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.
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A trivial explanation for these results is that while masturbating an individual cannot touch all of their back. However, the overall pattern of results remains essentially unchanged even when only the ventral surface of the body is considered.
These maps reflect participants’ evaluation of tactile and nociceptive sensitivity, rather than true sensory thresholds. However, the maps shown in Fig. 4 agree in general well with prior studies using sparse spatial sampling of tactile sensitivity (Ackerley, Carlsson, Wester, Olausson, & Backlund Wasling, 2014; Mancini et al., 2014).
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This research was supported by Academy of Finland (MIND Program Grants #265915 to LN and #266187 to JKH).
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The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Nummenmaa, L., Suvilehto, J.T., Glerean, E. et al. Topography of Human Erogenous Zones. Arch Sex Behav 45, 1207–1216 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-016-0745-z