We typically think of arousal as black and white—you’re turned on, or you’re not. That’s how the movies portray sexual arousal, anyway. But is this depiction of arousal accurate? Not at all!
Arousal is often more nuanced and less linear than we account for. Sometimes, we can be turned on mentally, with little to no genital response to show for it.
Other times, we might not be in the mood for sex or even think that something is sexy and concurrently experience wetness, an erection, or other genital arousal symptoms such as pulsing, engorgement, or tingling. When the brain and genitals don’t agree, it’s called arousal non-concordance. And it happens to more people than you might think.
Simply put, arousal non-concordance is a disconnect between the genitals (physical arousal) and the mind (subjective arousal). Unfortunately, our culture holds a problematic and incorrect assumption that when someone’s genitals are not aroused, they must not be turned on. Or, when genitals are aroused, this must mean that person wants to have sex. These faulty assumptions can cause a great deal of harm and misunderstanding.
When people experience arousal non-concordance, they might find a swath of misleading information about arousal and feel led to believe something is broken. Rest assured, arousal non-concordance is extremely common, and it does not mean that you have a dysfunction.
So, let’s unpack this important yet under-discussed phenomenon.