Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 45, Issue 5, pp 1207–1216 | Cite as

Topography of Human Erogenous Zones

  • Lauri Nummenmaa
  • Juulia T. Suvilehto
  • Enrico Glerean
  • Pekka Santtila
  • Jari K. Hietanen
Original Paper

Abstract

Touching is a powerful means for eliciting sexual arousal. Here, we establish the topographical organization of bodily regions triggering sexual arousal in humans. A total of 704 participants were shown images of same and opposite sex bodies and asked to color the bodily regions whose touching they or members of the opposite sex would experience as sexually arousing while masturbating or having sex with a partner. Resulting erogenous zone maps (EZMs) revealed that the whole body was sensitive to sexual touching, with erogenous hotspots consisting of genitals, breasts, and anus. The EZM area was larger while having sex with a partner versus while masturbating, and was also dependent on sexual desire and heterosexual and homosexual interest levels. We conclude that tactile stimulation of practically all bodily regions may trigger sexual arousal. Extension of the erogenous zones while having sex with a partner may reflect the role of touching in maintenance of reproductive pair bonds.

Keywords

Somatosensation Arousal Sexuality Touch Bonding 

Supplementary material

10508_2016_745_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 1045 kb)

References

  1. Ackerley, R., Carlsson, I., Wester, H., Olausson, H., & Backlund Wasling, H. (2014). Touch perceptions across skin sites: Differences between sensitivity, direction discrimination and pleasantness. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 8, 54. doi:10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00054.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  2. Baker, R. R., & Bellis, M. A. (1993). Human sperm competition–ejaculate adjustment by males and the function of masturbation. Animal Behaviour, 46, 861–885.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bartholomew, K., & Horowitz, L. M. (1991). Attachment styles among young adults—A test of a 4-category model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61, 226–244.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Blakemore, S. J., Wolpert, D., & Frith, C. (2000). Why can’t you tickle yourself? NeuroReport, 11, R11–R16.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Chivers, M. L., Seto, M. C., Lalumiere, M. L., Laan, E., & Grimbos, T. (2010). Agreement of self-reported and genital measures of sexual arousal in men and women: A meta-analysis. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 5–56.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  6. Dean, R. C., & Lue, T. F. (2005). Physiology of penile erection and pathophysiology of erectile dysfunction. Urologic Clinics of North America, 32, 379–395.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  7. Derogatis, L. R. (1978). The DSFI: A multidimensional measure of sexual functioning. Jourrnal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 5, 244–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dunbar, R. I. M. (2010). The social role of touch in humans and primates: Behavioural function and neurobiological mechanisms. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 34, 260–268.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Fillingim, R. B., & Maixner, W. (1995). Gender differences in the responses to noxious stimuli. Pain Forum, 4, 209–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Ford, C. S., & Beach, F. A. (1951). Patterns of sexual behavior. New York: Harper & Brothers.Google Scholar
  11. Georgiadis, J. R., Kortekaas, R., Kuipers, R., Nieuwenburg, A., Pruim, J., Reinders, A. A., & Holstege, G. (2006). Regional cerebral blood flow changes associated with clitorally induced orgasm in healthy women. European Journal of Neuroscience, 24, 3305–3316.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Georgiadis, J. R., Reinders, A., Paans, A. M. J., Renken, R., & Kortekaas, R. (2009). Men versus women on sexual brain function: Prominent differences during tactile genital stimulation, but not during orgasm. Human Brain Mapping, 30, 3089–3101.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Gescheider, G. A., Bolanowski, S. J., Hall, K. L., Hoffman, K. E., & Verrillo, R. T. (1994). The effects of aging on information-processing channels in the sense of touch 1. Absolute sensitivity. Somatosensory and Motor Research, 11, 345–357.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Hertenstein, M. J., Verkamp, J. M., Kerestes, A. M., & Holmes, R. M. (2006). The communicative functions of touch in humans, nonhuman primates, and rats: A review and synthesis of the empirical research. Genetic, Social, and General Psychology Monographs, 132, 5–94.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Hietanen, J. K., Glerean, E., Hari, R., & Nummenmaa, L. (in press). Bodily maps of emotions across child development. Developmental Science. doi:10.1111/desc.12389.
  16. Hubscher, C. H., & Johnson, R. D. (2003). Responses of thalamic neurons to input from the male genitalia. Journal of Neurophysiology, 89, 2–11.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Hurlbert, D. F., Apt, C., Hurlbert, M. K., & Pierce, A. P. (2000). Sexual compatibility and the sexual desire-motivation relation in females with hypoactive sexual desire disorder. Behavior Modification, 24, 325–347.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Janssen, E. (2011). Sexual arousal in men: A review and conceptual analysis. Hormones and Behavior, 59, 708–716.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Jones, S. E., & Yarbrough, A. E. (1985). A naturalistic study of the meanings of touch. Communication Monographs, 52, 19–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kelly, M. P., Strassberg, D. S., & Turner, C. M. (2006). Behavioral assessment of couples’ communication in female orgasmic disorder. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 32, 81–95.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Komisaruk, B. R., & Whipple, B. (2005). Functional MRI of the brain during orgasm in women. Annual Review of Sex Research, 16, 62–86.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Lang, P. J. (1995). The emotion probe: Studies of motivation and attention. American Psychologist, 50, 372–385.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Levin, R., & Meston, C. (2006). Nipple/breast stimulation and sexual arousal in young men and women. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 3, 450–454.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Lippa, R. A. (2006). Is high sex drive associated with increased sexual attraction to both sexes? It depends on whether you are male or female. Psychological Science, 17, 46–52.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Liu, Q., Vrontou, S., Rice, F. L., Zylka, M. J., Dong, X., & Anderson, D. J. (2007). Molecular genetic visualization of a rare subset of unmyelinated sensory neurons that may detect gentle touch. Nature Neuroscience, 10, 946–948.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Loken, L. S., Wessberg, J., Morrison, I., McGlone, F., & Olausson, H. (2009). Coding of pleasant touch by unmyelinated afferents in humans. Nature Neuroscience, 12, 547–548.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Mancini, F., Bauleo, A., Cole, J., Lui, F., Porro, C. A., Haggard, P., & Iannetti, G. D. (2014). Whole-body mapping of spatial acuity for pain and touch. Annals of Neurology, 75, 917–924.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  28. Martin-Alguacil, N., Schober, J., Kow, L.-M., & Pfaff, D. (2006). Arousing properties of the vulvar epithelium. Journal of Urology, 176, 456–462.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Nummenmaa, L., Glerean, E., Hari, R., & Hietanen, J. K. (2014). Bodily maps of emotions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111, 646–651.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  30. Olausson, H., Lamarre, Y., Backlund, H., Morin, C., Wallin, B. G., Starck, G., & Bushnell, M. C. (2002). Unmyelinated tactile afferents signal touch and project to insular cortex. Nature Neuroscience, 5, 900–904.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Oliver, M. B., & Hyde, J. S. (1993). Gender differences in sexuality: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 114, 29–51.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Penfield, W., & Boldrey, E. (1937). Somatic motor and sensory representation in the cerebral cortex of man as studied by electrical stimulation. Brain, 60, 389–443.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Purnine, D. M., & Carey, M. P. (1997). Interpersonal communication and sexual adjustment: The roles of understanding and agreement. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 65, 1017–1025.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  34. Ruben, J., Schwiemann, J., Deuchert, M., Meyer, R., Krause, T., Curio, G., … Villringer, A. (2001). Somatotopic organization of human secondary somatosensory cortex. Cerebral Cortex, 11, 463–473.Google Scholar
  35. Schober, J. M., Meyer-Bahlburg, H. F. L., & Dolezal, C. (2009). Self-ratings of genital anatomy, sexual sensitivity and function in men using the Self-Assessment of Genital Anatomy and Sexual Function, Male questionnaire. BJU International, 103, 1096–1103.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Sell, R. L. (1996). The Sell assessment of sexual orientation: Background and scoring. Journal of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Identity, 1, 295–310.Google Scholar
  37. Steers, W. D. (2000). Neural pathways and central sites involved in penile erection neuroanatomy and clinical implications. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 24, 507–516.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Suvilehto, J., Glerean, E., Dunbar, R. I. M., Hari, R., & Nummenmaa, L. (2015). Topography of social touching depends on emotional bonds between humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 112, 13811–13816.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  39. Turnbull, O. H., Lovett, V. E., Chaldecott, J., & Lucas, M. D. (2014). Reports of intimate touch: Erogenous zones and somatosensory cortical organization. Cortex, 53, 146–154.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Walen, S. R., & Roth, D. (1987). A cognitive approach. In J. H. Geer & W. T. O’Donohue (Eds.), Theories of human sexuality (pp. 335–362). New York: Plenum Press.Google Scholar
  41. Willis, F, Jr, & Briggs, L. (1992). Relationship and touch in public settings. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 16, 55–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lauri Nummenmaa
    • 1
    • 2
  • Juulia T. Suvilehto
    • 1
  • Enrico Glerean
    • 1
  • Pekka Santtila
    • 3
  • Jari K. Hietanen
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering, School of ScienceAalto UniversityEspooFinland
  2. 2.Turku PET Centre and Department of PsychologyUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland
  3. 3.Department of Psychology and LogopedicsÅbo Akademi UniversityTurkuFinland
  4. 4.Human Information Processing Laboratory, School of Social Sciences and Humanities/PsychologyUniversity of TampereTampereFinland

Personalised recommendations