So often the men in our lives focus on what turns us women on. (Maybe we women do that a bit too!) But maybe they are consciously, or unconsciously, doing something that absolutely turns us off. In the past weeks, we’ve talked about sexual context and what turns women on. Now let’s take a look at what turns us off and how that knowledge can end up helping our sex lives.
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References for this episode:
Turning on and turning off: a focus group study of the factors that affect women’s sexual arousal
Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski, Ph.D.
If you’ve been following along with me the last few weeks, we’ve now covered sexual brakes and accelerators, creating sexual context, what turns women on, and now we are at what turns women off. So if you haven’t listened to the last few episodes, I would recommend that you do that before listening to this one. It will make a lot more sense.
Before getting into the research and science, I always think it’s fun to get some anecdotal evidence. So according to EverydayHealth.com these are the top 10 Turn-offs for women
- Being ignored – now this one makes a lot of sense to me. We want to know that we are important to our partner. We want them to pay attention to us. If other things (sports, video games, work) or other people (friends, kids, extended family, coworkers) seem more important, then it makes sense that that is a turn off. Yes, there is a time and place for things, so we have to be conscious of that. But if he used to dote on you and then switched gears later, that’s a problem.
- More swagger than substance – men who talk a big game but can’t follow through is a big turn off. Also ones who care more about how they look than who they truly are.
- Self-admiration – if he’s always letting you know how great he is, that is a big turn-off for women.
- Pre-occupation with sex – women don’t want to feel solely like sex objects. We also don’t want to hear about past sexual conquests at the beginning of the relationship (and maybe not after either). Most women want to be shown affection and intimacy outside of the bedroom more than inside it.
- Straight-Up Chauvinism – Any man who belittles a woman, has a title for every woman like “darling,” “sweet cheeks,” or “little lady” will most likely turn every woman off.
- Not helping out – If you are stuck in the 1950s and think that it’s a woman’s place to raise the kids and take care of the house, you are going to turn her off. Most women in today’s world also work. They want a partner who can share the responsibilities and the mental load. Even if she doesn’t work, her job doesn’t end at 5pm and neither should yours. So if you think you don’t need to do much when you get home because you bring the bacon, you are sorely mistaken.
- Ogling Other Women – We understand that you may notice an attractive woman. But women are usually turned off by overly flirtatious behavior or men who stare at the women. So be respectful and even if you notice them, don’t make a big deal about it.
- Boorish Behavior – Check your behavior. Women are usually turned off by vulgar language, getting drunk or high, dominating the conversations so that no one can get a word in edgewise, or showboating. Women want someone who treats her thoughtfully and respectfully.
- Poor Grooming Habits – beyond basic hygiene, women want more. Most men want sleek, gorgeous women, so it’s fair to assume women don’t want a man who doesn’t take care of himself. Shower regularly. Comb your hair. Keep any facial hair well groomed. They make a big difference.
- Bad Pickup Lines – women love a sense of humor but so many guys try too hard (and are sometimes offensive) with their pick-up lines. Be genuine and sincere and it will go a lot further.
Now again, you’ll notice, many of these are for single people, and not necessarily geared towards married couples. So, I found some articles specifically for married couples.
An article on IntimacyInMarriage.com gave 5 things that turn wives off sexually.
- Lack of personal hygiene (just like we talked about from the last article)
- Looking at porn. I’m not one who believes that porn destroys marriages, although I think it definitely can if we let it. I’m personally not a fan of porn, I think it gives people a distorted view of what real sex and intimacy look like. But I do believe it is hard for most women to be open, trusting, and vulnerable with their husband who chooses to look at porn, which definitely affects the sexual relationship. So it definitely can be a turn off.
- Wanting someone to join the two of you in bed. I don’t know if this is much of an issue with my Conservative Christian clients, but maybe it is. And if it is, I believe it definitely could be a turn off.
- Neglecting her emotionally. I think this one is a big one. I do think that women need to recognize HOW their partner is trying to connect and work on thinking connecting thoughts. But I do think it’s important for men to realize that they need to emotionally connect with their wife. And the more they do this, the more inclined she will be to connect physically.
- Downplaying the importance of her sexual pleasure. If you are just in it for your own sexual pleasure and aren’t willing to spend the time and do what is necessary for hers, yeah, that’s not going to work for her. Sex will become a duty and a chore to check off her to-do list, which is quite the opposite of I think most men truly want. So yeah, that will definitely turn her off.
FocusOnTheFamily.com had a few other ideas as well.
- Disrespect – I think that one is pretty obvious. If you are being disrespectful to her in any way, that is a turn off.
- Criticism – This one goes along with disrespect, but if you criticize her, that’s going to be a turn off. Do you think she should lose some weight, or hit the gym? Voice that to her and most likely it will hit a nerve. 1000% she already knows what she needs to work on, she doesn’t need it pointed out to her. Not happy with the house or something with the kids. Have a kind conversation about how she’s doing mentally and physically and how you can help, instead of pointing out what is missing. Again, guaranteed she’s already beating herself up about it. She doesn’t need it from you too.
- Neglect outside the bedroom – we’ve talked about that one already.
- Lack of effort – this article talks about hygiene as well as helping around the house, which we’ve discussed.
- Pornography. We’ve discussed that too.
Now, what is interesting to note with all of these anecdotal examples is that they are about the man! And what the man should or should not do that turns her off. And what I think is really important to remember is that yes, what our husbands do or don’t do can affect how we think and feel, we still get to choose the way we want to think and feel on purpose about all of it. To some women, some of these things may matter because of how they think and to others, they may think differently. And how we think about things creates the context.
So let’s get into the science again shall we? In a series of nine focus groups with 80 women, 4 researchers cataloged women’s thoughts on things that cause them to hit the sexual brakes. There are some interesting parallels to McCall and Meston’s work that we discussed last week. And what I love about these, instead of “all the things men do wrong that hit a woman’s brakes,” these are things that are more internal and that we, as women, have more control over. Here are the themes with a quote from the research participants to illustrate each:
- Feelings About One’s Body – “It’s much easier for me to feel aroused when I’m feeling really comfortable with myself…it’s not as easy to feel aroused when I’m not feeling good about myself and my body.”
How we think and feel about our body is a huge aspect in our ability to get turned on. If you haven’t listened to it yet, I highly suggest Episode 74 – How Body Image Affects Sex.
- Concerns About Reputation – “What are they going to think of me because I’m doing these things?”
This is a HUGE one I see for many of the women I work with. Because we have the belief that “good women” aren’t sexual, we are worried about how others will perceive us if we want and desire sex. This is a huge brake for many women and one we work on a lot in my program.
- Putting on the Brakes – “It’s like you might have some inclinations and then you’re like, “wait a minute, you can’t do that,” and all of the sudden you just think “forget it, I can’t. That’s a bad idea” and you walk away from it.”
A lot of women actually do think about sex during the day and then something happens and they purposefully squash it. I want you to think about how often you do that?
- Unwanted Pregnancy/Contraception – “Unwanted pregnancy is a big turn off and if you’re with a partner who seems unconcerned about that, then it really feels like a danger.”
As much as we love our babies and maybe even love being pregnant, pregnancy and birth cause trauma for all women. So having a partner not be concerned about it or pushing for a lack of contraception can be a huge brake for many women, with good reason. Protecting yourself (and your partner) from unwanted pregnancy is one of the 6 Principles of Sexual Health that can be found in Episode 94.
- Feeling Desired Versus Feeling Used by Partner – “I like it when men caress not only, like, your body parts that get sexually aroused but just, like, your arms…it feels like he’s encompassing you and appreciating your whole body.”
As women, we want to feel desired completely by our spouse. Not just sexually. Taking the time to be touched in a way that slowly brings up the arousal level (like I discuss in Episode 137 – The Five Gears of Touch) and not just going straight for the genitals (which is often painful and can definitely be a brake). But also desired outside of the bedroom.
- Feeling ‘Accepted’ by Partner – “Even with my second husband, and we were together 16 years, he was not accepting of my sexual response…I make a lot of noise with my favorite way to orgasm, and he felt left out…That was just the beginning of just really shutting down.”
It is a fear of every human that we will not be accepted for who we truly are. That fear is magnified with our spouse. We are afraid of being rejected. So that fear, especially if we feel we aren’t accepted in some way, can definitely hit the brakes.
- Style of Approach/Initiation and Timing – “His ‘game’…you know, how the man approached you, how did he get me to talk to him longer than like, five minutes? … [It’s] the way he went about it.”
The way a man initiates or approaches AND when is a huge deal. The wrong way can definitely put on the brakes. If you want some ideas and even a worksheet to help you figure out the best way to initiate in your marriage, check out Episode 169.
- Negative Mood – “If you’re upset with your intended sexual partner, if you’re upset with him about something, there’s no way that you are going to be aroused.”
This was actually the most common response to a question I asked on Instagram about what puts on the brakes. Having a disagreement or argument can definitely do it. But, I want you to think about how many times you create that as a way to stop the sexual encounter? How many times do you consciously or even unconsciously create contention so that sex isn’t on the table? I know it happens a lot in many marriages and I would bet it happens in yours too. Why? Really question why you do this so we can get to the heart of the matter.
Now, just as a reminder from last week of what helps women push the accelerator…
- Having an attractive partner who respects them and accepts them as they are.
- Feeling trusting and affectionate in their relationship
- Being confident and healthy – both emotionally and physically
- Feeling desired by their partner, being approached in a way that makes them feel special
- Explicit erotic cues
So what do all these answers tell us? That it all depends on context! A woman who is confident in herself and the partner she loves, trusts, and is attracted to, still may not want to have sex if she has the flu or has been working endlessly and taking care of kids all week. She may not want to have sex if both she and her partner aren’t freshly showered.
All of it depends on context. And context is made up of two things:
- The circumstances of the present moment, whom you’re with, where you are, whether the situation is novel or familiar, risky or safe, etc.
- Where your brain is in the present moment. Whether you are relaxed or stressed. Trusting or not. Loving or not.
But you have a lot of control over your context. You may not necessarily have control over your circumstances, but you have a lot of control over how you are thinking about your circumstances. And that is exactly what I teach you to do in coaching. To create better context.
So, if you’d like to join me in coaching, my last group of the year starts next Wednesday, November 10 at 10am MT. There are just a couple more spots available and I’d love to see you there. Go to AmandaLouder.com/groups to learn more.