I know that might be a controversial statement considering how often I get variations of “Hello sexy” in my inbox, but it’s the truth: I’m not the cause of a man’s erection.
I’ve known this since the very start of my sexual life and it’s been reinforced over time and validated by in-depth pillow talk and post-sex debriefings: men don’t get hard because of me, but because of their ideas about me. This knowledge became a means of liberation, a way to own my own sexual self and encourage my lovers to do the same.
Erections aren’t about or for me
Whenever I mention this, I inevitably get push back: Some women insisting that their man is totally into them, men insisting that they’re totally into me. I’m not necessarily trying to convince them that they’re wrong, they have their experiences – but I have mine as well.
My experience spans decades. I was an early bloomer sexually. Over the 30 or so years I’ve been a sexually aware being, I’ve had more crushes than I can count, a diverse array of experiences and lovers from the sacred to the profane, I became familiar with the saints and the demons within us all. My “body count”, while high compared to most, doesn’t begin to encompass those who have never touched me yet still claimed me as the cause of their erection and/or orgasm.
Suffice it to say that I am no stranger to the cis-male boner.
So understand that when I say this, I speak with the authority of some significant lived experience: Most men don’t get hard because of me.
No, they’re hard because of what they’ve imagined about me, a projected muse in the mind-movies of their fantasies. That’s not to say I don’t play a factor, but it’s detached from who I actually am. I am a channel of opportunity for their desires whether I want to be or not, whether I asked for it or not, whether they can act on it or not. A proxy, a stand-in for the excitement of potential scenarios, the thrill of fantasy, a vessel for playful imagination. A replaceable cog in the vast, sexual dopamine delivery system.
And yet, I forever get messages that look like this: “But baby, don’t you see how hard I am for you? Don’t you have a few minutes to help a guy out?”
No and No.
Your erection isn’t my responsibility.
The contextual causality
It sounds cynical, doesn’t it? But consider, when we rely on the false formulas that all erections equal arousal, we skew some important truths.
An erection is a physiological response to stimuli, whether internal or external. The presence of a boner doesn’t automatically equal attraction or consent. For example, research has shown that “beer goggles” are actually sort of a thing. Likewise, an erection doesn’t mean male survivors wanted or enjoyed being sexually assaulted, a close cousin to the “she was asking for it” rape myth. Just like “Whiskey Dick” doesn’t mean I’m not attractive to him, the presence of an erection isn’t proof that I am either.
I am forever amused when men tell me that I’m the cause of their erection. Nah, boy, I just happened to be present either in your field of vision or a thread in your thoughts when you got one.
If I was a mind reader, I’d see that while yes, I happened to be part of the field of stimulus, the erection actually came about due to certain thoughts, memories or physiological experiences. Consider the following real life situations (yes, these actually all happened to me):
- Ken is self-described boob guy. He was already half hard on his commute looking at the pretty boob-owners on the bus with him. He opens Twitter, scrolling for photos. A photo of my cleavage is one of many that fueled his lust to full hardness. That predisposition isn’t my doing.
- John sees me out of the corner of his eye flirting with the bartender. He notices I have a wedding ring. Boom! He’s hard because he imagines I’m cheating and that turns him on. This story isn’t my creation.
- Lucas has been bitter and lonely after a painful break-up. I chat with him in line at the grocery store and laugh at his jokes. He gets hard from feeling validated by an attractive-ish stranger. That role could be filled by anyone.
- Maurice has been catching up with his ex online, remembering all the great sex they once had together. I come home from work and he is hard and horny and wants sex with me. That desire wasn’t stirred because I suddenly showed up.
- Steve is out partying with his buddies and was rejected by my lesbian friend. He drinks until I’m cute, imagining a three-way with my friend until he’s hard. That backhanded compliment isn’t flattering.
- Damian takes me to see a movie for our first date. There is a heavy gay leather sex scene that hits all of his repressed, sexual buttons. That desire is not at all about me.
- Ron is on a class camping trip and has never noticed me before. He wakes up with morning wood and I happen to be somewhere in a 200 foot radius. That wood is most definitely not for me.
Simply put: The boner isn’t because of me. The boner is because of the totality of the situation, the thoughts, the feelings, the memories, which only sometimes have anything to do with me.
The nature of my (role) play
Flirting is a better expression of interest for me. Playful banter that fans the initial, energetic sparks of attraction into some juicy mutual desire. Intellectual, witty wordplay with seductive innuendo. The tension of proximity, of express desire, of shared investment in the potential of sexual fireworks between us. Oh yeah…that’s the good stuff.
Good flirting is an art form. Back when I was in my prime, I was a master at flirtation and seduction. I could see a person’s desires as plain as you read these words here today. Written all over their word choices and body language, I could usually tell their deeper needs and I could tilt the conversation in that direction, adjusting myself to their ongoing display of desires. That is where the magic begins!
An erection is the least persuasive demonstration of desire. It limits my influence to a sexual impulse, a fleeting moment jumbled in with a ton of other thoughts and ideas. And even when it’s pinpointed to something I do or say, it still doesn’t say as much as when someone takes an actual interest in me, in my ideals and expression, in the magic I will actually bring to their world. Reductive, physiological responses aren’t enough – they have to be into ME beyond my cleavage and the sway of my hips.
Instead of wearing the costume of whatever image conjured that erection, their assumptions, their need, their aspirations, I prefer to play myself, not be a stand-in for someone or something else. And when someone only points to their erection as evidence of their attraction, it tells me that they know they don’t bring much else to the table – they treat me superficially becasue they are hiding from the depth I inevitably bring out.
At some point in my life I started recognizing that all spiritual exchange requires just that–an exchange. But when I serve as a placeholder, a meantime girl, a port in any storm, the exchange becomes more like a transaction. I was exhausted from providing more than I was receiving.
This caused me ultimately to stop sexual interaction with men who couldn’t see me, value me or be bothered to try to meet me where I am emotionally. Each message I receive I can usually pinpoint the desires. I can see their needs. And while I know I still have the skill to become exactly what they want, to get them hard for their own release, I am just uninterested in being anything but who I am. I don’t waste my precious energy unless those needs and desires align directly (not vaguely) with my own.
Your erection = your problem
In my world, an erection is only evidence a complex system of physiological and psychological responses to stimuli and thoughts. It isn’t evidence of arousal for me in particular. When men send me photos of their hard-ons, what I see is evidence of arousal from the exhibitionist nature of taking the photo. A photo of a hard dick doesn’t prove what someone actually thinks of me. (One man went so far as to recycle his dick pic photos, always claiming they were due to me in that moment. When I called him out on it he disappeared. Seriously, don’t do this.)
There is a certain freedom, as a woman, to know that a man’s hard-on isn’t because of me; it relieves me of any sense of responsibility or guilt to do something about it. How many times as a teenager did boys try to guilt me into oral sex through the coercive excuse of blue balls? Men have tried to convince me that my mere presence was enough to cause a hard on and then tried to make me responsible for relieving them of the burden of it.
“A person does not need a partner to relieve blue balls through sex. People can get rid of the symptoms by ejaculating through masturbation or by doing a nonarousing activity to distract them.”https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324870#myths
Someone once said that I was making a harsh, blanket judgment and making arousal too simplistic. On the contrary, arousal is a beautifully complex and dense array of possibilities. It is just as much a conditioned response to cultural stimuli (racists being turned on by POC due to the forbidden nature of the attraction), as it is to physical attributes (an ass man getting an eyeful of cheerleader butts during halftime). It is memory (“Oh, the last time she did this she gave me a blowjob”) and it is hope (a hint of skin leading to daydreams of more). It comes in so many forms and rarely will there ever be one, singular source of arousal. Arousal is ultimately a magnificent cocktail of stimuli.
I’m simply pragmatic enough to understand that the part that I play in that cocktail is just one flavor of the mixture. I don’t carry the burden to satisfy the thirst completely, only to be who I authentically am in the moment. I get to choose whether he presents a problem worthy enough for me to delight in solving it.