What is Arousal?

An experience of sexual stimulation and pleasure, visual, tactile or otherwise. Can be brief or prolonged, sought out or spontaneous. The dictionary definition of “arouse” is “to evoke or awaken.”  This definition reminds us that arousal awakens the erotic part of us that is always within us, a part of our very being.

Stimulation from any number of sources can awaken this energy, bringing our attention more fully to our sexuality and desires. Humans can even be aroused by thoughts alone, the memory or an idea of pleasure is enough to stimulate the system and create full body arousal.

Arousal and Desire

We humans are capable of a wide range of sexual arousal and pleasurable climaxes. Some people like to have one intense climax, others enjoy having a series of orgasms. Some people struggle to have an orgasm at all, while others want to learn to sustain arousal and delay orgasm or ejaculation. With so many possible ways to feel sexual pleasure, it is important to explore a wide range of pleasure responses and be able to experience the kind of arousal and climax you most desire.

People have different sexual goals. Men are often more concerned about trying to prolong arousal and even not ejaculate during arousal, while women are often interested in becoming orgasmic or multi-orgasmic. we can all experience both, and here are some tools to help you experience a wider range of arousal and climax.

To begin paying more attention to your arousal patterns and develop an ability to author your own arousal experiences, it is good to begin with your masturbation practice. This is like a laboratory for your sexual expression. Then you can begin experimenting with a partner.

How To Get an Erection

Q: I feel mis-informed about erections and arousal.   There are times when I am aroused about sex but not hard.  Is that normal?

A: Men are taught that arousal and erection are a package deal, just like orgasm and ejaculation. To enjoy more sexual pleasure and erotic freedom, it is essential to dismantle this myth and understand these events to be complementary experiences that may come in any combination.

We have a whole book dedicated to how to separate ejaculation from orgasm so you can enjoy prolonged arousal and multiple orgasms: The Pleasure Mechanics Guide to Ejaculation Control.

Erections and arousal are a bit of a trickier subject.

It is perfectly normal for a man to feel aroused and not be erect. Arousal is a full-body experience and you can be highly aroused without getting an erection. If it is not getting in the way of your sexual experience, and you experience full erections some of the time, it probably is not something you need to worry about. There is so much you can enjoy with your partner without an erection, and broadening your sexual repertoire is always a good idea.

If you are never getting fully erect, or your lack of erection is getting in the way of enjoying a satisfying sexual experience, there are ways to explore how to get a stronger erection.

The first check-in is with your overall health. Obesity, diabetes, heart disease and pharmaceuticals can have a major impact on how erect you get. One of the best motivations for getting in better shape is the impact on your sex life. If you are out of shape, explore the possibility of whipping yourself into shape and your sex life will benefit. If you suspect your health is getting in the way of your sexual function, it may be worth having a conversation with a doctor to get their professional recommendations.

The next thing to tackle is your stress levels. Stress has a huge impact on arousal and erections. The body needs to flip into the parasympathetic mode before an erection can occur, so if you are chronically stressed you may be short circuiting your body’s ability to get erect and feel more pleasure. Read more about stress and arousal here.

The third line of attacking for exploring how to get stronger erections is tackling pelvic tension. Most of us carry a great deal of muscular tension in the muscles of our pelvis. This physically limits the amount of blood flow to your genitals and can block erections. This is true for both men and women, it is just more visible on men who are noticing weaker erections. Our favorite form of relieving pelvic tension is butt massage – by tackling the big muscles of the buttocks you can release a lot of tension and get way more blood flowing to the genitals. It is our #1 recommendation for relaxing foreplay. You can also try perineum massage, which tackles tension at the nexus of muscles found at the perineum. We think it is so important we included our stroke-by-stroke guide to perineal massage in both our Guide to Handjobs and Guide to Prostate Massage, so pick up either one of those video guides to learn how to do deep massage at the perineum and get more blood flowing to  your penis.

Again, if you are experiencing full erections some of the time and have a sex life that is fulfilling to you and your lover, there is nothing to worry about when you sometimes feel aroused without an erection. Enjoy the full body sensations of arousal, including stimulating your soft penis and notice how much pleasure is available to you. If you are never experiencing a full erection, explore the suggestions above about how to get an erection and pay attention to your erections as a sign of your overall physical health.

We wish you a lifetime of pleasure, and please be in touch with any further questions or reports about what works for you! Cheers!

Chris and Charlotte, The Pleasure Mechanics


Vaginal wetness is not equal to female arousal.

There is of course an overlap, those times when a woman is both aroused and wet.

And yet. . .

A woman can be highly aroused and not at all wet.

Or very wet and not at all aroused!

Lubricants are always an option to increase wetness, which, in turn, may heighten arousal.

Explore Your Arousal

To Explore Your Arousal: Make a Map, Then Get a GPS

Sexologists and sex educators often draw the cycle of an orgasm as a line chart – making sexual pleasure look more like a financial report than an erotic experience. While arousal and sensations are by no means a linear path – these charts can be useful to draw your attention to the patterns of your arousal.

Conventional wisdom says that women need a longer warm-up stage, a smooth and gradual uphill climb towards arousal and orgasm. Once there, women might have several orgasms, the top of their chart looking like a mountain range. Then, a nice downhill descent towards afterglow. Men, it is traditionally believed, have a sharp uphill climb – turned on by just about anything, one dramatic climactic peak and then a sharp fall downhill towards a soft penis and sleep. We’ve all seen these charts and perhaps experienced a similar arousal pattern.

If your arousal and orgasm are indeed a terrain of peaks and valleys – and if you were indeed able to chart your actual arousal, what would that chart look like? Would it be the same time after time, or dramatically different each time?

We propose a two-tooled system of exploring your own unique terrain of arousal. First, make a map. Getting to know a familiar path of arousal and climax is an excellent idea. It is a powerful thing to know what turns you on, what kind of touch stimulates you, how to reach climax most reliably, and what kind of afterglow you like best. Once you have it, you can show your map to your lover and give them the confidence to arouse you and satisfy you.

Arousal is a journey, an adventure – not a trip to the grocery store. Once you know your “sure thing” orgasm and have your map in your pocket, go off trail. Explore. But bring a GPS! With a GPS, you always know where you are and how to get where you want to go. This allows highway and byway exploring and spontaneous adventure.

For sex, your GPS is your awareness and attention. By choosing to pay attention to your arousal, mapping it into new terrain, you can play with new sensations and still know that you can find your way back to arousal and orgasm. You can begin learning new sexual techniques and skills, without the risk of giving up what already works for you.

If your lover tries something totally new – like scratching your inner thighs, giving you a foot massage, or (gasp!) suggesting something like prostate massage – you can try something new and simply pay attention. Do you like it? Does it take you closer or further away from climax? Or into another realm all together? Harder or lighter? What if they lightly stroked your thigh instead? What gets you off? What do you NEVER need to try again? Exploring is only fun when you are confident about how to get back home – to your trusted pleasures – when you need to.

As you approach orgasm, you can become aware of your own peaks and valleys – are you about to orgasm, what if you back away a bit, breathe deeply, and then begin building sensation again? With awareness and attention, you can explore the infinite variety of arousal and sensation available to you – and never get bored of traveling the same path to orgasm again and again. That map is always there for you should you want a clear and direct route – but for those days you want to travel and see the sites, simply pay attention and begin pioneering the unmapped terrains of your own sexuality.