Experiencing eroticism requires the ability to explore and transform a sexually arousing experience through inspiration and creativity. Eroticism is a deeper quality than physiological arousal that thrives on ones’ capacity for imagination and play.  Attraction and obstacles are key elements of intensifying eroticism though they are not mandatory to experiencing desire and arousal. Individuals and partners who have integrated eroticism into their sexual repertoire identify several elements that shape this quality into a powerful aphrodisiac.

1.     Longing and anticipation: Yearning for someone unavailable through fantasy or recall can stimulate excitement when envisioning intimate connectedness with them. Fantasy allows for selective attention to someone’s desirable qualities and the conceptualization of scenarios that are liberating and uninhibited. The heightened awareness of being away from someone during separation or argument can also stimulate arousal if or when partners reunite.  Temporary separation is a way to reignite passion since it breaks up the monotony of predictable togetherness. Longing for caretaking is a developmental need that shifts toward a partner to provide soothing contact and comfort.

2.     Violating prohibitions: Many individuals and partners find erotic power in secrecy and wrongdoing. Excitement arises in role-play that involves rule breaking or the thrill of being discovered due to the simultaneous interconnectedness of desire and recognition of existing limitations. Since fantasy and sexual imagination don’t have to adhere to societal and moral constraints, boundless opportunities exist in the exploration for pleasure.  Some even find sexual excitement in seemingly traumatic fantasy experiences, though are drawn to these elements because their scenarios are willing and consensual.  

3.     Searching for power: Power dynamics combined with arousal manifest themselves in themes and play with submission and dominance. Eroticism is found when there is a recognized receptivity and mutual value in the interplay of these roles.  A passionate exchange can occur in a real or imagined scenario with elements of both irresistible aggression and desirable surrender. Individuals or partners who struggle with power play find it threating to their relationships and may fear shifting of sexual roles.

4.     Overcoming ambivalence: Individuals drawn to partners whom they find both distasteful and alluring incorporate those feelings into lustful experiences.  The interchange of tenderness and aggression is why sex after conflict can be particularly stimulating. In erotic moments, the ability to transform mixed feelings about a real or imagined partner is both exciting and pleasurable.

Longing and ambivalence generally inspire erotic flow, while power and prohibitions permeate throughout a sexual encounter. These factors are not always conscious, yet their lack of awareness is precisely what contributes to their erotic energy. Allowing the mind to enter into an erotic sphere and incorporate these elements is exhilarating, and makes eroticism an essential component of sexual vibrancy.

Source: Morin, J. (1996). Four Cornerstones of Eroticism. In Morin, J. The Erotic Mind: Unlocking the Inner Sources of Sexual Passion and Fulfillment (pp.72-109). New York: Harper Perennial.