Why You Sometimes Don't Want Sex, Even When You Want to Want It

August 28, 2018

The science behind it all.




As I was driving my kids to school this morning, I heard on the radio that researchers have discovered another type of neuron in human brain.   What's exciting is that it's not found in other animal brains (specifically rat brains).  They called it the Rosehip Neuron.   


Cool, but why did I geek out for a second and rush home to look it up?   Because of what they think the Rosehip Neuron's role is in the brain.  They think it is an inhibitor neuron.  Which means it puts the brakes on other things happening in your brain at specific times.   The reason THIS perked my cute, little ears up is because of the role inhibitors plays in our sex lives!   


Let's dive in to it.


Turn Ons and Turn Offs 


In her book Come As You Are,  Emily Nagoski explains the operating system behind the part of your brain that wants sex.  It's called the dual control model.  There are two parts that control your desire and arousability for sex.  One is like an accelerator.  It takes in the sexually relevant information and sends signals to your brain and genitals telling it to turn on.   Sexually relevant information can be sights, sounds, smells, touch, taste, imagination, etc.  The things that "work" for each of us is different.  For some people, the smell of roses might push their accelerator.  For others, the sound of moaning.  Each person has unique triggers to their accelerators and a lot of it is developed throughout adolescence.  (I'll do another post on this.)   So the accelerator is always running, looking for this information.


The other part of the dual control model is the brake.  Just like you have an accelerator and brake in your car.  So the brake is also always running and scanning the environment for sexually relevant information.  Again, this is unique for everyone, but we all have things that push our brake and tell our brain and genitals to turn off.  So the person who likes the smell of roses might also hate humidity.  So despite being in a green house, smelling lovely roses that usually turn them on, their brake is also being pushed because it's hot and humid in there.   Both are always running, looking for the information.


Context Matters  


So this brings us to context.  Context matters.  You can really know the stuff that pushes your accelerator.  And your partner might know those things that push your accelerator too.  And you can both be trying to push that accelerator and yet you still don't want sex.  Even if you WANT to want sex.  So what the hell is happening?   


Some of our brakes will be stronger than our accelerators.  So no matter how many of those turn-ons are around, pushing on your accelerator, as long as something is strongly pressing on your brake, you won't want sex.  We need to figure out what those triggers are so we can make sure that those things aren't around to push on our brakes when we want to want to have sex. 


Most people don't think about their brakes very often.  And that's not their fault!  None of this stuff is taught to us.  Rarely is this stuff ever talked about.  So don't beat yourself up for not knowing your brakes, okay?   But let's take the time to figure out our brakes.   


How to Find Your Accelerators and Brakes 


How do you do this?   Think about some good sexual experiences you have had.  Literally think of 2-3 very specific sexual events that went really well for you.  Then write down what was happening (ie. the context).  Think about where you were, what sights, sounds smells, tastes were around you.  What were you wearing?  How were you feeling?  Think about your stress level at that time, who you were with,  what you were thinking about, etc.   These will help you to get to know your accelerators and also help point out what things were not around to push on your brakes.  Then do the exercise again, but with times when you wanted to want sex, but just couldn't get there.  Think about what was around that was pushing on your brakes.  Stress, time, thoughts, emotions, tastes, sounds, touches, etc.  This will help you to get to know what things strongly push on your brakes.  


Back to what inspired me to write this.  How cool is it that they have actually discovered hard evidence for something that helps control what parts of your brain are firing.  Literally, physical evidence of brakes.  I can't wait to see what we can find out now knowing there are actual neurons that act as inhibitors.


Lastly, this post is just a simple, quick introduction to the dual control model.  I will be writing more about it and giving more in-depth knowledge on how this all works.  Because if we understand how it works, we can figure out to how to control it more which means - yay - better sex if we want it!  


Bye for now! 


Here's the link to my homepage.


Corrin Voeller is a relationship therapist in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.  She does in-person and online counseling and coaching with couples and individuals to improve the relationships in their lives.  She lives with her husband, children, and extremely fat dog.  

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