The Library

Physical and Psychogenic Stimulation

What Type of Stimulation Are You Engaging In?
2 Min Read
Physical and Psychogenic Stimulation

What comes to mind when you hear the following word: Stimulation?

For many people, physical touch is top of the list. But have you ever thought about the different paths to arousal? After all, there are generally two kinds of stimulation you can use to turn someone on:

1. Physical Stimulation

2. Psychogenic Stimulation

The first, physical stimulation, needs no introduction. It can include anything engaging the body. But psychogenic, or “above the neck” arousal is just as important — and it will engage your biggest sex organ: the brain!

Face to Face

Creating your own arousing visual

This kind of stimulation is largely active, and involves you or a partner performing or engaging in something that lights up the pleasure receptors in your brain. In other words, you create your own arousing visual (1). These are often “look but don’t touch” exercises, which can up the ante of foreplay, or serve as the main event themselves. Below are a few examples influenced by Ian Kerner’s book So Tell Me about the Last Time You Had Sex, but the sky's the limit for your own ideas:

  • Performing a striptease
  • Role-playing a scenario
  • Letting your partner watch you pleasure yourself — or watching them get themself off
  • Sharing a fantasy together

Side by Side:

Taking in someone else's creation

In side-by-side exercises, you take in someone else’s creation, often together (1). You can try to consume the below content without physically stimulating one another, in order to heighten the anticipation, or let these ideas satiate your appetite on their own.

  • Watching porn
  • Listening to an erotic podcast
  • Seeing an arousing movie

Why Does This Matter?

It’s important to be aware of both channels, and identify whether you tap into one or both in your own sex life. It’s common to discount psychogenic stimulation, but doing so means that 50% of your sexual opportunities are left untouched! Leaning into this form of arousal could even be your time to tap into what experts call an energy orgasm, which separates arousal from physical touch.

A Note on Gender Differences

Generally speaking, evolutionary science has found that women tend to drift towards face-to-face stimulation and men often prefer side-by-side options. As John Gottman explains, men “faced their enemies and sit next to their friends.” Therefore, if you are in a heterosexual relationship, make sure to talk through your individual interests because what resonates with you might not be your partner’s first choice.

Hopefully, this will create new ideas for arousal that surpass stereotypical foreplay (not that there's anything wrong with it). This information is just another way to help rewrite your sex script and think differently about your sex life – and potentially open you up for new opportunities and ideas! 

And for more tips on stimulation and amping up your sex life, Ian Kerner’s So Tell Me about the Last Time You Had Sex is a great read!


  1. Kerner, Ian. So Tell Me about the Last Time You Had Sex: Laying Bare and Learning to Repair Our Love Lives. Balance, 2022.
  2. Gottman, John, et al. The Man's Guide to Women: Scientifically Proven Secrets from the" Love Lab" about what Women Really Want. Rodale, 2016.