When you think of the phrase Arousal Template, what do you think of? Well, when you search in google the predominant literature on arousal templates seem to be linked to Sex Addiction and recovery. Dr. Patrick Carnes originally defined a person's arousal template as a compilation of thoughts, images, behaviors, sounds, smells, sights, fantasies, and objects that arouse us sexually.
In an effort to model sex positivity in larger American culture, I want to challenge this tether between the construct of Arousal Templates and the limiting singular intention of treating sexual addiction. Arousal Template formulation can act to embrace the sexual enlightenment that can come from loving all that is you.
Let's make a choice to veer away from automatic pathology of sex. In my clinical belief, every human being has an inherent arousal template (we are, in fact, developed with evolutionary drives to procreate and belong to a group). The arousal template itself is a neutral entity. Could portions of it encapsulate unhealthy frameworks of sexuality or be partially built upon negative life experiences, such as sexual trauma or gender-shaming? Absolutely. And this is part of why identifying your own unique composition of arousal is so important. So that we can be mindful of our own needs, wants and limitations within and outside of the bedroom. And so that any partner(s) we may connect with have access to the information needed for showing respect to our needs, wants or limitations.
Let's formulate together. What comprises sexual / arousal templates?
- Philosophies of sexuality?
- Intriguing topics related to arousal?
- Known entities related to desire, arousal or orgasm?
- Preferred gender pronoun?
- Where do you lay on the sexual orientation spectrum?
- In what ways do you link sexuality with positivity (uplifting, pleasant emotional response) and in what ways do you link sexuality with negativity (heavy, unpleasant emotional response)?
- Your sexual history (memories that include sexuality, body form, “firsts”, etc)
- Religious or spiritual beliefs associated to sexuality?
- Presence of shame or guilt related to body form or sexual acts?
- What encourages you to tether sexual energy to one person / entity more than another?
- What turns you on or off?
- How much / in what way to you embody both masculine and feminine energy? What forms of energy do you seek in a sexual partner?
- What was modeled for you for affection in your family of origin?
- What role does sex play in your life? (i.e. How do you prioritize it with other life values? How much time do you choose to devote to it?)
- Beliefs on the use of sex toys, pornography, masturbatory aids?
- What is your preferred relationship structure? Why?
I hope that this activity sparked some reflection. It is impossible to communicate what we want / don't want to those that we connect with if we are unsure ourselves. This activity helps make your unique composition concrete enough to effectively verbalize. If you are celebrating life independently of a partner, this activity helps confirm the many aspects of your arousal template so that you can better love yourself in all of your unique glory. Enjoy yourselves and each other.
Stephanie P. Bathurst, Ph.D ABD, LCMFT
Board Certified Clinical Sexologist & Relationship Therapist