A picture of a aphrodisiac (fruit)

Push the right buttons.

Some things turn us on and some things just don’t

All of us have preferences – this is very important to keep this in mind when it comes to your sex life. To put it quite simply – some things turn us on and some things just don’t. It is so crucial for couples to learn what turns their partner on and what can completely kill the mood – because it is not the same for both parties. Interestingly according to the Dual Control Model of Sexual Response (DCM), all humans gave sexual accelerators and sexual brakes in our central nervous system. So being turned on or completely turned off by certain thoughts, images, sounds, sensations, etc is completely normal and part of your own unique composition. 

Sexual accelerators

In order to have a healthy, flourishing and satisfying sex life in your marriage, you have to want to have sex. And to want to have sex, you have to be aroused or turned on. Becoming turned on is not as easy for everyone and thus it can be of great use to identify what your personal sexual accelerators and brakes are. Our sexual accelerators (or also known as the SES – Sexual excitation system) have only one goal and that is to pursue sexual pleasure. According to Paula de la Torre, this system helps you to become aroused by using sexually relevant stimuli through your senses and then sends signals from the brain to the genitals to become aroused. This system is constantly looking for thoughts, feelings, fantasies, etc. that can help you become sexually turned on.

Maybe you can recognize this in your own life:

Perhaps an accelerator can be when you watch a movie and there is a love scene, automatically you are turned on;
or when your partner whispers something in your ear from behind your neck;
maybe it is when he/she looks at you in a certain way;
or even when you smell a perfume that reminds you of an intimate connection.

There can be so many accelerators – unique to each person. Basically, it is things in your daily life that helps you to get in the mood. There is a but, though! When the brakes are more stimulated than the accelerators, it can have a massive impact on your sexual desire and actual physical reaction. In a healthy relationship, we want the accelerators to be more than the brakes. But we have to know what our brakes are and what triggers them. 

Sexual brakes

The reality is that we all have sexual brakes – whether we have a healthy sexual appetite or not. There are certain things that just kills the mood for us and can take our sexual thermometer to 0. It is important to recognize these brakes for two reasons: 

  1. So that you don’t start thinking there is something wrong with you – but just realizing that it is only your own physical reaction to something that you don’t like
  2. So that your partner knows it is a brake for you. He/she doesn’t have to feel the pressure of performing and can stop pushing the wrong buttons but rather focus on what actually turns you on

Our sexual brakes are known as SIS (Sexual Inhibition System) and this system basically looks for any reason not to be aroused or simply stated – to turn you off. These brakes can be due to external or internal causes. 

–      Internal: These are the more emotional stuff. Thoughts, feelings, memories, and emotions that cause us to pull back and make it difficult to become aroused. This is probably one of the most popular brakes in relationships and it differs from individual to individual. Feeling uncomfortable with your body can be a massive sexual brake; fear of performance or reaching a climax; our emotional condition (stress, arguments, etc) can be a brake.

–      External: These brakes are activated by external circumstances that indicate the inappropriateness and potential risk or danger of becoming aroused. This can be due to fear of rejection; fear of consequences; the fear of experiencing pain during sex, etc. 

It is so important to identify your sexual accelerators and brakes and then to communicate them to your partner. It might be quite an interesting journey for both of you in discovering what really turns you on and the excitement that goes along in actually pushing the right buttons. 

Identify your brakes and accelerators 

Using the following guidelines can help you and your partner in identifying what the sexual brakes and accelerators in your relationship are. The most important thing is to be open and honest with each other and to create a safe (guilt-free) space between the two of you. It may be a bit sensitive when you have been initiating sex for the past couple of years and realizing now that it is actually a brake for your partner. See this as an opportunity for growth and the start to great, mutual and exciting sex. 

The following questions can act as a guide to help you discover and communicate what sexual cues set the mood and which completely kills it. It is important to give each partner a chance to answer and not to correct them when he/she is being vulnerable about their sexual cues. 

  1. When it comes to sex, do you prefer a soft and romantic approach or a more feisty and fiery approach?
  2. Do you prefer to be in control during sex or not? 
  3. What do you feel about playing sexual fantasy games, Dressups, acting, etc? 
  4. What is your thoughts and feelings toward using sexual toys? 
  5. When thinking about sex and your own sex life, what is it that turns you off or kills the mood for you? Name all that you can think of. Give each other the time and space to ask questions in order to really understand and not to take offense. 
  6. Share one of your own personal sexual fantasies with your partner. (This will help you in identifying your sexual accelerators).
  7. When thinking about your relationship, what do you feel arouses you and which your partner should keep on doing (If it is more than one thing, please share!)

Push the right buttons and ask the following questions:

  1. In what way would you like me to initiate sex? Is there only one way?
  2. What can I do differently and why?
  3. What do you need from me before, during and after sex?
  4. Name three things from the top of your head that you would like to try in your sex life (things that you think are potential accelerators).

The art of these exercises lay in the trial and error – in having grace with each other in discovering what works and what doesn’t. Enjoy the journey of getting to know each other in a more intimate, personal and quite vulnerable way. 

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