Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Logo of The Middlebury Campus
Monday, Dec 5, 2022

Sex Panther: Arousal Nonconcordance

<span class="photocreditinline"><a href="">Sarah Fagan</a></span>

This semester has really flown by. I know everyone always says that, but I actually have no idea where it’s gone. Feeling stressed and pulled in many directions seems to be a common theme among people I’ve talked to recently. Sometimes I have moments when it feels like my body and brain aren’t on the same page; it can be incredibly frustrating and unfair.

Like when I really, really need to study for that chem exam, but my eyes are having a hard time staying open, or I have been thinking about having dinner with that funny girl from down the hall for days, but when I actually sit down, I’m so nervous I can’t eat anything. These are perfect little examples of non-concordance: when our brain is telling us one thing and our body is doing another. It’s usually not too big of a deal, maybe just slightly confusing or annoying.

It can be a much bigger deal, though, when it comes to sex. This can look like getting wet or getting an erection in a setting that shouldn’t turn you on, or conversely it could be the sexiest moment of your life and your genitals won’t respond. This is called arousal non-concordance. Number 1: This is incredibly normal. Number 2: Once again, this is incredibly normal. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you if you ever experience this disconnect. Number 3: It’s important to take a step back and be thoughtful about what might be contributing to this non-concordance.

I like to think of pleasure and arousal as having two different parts: the accelerator and the brake. Things you like and find pleasurable push on the gas pedal, and things that don’t feel awesome or are distracting might push on the brake. The hard part is not really being able to control these things. For example, no matter how hard you’re pushing on the accelerator, if something’s stuck on the break, no one is getting anywhere.

Although I obviously don’t have a perfect answer as to how to seamlessly join your body and mind, I can give you a few tips:

  1. Familiarize yourself with things that give you pleasure, sexually and non-sexually: like what outfit makes you feel awesome, your favorite foods, soft blankets, clean laundry and finishing that nagging assignment you’ve been putting off. But also, where you like being touched and not touched, what kinds of pressure you find enjoyable… These will all contribute to your accelerator!

  2. Try to keep tabs on the things that turn you off. Again, sexually and non-sexually. Is there a paper looming over your head? Maybe a nagging injury, or worries about a friend. Underlying stress and discomfort are unfortunately everywhere here at Middlebury, and being aware of what’s going on is important.

  3. Be honest with your partner(s). Try to communicate how you are feeling and let them know how they might be able to help you. (I know that’s a big statement but breaking it down into how they contribute to your accelerator and brake might help simplify it a bit.) Never feel like you have to hide or change the way you’re feeling to make your partner(s) happy.

  4. Be kind to yourself. Sometimes there is no distinguishable rhyme or reason to how we feel. Putting pressure on yourself to feel a certain way in a certain situation can be exhausting, and often ends up leaving you feeling confused and frustrated.

As usual, have fun and be safe MiddKids! Remember safer sex supplies are always available at the Center for Health and Wellness. SPECS, MiddSafe and everyone at Parton is always here to help. Xoxo, The Sex Panther

Sex Panther writes on all things sex, love and hookup-related at Middlebury.