3 Male Arousal Triggers That Turn Men On

What turns men on?

happy couple wearing white in bed Getty

Understanding male arousal triggers can sometimes be confusing.

Human sexuality is complex. Deciphering what is biological and what is socially conditioned, when it comes to male arousal triggers, varies from person to person.

While there's significant diversity in what turns men on, there are some factors about male arousal that are easier to identify.

(Note: this article will utilize the terms "man," "men," and "male" to denote cisgender men, as there's less research available on the arousal triggers for transgender men or non-binary penis owners.)


Male arousal triggers are made up of social, cognitive, biological, and sensory cues.

Like people of all genders, thoughts, feelings, and memories of past sexual partners or sexual activity, fantasies, scents, and certain kinds of touch are the fodder for arousal. 

Here are the 3 male arousal triggers that turn men on:

1. Erogenous zones

This includes the thigh, inner wrist, inner elbow, neck, inner thigh, back of the knee, ribs, stomach, armpits, fingers, toes, and ears. These are frequently left out of the outercourse equation, while more attention is paid to oral sex.

Spend some time with your partner and explore his body together to learn what spots ignite his arousal, how he likes them stimulated, and which areas of his body are less responsive.


You might try blowing, licking, sucking, or even a little gentle nibbling to change up the way you play and to see what your partner likes best. 

2. The penis

The penis is a sex organ with many sensitive spots. Each person likes their penis stimulated differently. Some like lighter pressure, others like it more firm.

You might try a mixture of slower and faster movements, whether you're licking, sucking, or stroking your partner’s penis.

During oral or manual stimulation, you might include stroking the foreskin or putting some pressure on the base of the penis with your fingers, while using your lips and tongue on the shaft.

Communicate with your partner and see what ignites heat.


3. The anus

Many men, of all sexual orientations, like to have their anus and perineum involved in sex. The anus has a lot of nerve endings, making it a wellspring of pleasure for many.

Rimming (using your lips and tongue around the edge of the anus, and penetration can offer a ton of arousal.

Some men enjoy having their prostate gland stimulated. Known as the P-Spot, massaging the prostate through the perineum or anus can result in ejaculation. 

What causes male arousal triggers?

Researchers at the Kinsey Institute note the Dual Control Model (DCM) of Sexual Response plays a large role for people of all genders.

The Dual Control Model reflects two systems in the body that moderate arousal: excitation (like a gas pedal) and inhibition (like stepping on the brake).


The excitation and inhibition systems speak to the nuance in each person’s arousal and can help to demystify the process of getting turned on. 

Arousing thoughts, memories, or sensory input activate the excitation system while stimuli that evoke a negative feeling or a turn-off activate the inhibition system.

Everyone has different triggers that activate their gas or brake, and each person’s arousal template is unique.

For one person, fear may be an accelerant for arousal, where for others, it may shut down their arc of arousal and take them out of the mood. 

The male sex drive is governed primarily by two parts of the brain: the cerebral cortex and the limbic system.


The cerebral cortex is the outer layer of gray matter and is responsible for higher-level functions, such as planning and conscious thought.

The limbic system is comprised of three main parts of the brain responsible for emotions, motivation, and sex drive including the hippocampus, hypothalamus, and amygdala. 

Together these two parts of the brain communicate to start the process of sexual desire and arousal.

The male sexual arousal cycle is composed of four distinct phases: excitement/arousal, plateau, orgasm, and resolution/refraction.

Varying levels of dopamine, serotonin, and nitric acid play a role in the neurochemical regulation of ejaculation


How do male arousal triggers differ from female arousal triggers?

The differences in sexual arousal between men and women are not fully understood. Neither men nor women (or people of any gender) are a monolith, and the triggers for arousal are diverse. 

However, there are some differences in what arousal looks like, once someone is turned on. As a whole, men tend to experience more spontaneous desire, whereas women tend to experience more responsive desire.

Spontaneous desire means that your brain is turned on and sends cues to your body for arousal.

Responsive desire describes a process where your body feels aroused and your brain joins the fun and gets turned on too.  


Women’s bodies typically take longer to reach orgasm, on average — a solid outercourse or foreplay strategy is key.

On average, men take between two to seven minutes to reach orgasm and ejaculation, though not all orgasms include ejaculation.

Male orgasms last between five and 10 seconds, whereas a woman’s orgasm can last anywhere from five-20 seconds, with roughly 48 percent of women reporting orgasms that last between 30-60 seconds and some up to two minutes.  

RELATED: 4 Brave Men Reveal What An Intense Male Orgasm Feels Like

Are men designed to objectify women? 

Some research has pointed to a higher rate of objectification when it comes to the way men perceive women, though it's not clear in the research to what degree this is a biological or learned behavior. 


One study highlighted findings that suggest men with a greater need to feel dominance over women were more likely to sexually objectify them.

The greater the need for social dominance over women predicted a higher likelihood of the man engaging in objectifying thoughts or behavior.

The authors noted that the dominant social groups were more likely to objectify those groups with less social power, as a means of exerting power over them.

In this group of men, sexually themed thoughts and behavior were more likely a means of controlling women and upholding patriarchal mandates versus organic desire.

Additional research also notes that objectifying women is less organized around organic arousal but, rather, objectification and finding sexual partners and curating sexual experiences can be used as behavioral currency to secure friendships with other men.


Said another way, men with a high need for power and low intimacy with other men use objectification as a form of bonding. 

What kind of dysfunction can you run into with male arousal and what can be done about it?

Sexual dysfunction and common complaints amongst men can take several forms but there are 2 that are most prominent: erectile dysfunction and early ejaculation.

Erectile dysfunction is the inability to get or sustain an erection and early ejaculation (also known as premature ejaculation) occurs when a man ejaculates earlier than he or his partner prefers.

For some men, delayed ejaculation, in which it takes a longer time than desired to reach orgasm, can be a concern. Some men experience a dry orgasm, or retrograde ejaculation, in which upon ejaculation, semen enters the bladder instead of leaving the body.


There are also myriad causes of sexual dysfunction, including:

Insufficient blood flow

Low levels of testosterone


Anxiety, depression, or stress

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Endocrine disorder

Certain medications

High blood pressure


Relational distress

Low self-esteem

Substance use and abuse

There's no uniform blueprint for male arousal triggers, as every man is different, and has a different erotic truth.

As always, it's essential to obtain affirmative and enthusiastic consent before engaging in sexual behavior, especially if you’re thinking of trying something new.


Dr. Kate Balestrieri is a licensed psychologist who focuses on helping people heal from trauma, addiction, and relationship issues.