Ask Jenn – March 2, 2020

Hi Jenn,
Sorry to bother you but I hope you can help me. I’m married but I have an issue. I’m not easy to turn on quickly. I don’t really know how to explain it exactly, but do you have any tips or recommendations for me?

I’m so happy to answer this question! I have to admit, when this first landed in my DMs I assumed, like I bet lots of my readers did, that you are female. But it actually looks like you’re a dude.

As a culture, we accept readily that women don’t experience arousal and desire as easily and quickly as men do. So there isn’t a lot of support or acknowledgment out there for men who experience desire and arousal in ways that aren’t the cultural norm, largely because we think men are always two seconds away from a raging hard on and are down to fuck anyone at any time. These gender and cultural norms need to be thrown out the window because they don’t serve anyone and are patently unhelpful.

Before I get into the tips and recommendations, I want to break down “get turned on” and what that means.

There are two elements to getting turned on—the physical and the mental. Mental is desire. That is, when we want to be sexual. Our brains say, heeeey, I’m interested in sex right now. Arousal is the physical. It’s our bodies prepping us for sex. Our genitals become engorged and wet. This happens to people of all genders. Clitorises and penis get bigger and erect. Lubrication is secreted—pre-cum or getting wet.

There’s also more than one kind of desire. Spontaneous desire is when you’re going about your life and something sparks a sexual reaction. It could be seeing someone attractive, a smell that takes you back, a memory that pops into your head, whatever. The other is responsive desire. Responsive desire happens in response to sexual stimuli, or a result of arousal.

If you google this, be aware that it is a very gendered rabbit hole, one that I don’t personally buy into. How can we say men usually experience spontaneous desire and women responsive desire when we have a society that is still highly judgmental of female sexuality? Of course many women don’t report spontaneous desire! And don’t even get me started on the study that found women were physically aroused by everything, including bonobos getting it on. So women have responsive desire but are aroused by everything? Ummmm. Yeah. More study needed!

Distilling this down. People experience desire and arousal in many different ways.

Arousal can happen before or after desire. Desire can happen before or after arousal.

Oh, the conundrum!

The only thing that matters is how you experience arousal and desire. And how your partner does. Getting turned on encompasses both, and I can’t tell from your letter which is the one causing you grief.

Assuming there are no arousal issues—you can get hard, she gets wet—I suspect this is a desire issue, or an issue with your arousal and desire pattern not matching your partner’s.

The first thing you need to do is let go of the notion that you both experience arousal and desire at the same time. It rarely happens, but it should happen close enough to each other that you can have the sex you want.

As you said you don’t get turned out quickly enough, I’m assuming that the primary issue is that she’s ready to go and you’re not quite there yet.

Get into your head. Let hot fantasies and memories roll through your mind. Talk to your partner—tell her how good she’s gonna make you feel, the things you’re going to do to her, how much you love her. And listen to what she tells you in return. This shouldn’t be a one-way street. Your partner should be engaging with you as well, helping to get you fully turned on and if they aren’t doing that, or are unwilling, that’s part of the problem you need to address.

If she’s experiencing both desire and arousal, well, that’s kind of amazing for you. You can engage in extended foreplay—play with her ass, boobs, and clit or whatever she likes. Keep talking to her, let her talk to you, keep everything building.

And touch yourself as needed. You want to speed yourself up, and slow/tease her.

Teasing her can be a great way to give yourself more time to get fully turned on. Lots of women like it and need it. So if you can find a way to keep her simmering in her desire and arousal while you build yours up, that’s golden.

The other big thing here is that for each and every one of us, our desire and arousal works how it works. We cannot control our desire or arousal—much. Our bodies operate how they operate. We can tweak a little, but fundamentally, we are wired how we are wired. Our bodies do what they do, often independent of us. Sometimes we can be proactive with our desire. If you know you are going to have sex with your partner that night, you can start the process early in the day—send each other sexy texts or photos. Pull up your erotic memories or look at some porn or dirty stories that turn you on. If you spend the day working on building up desire and anticipation, when you get home, you’ll have a jump start on getting turned on.

Good luck!