Guilt and Arousal?

Olga Wolstenholme's picture

Do you ever find yourself physically aroused by something you mentally find repulsive? Let me put it another way, have you ever burst out laughing during a funeral precisely because that is exactly what you are NOT supposed to do? Have you ever thought about your dad or your mom right when you are about to get it on, because that is the exact thought you do NOT want to associate with sex? Well, maybe you haven’t, but I know I have and I’m pretty confident I’m not the only person out there who has “inappropriate” thoughts or “inappropriate” physical reactions to certain things.

Someone I know recently sent me a link to a NY Times article entitled What Do Women Want? Now, forget the title. It’s horrible (I think) and it certainly doesn’t begin to illustrate what the article is about, which is: Meredith Chivers conducted research in which she showed people of varying gender and sexual orientation a variety of video clips that portrayed various levels of intimacy between people of varying gender and sexual orientation, including a video clip of Apes going at it. Now, while her subjects were watching these videos they were asked to indicate their level or arousal while the flow of blood to their genitals was simultaneously monitored.

Now, the interesting part is that, for the most part, the levels of arousal that the men indicated they were feeling were congruent with the actual signs of arousal in their genitals. Meaning if a straight man indicate he was less aroused when shown a video clip of men engaged in sexual activity , there were no discrepancies in the findings. The same went for a gay man who was watching two woman getting it on. If they claimed to not be aroused, their limp dicks told the same story. When it came to women, the results were a little more all over the place. In the sense that their level of arousal wasn’t always in line with what they claimed to be aroused by. A straight girl might say that she was less aroused by watching two women go at it, but the blood flow to her genitals may have told another story. As for the results in regards to the ape porn, women again were the ones to claim to not find themselves turned on, but still had an increase in blood flow to their genitals, which would indicate a discrepancy between what one THINKS is a turn on and what IS an actual turn on. Whether this indicates that men are generally more truthful about their bodies reactions or are simply more in tune with the ways in which arousal will manifests itself in their bodies is unclear.

What these findings mean in terms of arousal is as of yet undetermined, but it is definitely something interesting to think about and it’s this article that got me thinking about guilt, which is what spurred on the questions I asked at the beginning of this post.

Let me explain the jump from one thought to the other, I think that growing up in a mostly catholic society like ours, even if you weren’t raised in a religious environment, the norms and moral codes that stem from that religion are still very present in our lives. From the calendar that we use to the holidays that we follow. It is so thoroughly ingrained into the ways we lead our lives that it is practically unnoticeable. And let’s face it any rigid code of conduct will result in feelings of guilt if not abided by. Guilt is a funny emotion and it makes people do some funny things. Sometimes, doing something that you know you shouldn’t be doing can be a huge turn on. Doing something “bad” can give you a thrill, and that is surely true when it comes to sex. Seriously, who doesn’t get a kick out of being a little naughty once in a while. Some of us certainly enjoy it more than others, but I think that in women, especially, it has been ingrained in us that this or that is “bad” and quite frankly there’s been a lot of sexual repression in our society, which invariably leads to it leaking out in other areas. So somehow, and this is an idea that has been hanging out in the periphery of my subconscious for a while, I think that guilt has a huge impact on the way or bodies react to sexual arousal.

When the last thing you should be thinking about is a pink elephant it’s all you can see and when the last think your should be thinking is “oh yeah, baby” you suddenly feel a twinge in between your legs. I used to think it was somehow related to a form of masochism or perhaps my fucked up mind trying to punish me. There’s a sentence by E.M. Cioran that always stuck in my mind, which translated into English would mean “a physical need to be defiled (dishonoured)”.  It’s tempting to want to classify all of this as a sort of perversion, but what most people forget is that “to pervert” simply means to change the original meaning of something into something else and there’s certainly a lot of that going on.

Now, bare with me here, it’s been a long day, I have a cold, my back is aching and I’ve taken some NyQuil so I’m having a hard time coming to a decent conclusion here or maybe I just don’t have one, but this is what I was thinking about and that alone should be worth something, right? What are you’re thoughts on the matter?

Crossposted from Cuntlove.

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