According to Emily Nagoski, the author of Come as You Are, one of the keys to transforming your sex life is learning to turn on the ons and ease off the offs. To fully understand exactly how to do this, we must first understand the dual control model. 

What is The Dual Control Model?

The dual control model consists of two systems; the sexual excitation system and the sexual inhibition system. These two systems work together to figure out the sexual relevancy of your environment and tell you to either be “turned on!” or “turned off!”

The Sexual Excitation System

The sexual excitation system, often referred to as the accelerator (or gas pedal), subconsciously scans the environment for sexual stimuli (such as things you see, touch, and smell) and signals the brain to turn the genitals on! This system accelerates you towards sex. 

Sometimes, signals from our sexual inhibition system can overpower the sexual excitation system. This results in physical arousal becoming more difficult.

The Sexual Inhibition System

The sexual inhibition system, which is often referred to as the brakes, works unconsciously and simultaneously alongside the sexual excitation system to scan the environment for turn-offs. This system slows down and/or halts your arousal towards sex. 

The sexual inhibition system consists of two inhibitors, which we refer to as the hand brake (SIS1) and foot brake (SIS2). 

The hand brake (SIS1) is associated with the internal fear of performance failure. This brake commonly gets pulled from worrying about cumming, or staying hard. SIS1 does not completely pull the “turn off!” lever, it gradually pulls back on it. This will make it much more difficult to become completely aroused. 

The foot brake (SIS2) scans its external environment for sexual performance consequences (things you see, hear, smell, taste). If it finds them, it sends a signal to the genitals to turn off completely. This system is responsible for keeping arousal at bay when; the risk of contracting an STI is high, there’s no protection, or people might hear. 

How Does this Help You?

These two systems control our sexual arousal and every single person has a system with different sensitivities. The key to unlocking the door to more responsive arousal is to learn how you have sex. In other words, figure out what hits the brakes and what steps on the gas. 

If you feel completely lost on how to start this journey, check out the Sexual Temperament Questionnaire.

Final Thoughts 

Learning about the dual control model has made navigating my sex life all the easier. It’s no longer me angrily berating myself with “Why can’t I get aroused!” now, I shift into detective mode and say “Do I need fewer off or more ons?” and sometimes it’s both. Regardless of the answer I always think to myself I need to share this with the world. So, even if you don’t read Emily Nagoski’s book, I hope the dual control model finds you.

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