Female Arousal: Explained

The female body is one of life’s mysteries. For women as well as men. Scientific studies have typically overlooked women and focused on male arousal. This has left many women, and most men, in the dark about female arousal. What are some female arousal signs? What are the stages of arousal? And what does “getting wet” actually mean? Don’t panic. We are here to explain everything you need to know.

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Arousal is excitement. It is your body switching on and preparing itself for intercourse, and foreplay is all about arousal. The more aroused you are, the more pleasurable sensations your body feels, and the more likely you are to reach orgasm, which is why we (women especially) love foreplay! It typically takes more for women to become aroused and reach orgasm - but when we do, oh boy is it worth it!

Female arousal also varies from one situation to the next, and it is influenced by a mixture of hormonal, social, psychological and physical factors. Your overall mood can affect your arousal, as well as whether you feel safe and comfortable with your partner, whether you’re tired, and whether you’ve consumed alcohol or cigarettes.

Is arousal the same as desire?

No, arousal and desire are two separate things. The term arousal refers to the physical changes that happen to your body when you’re sexually stimulated, while desire is wanting to have sex. The female body can be physically turned on, but this doesn’t mean a woman wants to have sex. That’s why open communication is essential to any sexual encounter; you can read your lover’s body signals, but make sure you’re sure they’re enjoying what’s happening.

What are the stages of female arousal?

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Female arousal (and male arousal) typically goes through 4 stages from the moment of initial arousal to that unwinding feeling post-orgasm. As we likely all know, men and women experience these stages at different times. This is why orgasming at the same time is a rare (and wonderful) thing! The four stages of arousal are Desire, Arousal, Orgasm, and Resolution.

The Desire stage can last for minutes, or even hours. It begins with that first sexy thought or touch and encompasses the first signs of arousal, but no sexual acts are happening in this stage (yet..). The Arousal stage is a continuation of the Desire stage and goes until the brink of orgasm. In this phase, sexy things are definitely happening, and you might experience muscle spasms and more intense genital sensations, or, if you have a penis, pre-cum. The next and shortest stage is Orgasm.

Your muscles contract, your blood, and breathing rates are at their height, and you’ll experience that all-too-delicious release of sexual tension, sometimes accompanied by ejaculation and considerable noise. After this is the Resolution stage, during which your body slowly returns to its normal levels, and you’ll experience feelings of calmness, well-being, and tiredness. For some, it takes no time at all for this cycle to repeat itself, but the majority of us at least need a rest and a snack-break before going in for round two.

What are the female arousal signs? And why do they happen?

It’s all well and good knowing the stages of female arousal, but these don’t explain the weird and wonderful things that happen to an aroused female body. So picture this: the lights are low, the candles lit, and you’re getting hot and heavy. If you’re female, you might be wondering what on earth is happening to you. Are my nipples supposed to feel like they could cut glass? Yes! Don’t panic!

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Some female arousal signs are easy to spot. These include heavy breathing, a rising heart rate, and an overall increase in body temperature. These happen because your body (and sexual organs) become excited and consequently demand more blood to be pumped to them. As well as this, during the first stage of arousal, your brain starts producing hormones and chemicals which communicate with your body and create the physical reactions you see.

You might be familiar with some of these, like testosterone (which women have, too), estrogen, and serotonin. Side effects of these changes might include dry lips (from all that heavy breathing), a feeling of nervousness and a lack of appetite.

Some female arousal signs are more subtle. Your face might take on a sexy pink flush. The dilation of your blood vessels alongside the release of estrogen can cause your body to turn pink, too, especially around the breasts, stomach, and neck. Who said pink was out of style?

Whilst many women are grateful they don’t have to deal with the stress of unwanted boners, we don’t get off that easy. When aroused, parts of your vagina literally get bigger (whatever your vagina type) including the labia (lips) and the clitoris. And that’s not the only thing that swells. Your breasts also increase in size by around 20%! On top of this, the release of these hormones makes your nipples erect (beware, glass!) and sensitive to touch. Who needs surgery when we have hormones?

Woman covering her chest

The phrase “getting wet” is used and abused by teenagers everywhere. But it actually refers to a very real physical change in the female body. When you’re turned on, your Bartholin glands, located just inside the vagina, produce fluids in order to lubricate the vagina in preparation for sexual intercourse. So when you feel like you’re getting wet down there, you really are getting wet down there.

You might notice that when you’re turned on you seem to loosen your inhibitions a little. Let’s call this the arousal fog, because with all those hormones and pheromones flying around it’s near-impossible to think of anything other than sex. Your body can feel like it’s acting independently of your brain. That’s totally normal, too.

And a natural reaction to this pheromone-fog is to make yourself as physically close to your sexual partner as possible. Moves such as arching your back and wrapping your legs around your partner are instinctive ways of doing this. They are also a way to accentuate sexual organs, specifically your butt, breasts, and vagina.

What are some female arousal triggers?

Frankly, there is no single answer to this question. We each have our own unique turn-ons, but arousal often starts in response to a touch, a kiss, a sexy visual image or a sext. Sometimes just a sexy memory will do the trick! Men are typically aroused more by what they see (that's why men make up the majority of porn-watchers) whilst women are more typically turned-on by intimacy, by power and confidence, and by the feeling of being viewed as attractive and desirable.

You now know all about female arousal - congrats! The next time you feel that familiar, jittery flush of excitement, fear not. You are totally normal. Enjoy yourself, because you‘ve got this. 

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