Mars and Venus? Understanding our sexual response

Posted by on Apr 6, 2016 in Blog: Doing sex God’s way

Mars and Venus? Understanding our sexual response

We are sexual beings: man and woman, before God and each other. It is the way we are created. It applies to our body, brain and behaviour. Yes, including our sexual behaviour. And it is good. In fact God says it is very good[1]. We need to embrace this complementarity if we want to have the best sexual relationship possible with our spouse.

When it comes to our sexual response, there are certain basic processes in both men and women: There is sexual desire, which is a brain event signalling a wanting or motivation for sex, the body response of sexual arousal, and finally, the brain recognition of this build-up of sexual tension resulting in orgasmic release. Let’s explore this

First, a couple of general points:

Males and females are different in the way that sexual desire, arousal and orgasm are perceived and even sequenced in the sexual response. An ignorance of this difference in the sexual response between males and females is the commonest cause of sexual concerns in married life.

There is also a plethora of individual variations in desire, arousal and orgasm—all within the normal range. No two individuals respond in exactly the same way, and a person’s response will vary depending on the context of the sexual activity, their partner, and their stage in life. Further, the intensity of sexual desire and the specific ‘turn on’ factors will be influenced by everything that we have fed into the brain—the script we each carry.

With these in mind, let’s look at the male and female sexual response.

Male sexual response

Men in general tend to be much more ‘driven’ sexually than the woman. As a relationship progresses, a man’s sexual desire tends to remain high, whereas the woman’s desire is found to decrease.

It is also true that men are more easily turned on than women by the ‘senses’. By this we mean sight, smell and sound. A cleavage, a nice bottom, the whiff of a particular fragrance, the sound of heavy breathing, all act as quick and easy sexual turn-on stimuli for most men.

Once sexual desire sets in, an erection generally follows, and then the ejaculation with simultaneous brain orgasm. This linear pattern of sexual response (desire –> arousal –> orgasm –> resolution) is set early in development in the male. An adolescent male learns that when he is turned on, his sexual desire followed by erection and orgasm is both pleasurable and fun. This remains into adult life.

So, broadly speaking:

  • Males are keener than females on the physical aspect of sex, especially genital activity.
  • No matter how romantic and gentle a man may be, deep down one of his major objectives (learned from youth) is penile–vaginal intercourse.
  • In intercourse, men strive for ejaculation and orgasm.
  • Since the penis is so important to men, most enjoy other sexual activities that involve this organ such as oral sex and having their penis directly stimulated by the woman (sometimes called mutual masturbation).
  • Since the genitals and the act of sexual intercourse are so important, many men feel rejected if the woman he loves refuses to engage in intercourse with him.

Female sexual response

In keeping with the complementarity of creation, woman’s motivation for sexual activity is beautifully multifaceted. Sometimes it is a testosterone and neurochemical-driven, spontaneous appetite for sex, as in men. However, this is the rarity rather than the norm. Most often, the motivation to engage in sexual activity depends on what’s happening at that moment—the immediate context. It is driven by a wish for intimacy, a commitment to the relationship, remembered feelings of closeness and satisfaction from prior sexual experiences with the partner, even an appreciation of what the partner is doing for her at the time. Maybe it is because she wants to get pregnant, and today’s the day. Sometimes it is a sense of doing the right thing, a sense of offering her body as a gift for the sexual satisfaction of her husband

Whatever the motivation, what happens next in the woman is interesting. Unlike in the man, where sexual desire is necessary to drive the changes of genital arousal (an erection), in the woman the onset of sexual activity and the sensual touching, loving words and general romancing by her husband results in the physiological changes of arousal in the genitals. She will feel the vaginal swelling and wetting. It is after this that the woman begins to feel the brain changes of sexual desire. This ‘responsive’ sexual desire can then feedback to increase the body arousal levels. So, as she relaxes and allows herself to enjoy being made love to, her body and brain respond. Further, unlike men, many females describe the outcome of sexual activity as physically rewarding, even ‘satiating’ without necessarily experiencing orgasm. This satisfaction feeds back to feelings of intimacy, completing a circle.

We end up with what is called ‘a circular intimacy driven model’ of sexual response in females.

So, broadly speaking, in women:

  • A feeling of sexual desire is not necessary to consent to or start sexual activity. Rather, it is the context in which the lovemaking happens that is important.
  • Unlike men, genital arousal can precede, and lead to desire.
  • Satisfying sexual activity is possible, even without an orgasm.

How should a couple enjoy the complementary sexual response?

As husband and wife, we should understand and work with the difference of the male and female sexual responses. Look at the marriage passage in Ephesians 5:22–28. Here Paul speaks of the husband leading, and the wife following in sweet surrender.

How can we apply this to sexual activity?

The husband is called to lead, spiritually and physically, and, sexually speaking, this would include romancing her in the home and in the bedroom. It’s easier for the wife. She is called to allow him to arouse her, romance her and love her to distraction; to invite him into her sexuality. Women are like a slow-cooking crockpot to the man’s quick heat-up microwave desire. Recognise it and enjoy it. These complementary roles of leadership and sweet submission don’t come easy for some of us. And yet, this is exactly how the male and female sexual response is set up in the brain for most men and women.

But wait. There will be some women who are easily aroused, and who like to initiate sex. This too is just fine. Others may be neutral sometimes and allow their husband to drive their desire, and may be the initiators at other times. Likewise there are some men who do not fit into the male model of rapid-fire sexual arousal. They may take longer to develop sexual desire, and may prefer their spouse to be the initiator of sexual intimacy. This too is OK.

Whatever your pattern of arousal and response, discuss it, and weave your lovemaking around it. Your times of lovemaking wax and wane though married life. Use your knowledge of the sexual response to your advantage. Don’t stress on the performance; don’t go searching for the missing libido (desire) or yearn for the simultaneous orgasm. Enjoy the fact that as man and woman, God created you different. Make time for intimacy. Learn how best to synchronise your individual sexual response cycles.

Vive la différence!

This article is adapted from chapter 4 of ‘The Best Sex for Life’ by Patricia Weerakoon Available from CEP: https://www.cepstore.com.au/best-sex-for-life

[1] Genesis 1:31