That stereotypical toe curl that movies show during sex scenes happens for a reason — because the skin in between your toes is an erogenous zone, according to the book Human Sexuality in a World of Diversity.
Erogenous zones are areas of the body that are highly sensitive and can initiate sexual arousal, aka your sexual response cycle.
Erogenous zones break down into primary and secondary zones.
Primary erogenous zones range from the obvious, such as genitals, breasts and butts, to the slightly odd, such as the ear lobes, lips, bellybuttons and even armpits. Secondary erogenous zones can vary based on your sexual actions. When you give someone a back rub as foreplay, his or her back can become an erogenous zone.
Your brain becomes an erogenous zone when you fantasize about a certain scenario.
All of these zones play a crucial part in arousal. If paid attention to, the sexual experience will include orgasms for everyone.
There are basic differences in the way that men and women become aroused, so it may be important for you to consider how these differences apply to you. The sexual response cycle refers to the stages our bodies go through on the road to orgasm.
The stages are excitement, plateau, orgasm and resolution. These stages are similar in men and women, but there are some subtle differences that can play a huge role in getting both partners adequately aroused to the point of not only orgasm, but to having wholly satisfying sexual experiences.
According to a study conducted by the sex research team William Masters and Virginia Johnson (1966), men can get an erection in as little as three to eight seconds after initial stimulation. Women need a little more time and encouragement: Vaginal lubrication may start 10-30 seconds after stimulation begins.
Men, in general, have a more direct link between arousal and being ready for sex. Many women, however, report that even though they may be getting wet, that doesn’t necessarily mean they want sex.
A study done by Queen’s University psychology professor Meredith Chivers found that even though women have increased blood flow to their genitals after seeing a sexual stimulus, their actual desire to have sex doesn’t always follow as readily as it does in men.
Ellen Laan and Stephanie Both published an article in the journal Feminism and Psychology entitled “What Makes Women Experience Desire?” which states that in several cited studies, they did not find a correlation between increased blood flow in the vagina and reported subjective arousal. That shouldn’t be confused with the idea that women didn’t get physiologically aroused.
The studies Laan and Both reference in their articles have men and women watching, listening to, or imaging a sexy scenario to measure arousal.
“While watching a film depicting explicit sexual activity, most women’s vaginal blood flow increases as measured with vaginal photoplethysmography (a technique of measuring blood flow with a light-sensitive device a woman puts inside her vagina). This increase occurs within seconds after the onset of a film, which suggests a relatively automatic response not requiring conscious cognitive processes. Even when the erotic film is disliked or induces little or no feeling of sexual arousal, genital responses still occur,” the article’s introduction states.
It also states that when women watched ‘woman-friendly’ porn, videos that allow time for plot and character development, their level of subjective sexual arousal was higher than when they watched ‘man-friendly’ porn. ‘Man-friendly’ erotica is film that spares little if no time for such developments, and gets right down to business. It’s also interesting to note that there weren’t differences in women’s genital arousal between either set of erotic videos.
“These findings support our idea that men’s sexual feelings are primarily determined by peripheral feedback from the genitals, but that women’s sexual feelings are more informed by the meaning the sexual stimulus generates,” Laan and Both’s article states.
Think of erogenous zones as levels to a video game in the game of the sexual response cycle. Once you pass the first level, you have the tools to progress to level two. But without the experience you gained from level one, making your partner’s toes curl is going to be harder.
Hunter is a senior psychology major at UNM. She has a special interest in sex psychology and research. You can send questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org