go into much detail today, but there areplenty of things that could lead a person who is aroused to not actually want to havesex, like being stressed out, or busy, or not wanting to cheat on their spouse, or anynumber of other conscious and unconscious reasons. so letâ€™s go back to the issue i mentionedat the beginning of the video. the issue of assuming that, because someoneâ€™s genitalsare acting in a certain way, then that person
must want to have sex. not only does arousalnot necessarily mean that person wants to have sex, we also learned today that theirgenitals acting that way might not even indicate arousal. and the other way around too, thatthey might be aroused even if their genitals donâ€™t act like we expect them to. so what does all this mean for us, my fellowconsent explorers? well mostly itâ€™s just something to keep in mind. this reminds usto try not to make too many assumptions about whatâ€™s going on with our sexual partnersbased only on what we can see. we now know that especially if our partner has a vulva,their genital response or lack thereof might say something very different from what theyâ€™reactually feeling, and, even if they have a
penis, the state of that penis might stillnot actually tell us whatâ€™s going on. so all of that is to say, if we want to knowhow aroused our partner is, we should probably ask. your assignment this week is to reflect onhow this has related to your own experiences. have you ever guessed about how aroused apartner was based on what their genitals were doing? have you ever found out that your guesswas wrong? has anyone ever made assumptions about yourlevel of arousal based on your genitals that turned out to be incorrect?in any of these cases, what could you or someone
else have said to clear up these misconceptions?
as always, let me know any of your thoughtsdown in the comments or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. happy consenting, folks, see you next week!