Is it Normal to get Turned On at Inappropriate Times?

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Has this happened to you? 


You’re at a funeral and it’s the last place you expect to get an unexplained erection. Or you’re watching a horror film and notice your body is flushed and you’re suddenly incredibly horny? 


The simple answer for these unexpected, and sometimes troubling, arousals is—it happens.


The longer answer is, well, long. 


But trust me when I say, it is indeed “normal” to get turned on at inappropriate times.


Sometimes, You Can’t Control Your Bodies Arousal Responses


Bodies are so interesting! There are so many individual parts that run of their own accord. This works in our favor since lungs breath and hearts pump without our focused intention. But, this also means that we often have no control over certain physical responses, such as erections and genital swelling, that may happen at inconvenient times.


Sometimes our bodies know something we don’t. Often a physical reaction can result from your body chemistry reacting to another person’s body chemistry. Just like having your palms sweat or your breathing quicken, your body does react to people around you – especially someone you’re attracted to. So, whether you mean to or not, your penis and clitoris can engorge at inopportune times.


Getting a Massage = Turned On

You’re not alone. I’ve spoken with several patients who have had similar experiences. 


Touch is such an intimate connection that it’s quite normal to become aroused during a massage. Many people are touch-oriented and find that touch is the best way to convey their emotions. So, when a massage therapist is providing them with a relaxing hands-on experience, their touch can evoke intimate emotions that they may not be ready for. These emotions can trigger erections, a rush of blood to intimate body regions, and a quickening of the pulse. 


A sexual response can also be associated with sensate touch, which is the act of mindfully connecting to a person or partner via touch. Masters and Johnson developed sensate focus as a sex therapy technique in the 1960s. It involved an emphasis on touch as a mindful way of building a more fulfilling and intimate relationship. Some people aren’t touched often so when they are, it can definitely trigger an intimate sexual response. 


Also, many people incorporate massage into their foreplay, so massage may subconsciously become a sexual trigger that automatically arouses. Many of my male patients have told me that massage therapists regularly tell them not to be embarrassed by a sexual response to massage because it does indeed happen frequently and is much harder to hide than a female reaction. 


My Lover is Crying = Turned On  

Surprisingly, this happens so often that there is an established term for this arousal response. 


I’d like to introduce you to dacryphilia (also called dacrylagnia). Derived from Greek terms dacry- meaning "tears" and philia meaning "love,” dacryphilia has been defined as “arousal from seeing tears in the eyes of a partner”. 


According to a study published in the International Journal of Sexual Health, interviews with several dacryphiles found that arousal from tears had sadomasochistic roots and subconscious dominant/submissive reactions. 


As with many physical responses, your body can have a mind of its own. Science cannot adequately explain consciousness or show any place in the brain from where our unified sense of self arises. But, in certain circumstances, your body can register physical arousal when your mind is telling your erection to go away. 


Funerals = Turned On

The movie Wedding Crashers included this scenario with a character attending funerals just to capitalize on quickies. 


For many, post-funeral sex can be a life-affirming ritual. Perhaps it’s the desire to share warmth and closeness with another person to ward off the coldness associated with death. 


Funerals also cause emotions to be released and that emotional state can lead to sexual connections. 


There are people who feel like sex and funerals shouldn’t go together, especially in Western society where sorrow is considered the only appropriate emotion concerning death.


A study by the University of South Florida that examined the link between sex and death found that death makes people want to engage in an act that reminds them they’re alive and not destined to die. Study participants reported that death increased the appeal of having sex.


Sex is natural and can be a physical celebration that can be an escape from the emotional pain and self-awareness that funerals can create. I feel that if sex makes a person feel better after a funeral, that’s a good reason to partake in it. 


Horror Movies = Turned On

Horror films are notorious for being aphrodisiacs. You may be hugging your tub of popcorn and cowering in your movie theater seat, but at the same time there’s an arousing heat growing between your legs. Why is it spooky movies can turn some people on? 


Margee Kerr, a sociologist who researches fear, has found that physical changes occur when a person senses a threat. Typically, bodies will respond by moving into ‘go’ mode to prepare to escape from the threat causing the fear. This means heart racing so limbs will be ready to run, which in turn causes sweat and hormones to be released. 


Our bodies natural response to fear can mimic arousal. 


Of course, you may be a bit confused by these randy feelings when you’re simply watching a scary movie. Just know that it can be a natural occurrence. 


How to handle an Inappropriate Erection 

Honesty is the best policy. This is a good saying and also applies for when your erection decides to pop up during an inappropriate time. 


Explain to whomever you feel like you may be offending that your body is having a physical, uncontrollable reaction to your current situation. An erection is caused by blood flow and a situation that causes a lot of heightened emotional feelings can cause blood to flow faster in different parts of the body. 


Since this can be a natural response, I don’t think it’s necessary to apologize. I feel that a quick explanation is better suited to a circumstance like this. It's best to keep the focus on the situation and not your physical response. 


Have you ever experienced an inappropriate turn on? I would love for you to share your stories with me! And, if you have any questions that I can help with, please feel free to ask me.

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Dr. Sunny Rodgers is a clinician, author, and speaker who has worked in the wellness industry since 2000. She holds a Ph.D. in Human Sexuality, a Master of Arts in Clinical Sexology, and is an accredited Sexual Health Educator. She is the Founder of The Institute of Intimate Health, an Ambassador for the American Sexual Health Association, regular lecturer for the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, Sexual Confidence Coach for the Marigold App, and a professional Sex Toy Concierge™. Rodgers hosted a popular weekly show on Playboy Radio, has been an expert guest on several TV and radio programs, and is a regular contributor to HuffPost, Men's Health, Cosmo, Bustle, and many more publications.