Erogenous zones
The guide
Part 1. Erogenous zones: what are they? By sexologist Amina Nazarlieva

The official definition of erogenous zones is "areas of the human body with increased sensitivity which, when stimulated, can cause sexual reactions like relaxation, sexual arousal, or orgasm."

The main erogenous zones are the genital area, lips and chest. There are a lot of nerve endings in these areas. In addition, in the genital area and mouth, one type of epidermis passes into another: the skin into the mucous membrane. Such areas of the body are usually very sensitive.

But for some people, almost any part of the body can be erogenous. This was recently confirmed in a study with 800 participants. Area of erogenous zones is typically larger in case of a sex with a partner compared with a masturbation.

In some disorders an unusual body part may become an erogenous zone, and touching it causes excitement, even when a person does not want it.

For example, a woman had an orgasm when she held a ball with her knees during fitness exercises. Next time she felt excited when climbing a tree - her knees rubbed against it. It was great, she repeated it, but the situation got out of control.

She began to experience excitement when touching her knees in unexpected situations when it was completely unnecessary: at work, in the store. Such cases are treated by sexologists.

Part 2. Erogenous zones: Neurobiological account by Ekaterina Vinnik

When we touch the erogenous zones, we do not feel them tickling, itching or hurting. Instead, we feel excitement, because touching another person is a special kind of tactile sensation.

In our skin, there is a special type of nerve endings. These nerve endings do not respond to pain or itching - only to a weak slow touch, typical for touches between close people.

The nerve endings belong to neurons that are most activated at a very specific velocity of touch: from 1 to 10 centimeters per second. This is the velocity most people define as the most enjoyable.

In addition, these nerve endings are best activated at a temperature of 32 degrees - in other words, with a warm touch. This fact also supports the hypothesis that neurons of this type are important precisely for social interaction.

These neurons "turn on" at any pleasant touch, including non-erotic touch. When stimulating erogenous zones, they play a very large role.

If you look at the human brain at the moment of such a touch, you can see a lot of interesting things. For example, the key structure for tactile sensations in our brain is the somatosensory cortex. But it does not react so much to slow, pleasant touches.

On the other hand, the insular cortex is intensely activated - the area of the frontal lobe that is responsible for the integration and regulation of emotional states and bodily processes. This partly explains why we are experiencing the stimulation of erogenous zones not just as tactile sensations, but as a complex physical and emotional state.

Part 3. Erogenous zones: Cultural perspective by sexologist Amina Nazaralieva

From the point of view of cultural anthropology, erogenous zones are areas of the body that people decorate or even modify in order to attract a partner.

Traditionally, in many cultures it has been common to emphasize the secondary sexual characteristics of women. Polynesians, for example, used to tattoo the hips and buttocks of girls. Some African tribes left scars on these areas of the female body. These procedures were designed to help girls attract partners.

For the same reason, for many centuries women wore corsets in Europe: they emphasized the waist, hips and buttocks, making women more "feminine", meaning erotic.

Erogenous zones also became those parts of the body that could symbolize or resemble something like a vulva: for example, a mouth brightly tinted with red lipstick.

Also, in different cultures and eras there were specific ideas about erogenous zones. In many Asian societies, for example, the base of the neck was considered attractive.

In 1930, psychologist John Flugel came up with the theory that changing attitudes about the attractiveness of different parts of a woman's body determine fashion. In 1969, fashion historian James Laver first called this theory "erogenous zone displacement."

Laver described many examples of how women's clothing adapts to men's addictions. In the Victorian era, cropped skirts showed ankles - and this part of the legs was considered very erotic. In the 1930s, the back was considered to be an erogenous zone: it was there that a deep cut was made in the dress. In the 50s and 60s of the twentieth century, the emphasis in women's clothing was on a raised, protruding chest.

Men's clothing, on the other hand, has become more discreet since 19th century - colorful tights and codpieces were abandoned, for example.

In the 1980s, the theory was accused of sexism, and not without reason. Art historians and anthropologists are now leaning towards a deeper understanding of fashion history.

Although the desire to emphasize erogenous zones does play a role in how people dress, this is far from the only factor determining fashion.

Part 4. Physiology and context. By sexologist Amina Nazarlieva

Culture and physiology play equally important roles in the clockwork of erogenous zones. For stimulation of erogenous zones to cause attraction, some special context is needed.

Depending on the context of the touch, the same type of stimulation can cause either attraction or fear, disgust and pain. If a person whom we are afraid of or who does not attract us touches our erogenous zones, then attraction will not occur.

A clear example is touching the genital area at the appointment of a gynecologist or urologist. Few will perceive this situation as exciting.

Arousal and attraction are different. In different situations, the human body can show physiological signs of arousal: men can have an erection, women can get their labia moisturized. But this can happen against the will of the person and does not mean that the person feels the desire to have sex.

There are studies in which scientists measure the physiological arousal in women in various situations. They show that it can occur, for example, when a woman watches a video of mating animals or sexual abuse. If you ask her at this moment whether she feels attracted, she will answer "no".

There is an assumption that the body reacts with excitement to some kind of visual stimulus, because from the evolutionary standpoint it was important to protect a woman from injuries as a result of violence. So attraction and arousal are distinct.

If a woman was a witness of something related to sex, then, just in case, the genitals had to be prepared for rape in order to minimize the number of injuries. In men, there is also a difference between attraction and arousal. Not everything genitals react to is truly enjoyable.

Therefore, a man, like a woman, can be raped - first aroused to have an erection by stimulation, and forcefully brought to orgasm. As a rape, it will be a disgusting and traumatic experience for a person with a negative impact on his future life.

A common myth about violence is that "if a woman felt pleasure, then there was no violence". Perhaps a woman has avoided internal injuries after rape if there was stimulation of erogenous zones and physiological arousal. But this does not change that the situation was a rape.

Part 5. Most common erogenous zones. By sexologist Amina Nazarlieva.

The main erogenous zones are lips and mouth, genital area and chest (in particular, nipples). Yet, everything is quite personal: touch to various parts of the body can cause excitement. In fact, the thinner the skin, the less hair, the higher the sensitivity and the likelihood that the zone will be erogenous.

In both men and women, the area around the anus belongs to erogenous zones. There are many nerve endings in it, and there is also a transition from the skin to the mucosa. Culture adds to the privacy of this body part - always hidden from prying eyes, tabooed even in speech. Breaking free from the shame society has surrounded it with, it can provoke a lot of excitement. On the other hand, if shame is too strong, the effect will be the opposite: the mechanism of sexual inhibition will be turned on.

In addition to the area around the anus, penis and testicles, the prostate zone is also important for men. It is an erogenous zone, which, with proper stimulation, can cause strong excitement and pleasure.

For women, the most important area is, of course, the clitoris, and it's surroundings. It should be, however, remembered that the clitoris is a kind of Everest of the female body. Not everyone is able to reach Everest and survive.

So with this part of the body you need to be very careful: the clitoral glans is much more sensitive than the penis head, so it must be stimulated very carefully, and only when the woman is already aroused.

For some, stimulation of the clitoral glans itself can be painful at any degree of arousal.

Therefore, it is appropriate to constantly check the sensations of a woman. In porn films, they often show an over-intense effect on this zone at the very beginning of sexual contact - this is wrong and almost certainly painful.

Part 6. Particular erogenous zones. By sexologist Amina Nazarlieva

In sexologist's practice the most common "extra" erogenous zone is the lower neck. It is called "kittie's area" because cats hold this area to carry their kittens .

In general, there are a lot of nerve endings in the head and neck, so people often define places in these parts of the body as erogenous.

For the same reason, erogenous zones can be on the bends of the elbows or under the knees. It can be feet, toes or hands. We usually feel ticklish there, but in an appropriate context, that can be very pleasant to many people.

It is also interesting that erogenous zones can change. A person can live for 30 years, for example, believing that they have one erogenous zone - and then they receive stimulation of a new zone in a certain context and it turns out that they are pleased.

Another example of how erotic zones can change is found in the stories of some injured people. For example, if a person is paralyzed and lost their sensitivity in a particular area, then new erogenous zones may appear in them.

In the USA, surrogate partners are allowed for such people. They work as assistants to sexologists and try to achieve arousal by stimulating different areas of the body in a paralyzed person.

For some people, this stimulation can be on the thumb or the nose - and they can be excited and experience an orgasm.

Our brain can learn: the memory of an orgasm that was once experienced, can become "attached" to a new area.

Part 7. The role of the emotional context. By sexologist Amina Nazarlieva

The emotional context has a huge impact on how we perceive sex. Prelude starts when people meet, long before the sexual contact.

They prepare for a date, thinking about how it will go. It is exciting. They have dinner with someone, a conversation, an occasional touch - it is also exciting.

Studies show that, as a rule, the longer the prelude, the more pleasure people get from sex. Both men and women want a longer, more pleasant stimulation of erogenous zones.

It's worth starting with the famous and most exciting areas. Going to unusual zones - just like super sensitive ones (for example, direct stimulation of the clitoris) - is recommended once the partner is already quite excited.

It is important to remember that in addition to the system of sexual arousal, there is also a system of sexual inhibition. And when, for example, we try to determine whether our armpits are an erogenous zone, both partners should be prepared for this.

If at the time of the experiment the thoughts flash through your head: "Oh, what if I smell or sweat?", this may be enough to trigger the system of sexual inhibition. The process will no longer be exciting, and will become uncomfortable instead.

In general, studies show that the longer the stimulation of the erogenous zones and, in particular, the genitals, the more likely an intense orgasm and the more pleasant sex is likely to be in general. In this case, it must be remembered that the clitoris is more sensitive than the penis, so it needs to be stimulated differently.

Edited by Alya Maksutova for UNESCO education project