• What’s Your Sexual Temperament?

    The Dual Arousal Model, as described by Emily Nagoski in her book “Come as You Are,” is a framework used to understand and explain sexual response, desire, and arousal in a comprehensive and holistic manner. It offers valuable insights into the complex interplay of sexual inhibition and sexual excitation in individuals.

    This probably sounds like a lot. Let’s break it down.

    The Dual Arousal Model

    At the core of the Dual Arousal Model is the idea that sexual response is influenced by two main systems: Sexual Excitation (SES) and Sexual Inhibition (SIS).

    1. Sexual Excitation (SES)

    SES is the aspect of our sexual response associated with turning-on, getting aroused, and feeling desire. It’s like the gas pedal in a car, pushing us towards sexual activity. SES is influenced by various factors:


    These are things that rev up our sexual engine. They can be anything from physical touch, erotic fantasies, or emotional connection. What accelerates one person might not work for another, as it’s highly individual.

    Sexual Context

    The environment, setting, and mood play a significant role. Feeling safe and comfortable in your surroundings can be a major accelerator for SES.

    2. Sexual Inhibition (SIS)

    SIS, on the other hand, functions as the brake in the sexual response system. It’s what holds us back from engaging in sexual activity. Like SES, SIS is also influenced by several factors:


    These are the things that put the brakes on your sexual desire and arousal. Stress, body image issues, relationship conflicts, or past traumas can serve as brakes, making it difficult for one to get into the mood.

    Cultural and Societal Factors 

    SIS is heavily influenced by societal norms and expectations. If a person is burdened by feelings of guilt, shame, or negative cultural messages about sex, it can be a significant inhibition.

    How Does the Dual Control Model Relate to Sexual Temperament (Excitation and Inhibition)

    The Dual Arousal Model helps us understand that sexual response is highly individualized. What excites one person might not be the same for another, and what inhibits one person may not be a barrier for someone else. Because of this, understanding your personal accelerators and brakes is essential for a fulfilling and satisfying sexual life.

    In practical terms, this means acknowledging and addressing both the accelerators and brakes in your life. It also highlights the importance of open communication with your partner about what turns you on and what inhibits your desire. By identifying and working through both sexual excitation and sexual inhibition, individuals and couples can improve their sexual experiences and overall well-being.

    What is Your Sexual Temperament Questionnaire

    Review the statements below and use the scale to determine how much they apply to you. Write the corresponding number in the space.

    Not at all
    Not much
    A lot
    Unless things are “just right” it is difficult for me to become sexually aroused.
    When I am sexually aroused, the slightest thing can turn me off.
    I have to trust a partner to become fully aroused.
    If I am worried about taking too long to become aroused or to orgasm, this can interfere with my arousal.
    Sometimes I feel so “shy” or self-conscious during sex that I cannot become fully aroused.
    Often just how someone smells can be a turn on. 
    Seeing a partner doing something that shows his/her talent or intelligence, or watching them interacting well with others can make me very sexually aroused. 
    Having sex in a different setting than usual is a real turn on for me. 
    When I think about someone I find sexually attractive or fantasize about sex, I easily become sexually aroused. 
    Certain hormonal changes definitely increase my sexual arousal. 
    I get very turned on when someone wants me sexually. 

    © 2015 Emily Nagoski, Ph.D • emilynagoski.com Retrieved from: https://www.emilynagoski.com/come-as-you-are-worksheets

    Score Your Sexual Temperament

    Retrieved from: https://www.emilynagoski.com/come-as-you-are-worksheets



    You’re not so sensitive to all the reasons not to be sexually aroused. You don’t tend to worry about your own sexual functioning, and body image issues don’t interfere too much with your sexuality. When you’re sexually engaged, your attention is not very distractible and you wouldn’t be inclined to describe yourself as “sexually shy.” Most circumstances can be sexual for you. You may find that your main challenge around sexual functioning is holding yourself back, reigning yourself in. Staying aware of potential consequences can help with this. Around 15% of the women I’ve asked fit this range.


    You’re right in the middle, along with more than half the women I’ve asked. This means that so whether or not your sexual “brakes” engage will be largely dependent on context. Risky or novel situations, such as a new partner, might increase your concerns about your own sexual functioning, shyness, or your distractibility from sex. Contexts that easily arouse you are likely to be low-risk and more familiar, and any time your stress levels – including anxiety, overwhelm, exhaustion, depression – escalate, your brakes will reduce your interest in and response to sexual signals.


    You’re pretty sensitive to all the reasons not to be sexually aroused. You need a setting of trust and relaxation in order to be aroused, and it’s best if you don’t feel rushed or pressured in any way. You might be easily distracted from sex. High SIS, regardless of SES is the most strongly correlated factor with sexual problems, so if this is you, pay close attention to the “sexy contexts” worksheets in the chapters that follow. About a quarter of the women I’ve asked fall into this range.



    You’re not so sensitive to sexually relevant stimuli and need to be a more deliberate effort to tune your attention in that direction. Novel situations are less likely to be sexy to you than familiar ones. You’re a person whose sexual functioning will benefit from

    adding a greater intensity of stimulation (like a vibrator) and daily practice of paying attention to sensations. Lower SES is also associated with asexuality, so if you’re very

    low SES, you might resonate with some components of the asexual identity. The women I ask are probably higher SES than the overall population – they’re women who are interested enough in sex to take a class, attend a workshop, or read a sex blog – but still about 8% of those women fall into this range.


    You’re right in the middle, so whether or not you’re sensitive to sexual stimuli probably depends on the context. In situations of high romance or eroticism, you tune in readily to sexual stimuli; and in situations of low romance or eroticism, it may be pretty challenging to move your attention to sexual things. Recognize the role that context plays in your arousal and pleasure, and take steps to increase the sexiness of your life’s contexts. Fully 70% of the women I’ve asked fall into that range.


    You’re pretty sensitive to sexually relevant stimuli, maybe even things humans aren’t generally very sensitive to, like smell and taste. A fairly wide range of contexts can be sexual for you, and novelty may be really exciting. You may be a person who likes having sex as a way to de-stress – higher SES is correlated with greater risk for sexual compulsivity, so you may benefit from paying attention to the ways you manage stress. Your sexual functioning may benefit by making sure you create lots of time and space for your partner; because you’re sensitive, you can derive intense satisfaction from your partner’s pleasure, so you’ll both benefit! About 16% of the women I ask fall into this group.