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April 13, 2021

Understanding Turn-ons: The Top 6 Erogenous Zones. {Book Excerpt}

*Part five of a seven-part series for Elephant Journal. Follow along at the author’s profile here. Order your copy of aah . . . The Pleasure Book here.

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Where the lightest touch of fingers or lips on a particular part of the body can release a flood of sexual pleasure and passion.

The mystery of erogenous zones—body areas that are highly sexually sensitive—have long been the subject of endless speculation and opinion. Do these intimate areas of touch possess special nerve endings? Are they the same in women and men? And are they biologically determined or culturally acquired?

At last, we have some scientific answers, which may surprise you!

For instance, you probably know the number one spot is the clitoris in women and the penis in men, but did you know that the nape of the neck is more likely to send shivers down your spine than the nipples in both women and men?

To learn more, here’s a brief excerpt from aah . . . The Pleasure Book, Chapter 24, the first of three chapters on erotic pleasure.

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Searching for the elusive erogenous zones

In the 1950s, dermatologist R. K. Winkleman attempted to solve the mystery of the erogenous zones once and for all by performing detailed microscopic studies of the skin and nerve supply of the glans penis, clitoris, perianal skin, lips, and other sexually sensitive areas. He was looking for special “erotic” nerve endings, but all he found was that these areas possessed a higher than average density of ordinary nerve endings. As mentioned before, pain receptors have been well described, but curiously, no pleasure receptors have ever been found.

Half a century later, a distinguished neuroscientist, V. S. Ramachandran, resumed the hunt, hypothesizing that an area is erotic not because of its anatomic proximity to the reproductive organs on the surface of the body, but because of its proximity to sexual regions on the surface of the brain. This can be seen with a homunculus, a little cartoon man, draped over the sensory cortex with its body parts drawn in proportion to the associated cortical innervation. Foot fetishism, he reasoned, can be explained because sensations from the feet project to an area on the sensory cortex adjacent to sensations received from the genitalia, and therefore could, presumably, stimulate the genitalia by proximity.

To test this hypothesis, 800 participants from the British Isles and Sub-Saharan Africa were asked to rate the erogenous intensity of forty-one body parts. A high level of agreement was found among participants and the results were independent of age, nationality, race, sexual orientation, and even gender. As expected, the glans (acorn head) of the penis and the clitoris (kleitoris or key) topped the list. Feet, however, came in twen­ty-eighth, disproving Ramachandran’s hypothesis.

Figure 28: (Top) Mapping of the sensory cortex. The relative size of the illustrated part corresponds to the area of the cortex devoted to its function. (Bottom) 3D model of homunculus.

I suspect that peripheral areas like the nape of the neck (ranked fourth), inner thigh (ranked seventh), and ears (ranked ninth) are erotic in part because of their associated vulnerability. Whatever the case, the high level of agree­ment among participants in this cross-cultural study suggests that erotic touch is primarily biologically determined…

Here are the Top Six Erogenous Zones (for a complete list of the 41 zones click here):

Women                                 Men

1. Clitoris                                 Penis

2. Vagina                                 Mouth/lips

3. Mouth/lips                         Scrotum

4. Nape of neck                      Inner thigh

5. Breasts                                Nape of neck

6. Nipples                               Nipples

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To find out more, please check out aah . . . The Pleasure Book trailer here.

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