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Questions and Answers

Turned On and Horny. What’s Arousal and How Does It Work?

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Sexual arousal is when someone gets sexually excited. People call it being horny or turned on. People’s bodies and minds can get turned on, but these don’t always happen at the same time! When your body gets aroused, you can feel a tingling or warming feeling in your private parts. People might notice wetness near their vagina, or their penis getting bigger. But being horny can mean a lot more!

Why do people get horny?

People often enjoy feeling aroused and can start feeling turned on for lots of reasons. Some people look for things that they find sexually exciting to turn themselves on. These things can differ from person to person. Things that could make someone feel aroused might include:

  • Interacting with people that you find attractive
  • Sexual media, like porn or erotic stories
  • Doing sexual things with sex partners
  • Fantasizing about sex or sexy things
  • Masturbating
  • Being touched in a sensitive area

Why do I get turned on in non-sexual situations?

It’s very common that people become aroused at random, even if nothing sexual started it. People can experience unexpected arousal for many reasons. Dreams, some antidepressants, withdrawal from certain drugs, and stress can arouse you.

Sometimes, people don’t want to get aroused or don’t expect that they’ll feel aroused. This is because your body can sometimes react to things differently than your mind wants.  Unexpected arousal can be very common during puberty too.

People sometimes feel embarrassed when they get turned on, especially if they weren’t expecting it. There are some things you can do to hide arousal if you want to. You could use pads to hide vaginal wetness, or wear tight underwear to hide an erection. Masturbation, deep breathing, or meditation can also help deal with sexual urges.  You can also try to distract yourself by thinking about something else, like homework.

What happens when you’re aroused?

Typically, there’s more blood flow to your genitals when you’re feeling horny. Some people can also experience nipple erections. And, almost everyone’s pupils can dilate if they start feeling aroused. That’s when your pupils get wider. Other signs of arousal can be different depending on your body and genitals.

Signs of arousal for people with vaginas might include:

  • Vaginal lubrication (getting “wet”)
  • Swelling of the clitoris, labia, and vaginal walls
  • A higher cervix (the entrance to the uterus)
  • The vagina increasing in length and width

Signs of arousal for people with penises might include:

  • Erection of the penis
  • Retraction of the foreskin over the head of the penis
  • Releasing pre-cum (a clear fluid) from the penis
  • Swelling of the testicles

Someone who’s physically aroused might feel all sorts of emotions. They might feel happiness, excitement, eagerness, anger, disappointment, disgust, and lots of others. They might also feel nothing at all and that’s okay too!

Does being horny mean you want to have sex?

Sometimes people get hard or wet even when they don’t want to have sex. Your body can feel aroused even if you mind isn’t feeling very horny. Physical arousal can be a reaction to being touched in a certain way or it could be random. Just because someone is turned on doesn’t mean they want to have sex.

Other times, your mind feels really turned on but your body just won’t cooperate. You can try going slow, thinking about sexy things, or trying something new if you’re having a hard time feeling turned on. It’s also okay if some days you just aren’t feeling like you want to have sex!

What if I can’t stop feeling arousal?

Some people have a condition called persistent genital arousal disorder (PGAD). This makes a person’s genitals aroused and very sensitive for long periods of time even if they don’t feel any sexual desire. Orgasms usually can’t relieve their arousal.

It’s common to have unexpected arousal sometimes. You might find it helpful to talk to a doctor if you notice that you’re feeling aroused to the point that you can’t concentrate on daily life.

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