Arousal causes a lot of unnecessary problems between men and women.
Learning to tell the difference between arousal and sexual energy can allow us to get on with more important, relevant business than arguing about a biological drive that means nothing at all.
The Quick Turn On: Arousal
Arousal is an immature response. It is exciting, inappropriate and the stuff of one night stands, impulsive cheating or crushes.
It doesn’t set the stage for a long term relationship or hold meaning.
It’s merely a biological response.
Arousal is so convincing, so nonspecific. It comes and it goes, and we can attribute it to almost anybody or anything. I get it at the gas pump when I look at the woman at the next gas pump.
When it shows up, it is unsettling, but it also is a reminder that I am still youthful.
It is the fountain of youth, but it comes at a cost.
Arousal and wisdom simply can’t come together. When we are aroused, wisdom often runs out the door…especially for men. That part isn’t too bright; it makes all sorts of mistakes and impulsive decisions, often leaving us (or our partners) with much less than we deserve.
The Long Game: Sexual Energy
Sexual energy is not arousal grown up. It is completely self-sufficient with a flow of its own. It must be cultivated, appreciated, and, as a form of energy, it relates to every other aspect of energy within us. It has access to every part of the body, where arousal seems to be limited to a childish interchange between mind and genitalia.
Mostly, it’s in the mind.
Sexual energy offers an invitation to grow up; arousal generally delivers immaturity.
In this culture, growing up is frowned upon, mostly, I think, because we don’t draw the distinction between growing up and growing old. Just drawing that distinction makes a huge difference.
Growing old without growing up is always ugly. It’s something we long for, but it’s something that has us still lecherous when we are old. It has us putting in our false teeth, thinking of kissing somebody we that we never got a chance to.
Sexual Energy says, “I love you” and means it. It also means I want you, I respect you, I need you, and I dig you the most.
It finds what we need to say to woo our partner in each moment.
Arousal is less elegant, often grunting.
The open expression of sexual energy is positively edgy. Sexual energy offers a degree of expression from the bottom up…from the depths of who I am to everything I can be. Arousal begins the journey from top down and stops prematurely, offering only small aspects of myself. This can be just enough to be demeaning but not enough to be truly rewarding or satisfying.
It’s just enough to rush into sex but not enough to wiggle through the insecurities inherent in getting to know each other.
The Dangers of Confusing Arousal with Sexual Energy
When we get scared or feel insecure, arousal is waiting with open arms, but no heart. It promises us that we could be fulfilled without the depth necessary for fulfillment.
It profusely offers to deliver while never really delivering.
But we are tempted to believe in it.
If things could only be that simple. Arousal is a used car salesman making promises about that beaten up old vehicle—we won’t even get it off the lot without having problems. Sexual energy, though, courses through the body, head to toe, tuning us into our partner. It has us reach out often, calling on our partners in the most full-bodied way possible.
It has us call when we’re scared, brave, happy, sad or even distracted. It is an open line to our partner’s body and mind from our own body and mind. It offers the best parts of us across different contexts: during the holidays, when the house needs cleaning, when I am distracted and when she needs to talk.
When we are connected with the flow of sexual energy, romance flows too; here, we form a crisscross network, a simpatico that results in sex not from sex. Sexual energy provides a safety net for togetherness, allowing us to do those high wire feats so necessary for loving. Knowing that if we slip up, we will fall back into connectedness. We don’t get that with arousal, where we go from high to low in no time without any safety—or love—at all.
Arousal isn’t about who I am—it isn’t about who you are. Arousal is a distraction from who I am; it’s more about the flow of imagination than authentic self-expression. And it is addicting—it has to be, or we wouldn’t bother with it.
But arousal isn’t necessary. It is saffron, or paprika—a spice that is either obscure or doesn’t add more than appearance…and never nourishment. On the other hand, sexual energy offers a main course that is truly nourishing. It requires us to really be present with our lover, with this person who matters deeply to us.
The moments of sexual energy’s expressing itself hang together, offering connectedness that makes life with someone worthwhile.
Arousal is a distraction from that.
While arousal isn’t likely to lead to a long term romantic relationship, sexual energy can. And then our physical arousal can be woven, like sequins, into the fabric of the romantic relationship, making it sparkle.
Author: Jerry Stocking
Apprentice Editor: Lois Person / Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: José Manuel Ríos Valiente at Flickr