The greatest sex brain wave
We’re taught sex is about what’s between our legs. But what if we’ve totally been looking for orgasms in all the wrong places? Hint: try about 80cm further up.
Alright, so we all know what the phrase ‘sex on the brain’ means; it’s what we typically experience during a Hemsworth blockbuster. Yet the exact relationship between our inner thighs and our inner thoughts is one that scientists are only now starting to unravel. So, why the delay? (Seriously, this is our pleasure at stake here, right?) That would be the, err, teeny-bit-awkward matter of finding a group of volunteers willing to masturbate in an MRI scanner. Now those brain-scanner results are actually changing how – as well as where – we get our sexual feels. “We could not have orgasms without the brain: orgasms are produced in the brain, and 80 different brain regions are activated during orgasm,” explains leading sexual neuroscientist Dr Barry Komisaruk, who led the MRI study. Which means that getting our bits and our brain to work together is our new #squadgoal. So, how can you make that kind of magic happen? Alright, over to you, brain…
More than one route to pleasure
Imagine that reaching orgasm was like gaining entry to a nightclub so exclusive that former stars of The Bachelor aren’t even on the list. The old thinking was there was only one way into the club: get in that queue and stick with it – or, to bring it back to your bits, find one spot on your genitals and persevere. Dr Komisaruk’s brain scans found that there’s also the equivalent of a VIP entrance and a helipad – because your vagina, clitoris and cervix all activate different parts of your brain. “Stimulate all three areas,” he adds, “and you can intensify orgasmic pleasure.” Yup, we always knew queuing wasn’t for us.
MIND CONTROL TIP: Add your nipples in too. When touched, Dr Komisaruk’s study found that they can activate the same part of the brain as your genitals.
Think about something nice
Wandering is just something the brain does naturally, but there’s a pretty big difference between harmless mid-sex mind-wandering (usually random things, like remembering to buy bread and milk) and thoughts that destroy orgasm. A study from sexology journal, Archives Of Sexual Behavior, found the two worst offenders were ‘spectatoring’ – judging your own sexual performance – and body image fears. Both can reduce your satisfaction, particularly if you start chastise your brain for wandering. Get that thing a GPS, stat.
MIND CONTROL TIP: As anyone who’s ever said “Don’t think about chocolate” knows, reining in your brain is tricky. The key is to keep calm when distracting thoughts come. First, be aware of your weak spot: are you prone to overthinking (“What does this sex mean for our entire relationship?”) or pressure (“This has to be amazing!”). Redirect attention to the pleasure you’re feeling. Daily mindfulness exercises will train you: notice the pattern of two breaths (in, pause, out), five to 10 times a day. Each time your attention starts wandering, bring it back. With practise, fewer things will knock your breathing – and your sex brain – off course.
Bits have a mind of their own
Your vagina getting wet doesn’t always mean you’re aroused. Psychologist Dr Kelly Suschinsky showed women sexual images and asked them to rate just how arousing they found them, monitoring how their genitals reacted. In only 10 per cent of cases were the genitals and the mind on the same page. Your genitals respond to anything sexual – like a streetlight does to darkness – but only you decide if it’s hot. It’s called Arousal Non-concordance, and explains why you might feel a twinge down below while you’re watching a TV sex scene with your parents – despite not feeling any real desire. At all.
MIND CONTROL TIP: To get turned on, your mind’s biggest ally is context (who you’re getting naked with and where) and trust. To find your sweet spot, recall three amazing and three not-so-amazing lays. “Think specifically about what made those experiences, in terms of both external circumstances and your internal state,” suggests sex educator Dr Emily Nagoski, author of Come As You Are. That’s your to-do and to-don’t list sorted.
Stress less to have more sex
Scientists from The Kinsey Institute identified that our sex drives have more in common with a Volkswagen Golf than we ever thought. Yes, really. A Volkswagen Golf. Why is that? Because, like a car, “Your sexual brain has an ‘accelerator’ that responds to sexual stimulation, but it has ‘brakes’
too, which respond to all the very good reasons not to be turned on right now,” explains Dr Nagoski. Women’s sensitive mental brakes – rather than anything physical – are one reason pharmaceutical companies are still struggling to make a female Viagra with a decent success rate. Of all of the brakes, it’s safe to say that stress kicks in hardest. “More than half of women report that stress, depression and anxiety decrease their interest in sex, reduce sexual arousal and interfere with orgasm,” Nagoski says. “Stress is all about survival. And while sex serves a lot of different purposes, personal survival is not one of them. So, for most people, stress immediately slams on the brakes.” Hmm, not exactly an aphrodisiac for the world’s most-sizzling sex life, now is it? Luckily, there’s still hope if you’re feeling a bit down or frazzled ...
MIND CONTROL TIP: To beat stress, get on those sneakers and move your butt (Netflix will be there when you get back, promise). Swedish researchers recently discovered that exercise makes our skeletal muscle produce an enzyme that purges the harmful substance that accumulates during stress – just like how our liver processes alcohol. Then silence your self-critical side, because your body responds to mean thoughts as if it’s under attack. And your genitals and your brain are both unhappy about it.
Bad-guy sex doesn’t feel good
OK, not that good. Everyone’s had a partner with whom sex wasn’t just something fun to do before Game Of Thrones, but a desperate carnal desire. The reason that you don’t have the same sexual delirium with your current, lovely partner isn’t incompatibility but, yep, your brain. See, sex with a rat (of the love kind, not the animal) isn’t normal sex. It’s attachment-driven and it happens if our relationship is threatened (like, if he hasn’t replied to your text for 43 hours). According to Dr Nagoski, what you remember as pure lust was more like the act of relieving your bladder. She explains: “Imagine you need to pee really badly, and you have to wait, and then finally you pee, and it’s almost pleasurable because it’s such an intense relief. Sex in unstable relationships is like that.” Which, all of a sudden, doesn’t feel as desirable.
MIND CONTROL TIP: Increase your lust-o-meter without threatening your attachment by trying something new. The excitement makes you see your partner in an exciting light (like a kind of erotic laser-beam). Really, anything that raises your heart rate will work, be it a concert or roller-coaster.
Are you dirty minded?
“Where’s your mind wandering off to, dear?”
Women’s sensitive mental breaks – rather than anything physical – are one reason pharmaceutical companies are still struggling to make a female viagra.