The 7 Top Turn-Ons For Men, Vs. Women, According To Science
While what a person finds sexy is often a very personal thing, research has shown that there can, in many ways, be specific types of turn ons for men and women. Biology may play a role in this, of course. But there are a multitude of other factors at play — including social conditioning — too.
"When we're talking about sexual desire and 'turn-ons,' what we're really talking about is the brain, our largest sex organ," sex expert and educator Candice Smith, M.Ed., tells Bustle. "All sexual arousal begins first in the brain, which sends the chemical cocktail of messages to various other parts of the body, triggering physical arousal cues including pelvic blood flow, increased heartbeat, and dilated pupils."
These are signs a person is, in fact, turned on. And again, several things can get them there. "All triggers for sexual arousal fall into the following categories: emotional bonding cues, erotic/explicit cues, visual/proximity cues, implicit/romantic cues, and physical/sensory cues," Smith says.
Anyone can be triggered, to one degree or another, by all of these categories. And, as Smith says, it's been shown that overall triggers for sexual arousal in the male and female brain tend to be independent of status or sexual orientation.
In general, though, it seems "the male brain mostly requires physical/sensory and visual cues to incite arousal," Smith says, "while female brains tend to require a cocktail of all of the above." And this can be the result of biology as well as environment, and learned behaviors. While this isn't the case for all identifying males or females, it is an interesting finding on the part of scientific research. Read on for how it can all play out in terms of turn-ons, according to experts.
1. Women May Find Kindness Sexy
While anyone can be attracted to kindness, for those who identify as women it's often downright sexy. "Kindness is associated with higher ratings of physical and facial attractiveness," Astroglide's resident sexologist Dr. Jess O'Reilly, tells Bustle. "A recent study found that those who are more altruistic have more sex and receive more attention from the opposite sex. These findings were more pronounced for altruistic men who also reported a greater number of sexual partners."
2. Men May Be Into Visuals
Since male arousal typically stems from physical/sensory and visual cues, it makes sense they'd be turned on by seeing or watching "sexy" things. Studies have shown, for example, that those who identify as men tend to be more attracted to people who are wearing the color red — a universally sexy color.
A man's desire for steamy visuals may also play into their porn choices. As Smith says, "While both male and female brains respond with desire to visual cues of sexual activity, men tend to look for more explicit visual content, while women tend to prefer porn with more of an authentic backstory that reveals a deeper connection between the participants," Smith says.
Of course that's not true for everyone. But since studies have shown men are more visual when it comes to what turns them on, it does tend to steer them in a certain direction on porn sites.
3. Women Can Be Turned On By Connection
"Visual cues are important in stimulation of desire in female brains, though [it may not be] as important as they are in the male brain for arousal," Smith says. "The difference comes in the creation of a story. Research suggests that the female brain is most aroused by the need to see and feel a connection."
As a fun side fact, this might even explain why nearly 90 percent of romance book readers identify as women, Smith says. It's all about that story.
4. Men Can Be Turned On By Desire
While this turn-on can cross gender lines, it generally seems that men respond to an enthusiastic partner. As Smith says, "Psychologically, men [may be] most aroused by authentic visual and auditory representations of their partner's excitement."
And this is yet another factor that can play into their porn choices. "If a man is watching porn, he will generally be looking for visually explicit porn, and will be most aroused by authentic representations of ecstasy and excitement," Smith says.
5. Women May Be Excited By Signs Of Strength
A big turn on for many women who like men is the height and visible strength of a man — but not for the reasons you might think. "Height, strength, and physical fitness require high levels of testosterone, which is actually harmful for the immune system in high doses," registered psychologist Shae Vian, tells Bustle. "But the fact that a man can display such qualities, means [he] must therefore be healthy."
It may sound strange, but this is due to something called the handicap principle, which aids in attraction. Basically, it means "if something is too costly to display and can still be displayed, it must mean the animal displaying it has strong genetics to do so," Vian says. "It applies to humans, too."
6. Men May Love A Blindfold
While anyone can be interested in fooling around with a blindfold on, men may be extra into it, for a variety of reasons. Science has shown that both gay and straight men are very intrigued by visual cues, which can be set off by the look of their partner in a blindfold — as well as other sexy imagery.
As noted in Psychology Today, as soon as a lust-inspiring image registers in their brain, they become turned-on both physically and psychologically.
But it's not just about the visual. "Men also love the sense of connection and trust that must be there when a blindfold comes out," NYC-based dating coach Connell Barrett, tells Bustle.
7. Women Can Be Into Witty Jokes
If a woman is turned on by witty jokes and intelligent conversation — and really, who isn't? — there may be a biological reason for that. "Intelligence is important as this will be passed on to the child," Vian says. Subconsciously, it may be a trait she leans towards, whether she wants to have kids or not.
Keep in mind, though, that human sexuality and desire is a complex thing. As Dr. O'Reilly says, "Sexual turn-ons are both personal and cultural — and because gender roles prescribe specific sexual roles (e.g. heterosexual men should be the pursuers), this may lead to difference in turn-ons by gender."
It is interesting, however, to think about why men and women may be attracted to certain things — and why that may be — according to science.