For women, what is more sexually arousing, stroking the nape of the neck or nipples . . . for men, the mouth and lips or inner thigh? The answers may surprise you!
The mystery of the erogenous zones has long captured the imagination of women and men alike and has been a subject of heated speculation. To begin with, what makes a patch of skin erotic? Do these intimate areas possess special nerve endings? Are they the same in women and men? To what extent are they biologically or culturally determined?
We finally have some scientific answers. Here's a brief excerpt from
aah . . . The Pleasure Book (Chapter 24 Erotica), the first of three chapters on sexual pleasure:
Searching for the elusive erogenous zones
In the 1950s, dermatologist R. K. Winkleman attempted to solve the mystery of the erogenous zones once and for all by performing detailed microscopic studies of the skin and nerve supply of the glans penis, clitoris, perianal skin, lips, and other sexually sensitive areas. He was looking for special "erotic" nerve endings, but all he found was that these areas possessed a higher than average density of ordinary nerve endings. As mentioned before, pain receptors have been well described, but curiously, no pleasure receptors have ever been found.
Half a century later, a distinguished neuroscientist, V. S. Ramachandran, resumed the hunt, hypothesizing that an area is erotic not because of its anatomic proximity to the reproductive organs on the body's surface but because of its proximity to sexual regions on the surface of the brain. This can be seen with a homunculus, a little cartoon man, draped over the sensory cortex with its body parts drawn in proportion to the associated cortical innervation. Foot fetishism, he reasoned, can be explained because sensations from the feet project to an area on the sensory cortex adjacent to sensations received from the genitalia, and therefore could, presumably, stimulate the genitalia by proximity.
To test this hypothesis, 800 participants from the British Isles and Sub-Saharan Africa were asked to rate the erogenous intensity of forty-one body parts. A high level of agreement was found among participants, and the results were independent of age, nationality, race, sexual orientation, and even gender. As expected, the glans (acorn head) of the penis and the clitoris (kleitoris or key) topped the list. Feet, however, came in twenty-eighth, disproving Ramachandran's hypothesis.
I suspect peripheral areas like the nape of the neck (ranked fourth), inner thigh (ranked seventh), and ears (ranked ninth) are erotic in part because of their associated vulnerability. Whatever the case, the high level of agreement among participants in this cross-cultural study suggests that erotic touch is primarily biologically determined.
In contrast, shifting tastes about the ideal body type, dress, accessories, and hairstyle suggests that visual erotica is more symbolic and culturally determined. For instance, all the fuss we make about women's breasts must have seemed bizarre to the Hawaiian islanders when Captain Cook arrived in 1778. Women wore skirts made from the soft inner bark of the mulberry tree, wrapped several times about their waist similar to a hula skirt, and were bare-chested like the men. Female royalty wore skirts that rose higher, to just beneath their breasts . . .
Here are the Top Six Erogenous Zones:
1. Clitoris Penis
2. Vagina Mouth/lips
3. Mouth/lips Scrotum
4. Nape of neck Inner thigh
5. Breasts Nape of neck
6. Nipples Nipples
Human sexuality is obviously an important source of pleasure. Chapter 25 (Orgasm 1.0) and Chapter 26 (Orgasm 2.0) explore how to take your sex life to the next level. Sexual climax, however, only represents the tip of the spear, so to speak. To get the most out of your sex life, a thorough grounding in pleasure is essential. Find out more at my website: drjiamd.com, where you can see my book trailer intro to the Seven Immutable Laws of Pleasure, listen to an Audible sample, read excerpts from aah . . . The Pleasure Book, and much more.