Sex Ed

Obtaining Sexual Consent Isn’t Just The Right Thing To Do–It’s Also Really Sexy

January 29, 2018 by Justin Lehmiller


There’s been a lot of talk about the issue of sexual consent in response to the #MeToo movement. Much of this talk has focused on getting men to understand that obtaining consent is the right and respectful thing to do—a point that they increasingly appear to recognize and appreciate. However, something a lot of guys do not yet seem to realize is that focusing on consent can be worthwhile for at least one other reason: it has the potential to make sex even better. Here’s why:

There’s a common tendency for people to think that sex is a purely physical act that’s largely devoid of emotion for men—but that’s not the case. A growing body of research finds that emotion plays a big role when it comes to men’s interest in and enjoyment of sex. In particular, feeling wanted and desired is something that most men find to be a real turn-on.

As some evidence of this, consider a recent qualitative study of heterosexual men in relationships who were asked about the factors that both elicit and inhibit sexual desire. What the researchers found was that feeling desired by one’s partner was by far the biggest factor that affected men’s own interest in sex [1].

Likewise, I collected data from thousands of men about their sexual fantasies for my book Tell Me What You Want. Among other things, I found that the vast majority of men reported that they have fantasies about feeling sexually desired by someone else.

Feeling wanted is therefore something that most men appear to find sexually arousing. So how can you ensure that you feel wanted? That starts with paying close attention to sexual consent because consent is the signal that your partner wants you as much as you want them.

In other words, in order to fulfill that longing to be desired, men must pay attention to cues of sexual consent. There are a lot of ways to do this, such as by verbally checking in from time to time (e.g., “How does that feel?”). Likewise, listening for moans and groans of pleasure can be another indicator of consent and, incidentally, this is something that men report as highly arousing in and of itself [2]. In addition, attending to facial expressions and body language can also signal consent (e.g., does the other person appear to be getting into it and enjoying themselves?).

In short, most men are turned on by feeling wanted, and consent is the key to determining whether your partner is into you. Sexual consent, then, is far more than just a way of showing care and respect for your partner—it’s also really sexy.

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[1] Murray, S. H., Milhausen, R. R., Graham, C. A., & Kuczynski, L. (2017). A qualitative exploration of factors that affect sexual desire among men aged 30 to 65 in long-term relationships. The Journal of Sex Research, 54(3), 319-330.

[2] Levin, R. J., (2006). Vocalised sounds and human sex. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 21, 99-107.

Image Source: 123RF/dolgachov

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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