September 10, 2013
Erogenous Zones: Separating Myth From Fact
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Erogenous zones, or those areas of the body which arouse a person sexually, have long been puzzling to neuroscientists and other researchers. It had been widely assumed, of course, that most men have just one area of the body that gets them aroused, while many women can be stimulated in various areas to produce arousal. And then there's issue of feet: How can feet be so sexually appealing to certain members and so repulsive to others?Scientists from Bangor University's School of Psychology and the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg set out to answer these questions and found a few surprises along the way. Most notably, men were reported to have nearly as many erogenous zones as women, dispelling a long-held myth. Finally, nearly every one of the 800 people surveyed found the feet wholly unappealing. The study is now published in the neuroscience journal Cortex.
"A lot of people assume that women's bodies are just full of erogenous zones and that men have only one, the obvious one," explained professor Oliver Turnbull with Bangor University in a statement to The Guardian. "It's pretty equal, with just perhaps a modest advantage to women - but certainly nothing like the way the sex differences have been so hugely exaggerated."
The scientists were surprised in another way as well – each of the 800 respondents gave very similar responses when listing the areas of the body which aroused them the most. Despite differences in age, gender, nationality, race or sexual orientation, the same areas of the body were generally listed that provide people with that special feeling. The genitals were an obvious source of pleasure for these people, with ears, inner thighs and shoulder blades rounding out the list.
"We have discovered from this that we all share the same erogenous zones in at least two very different continents, whether we are a white, middle-aged, middle-class woman sitting in a London office or a gay man living in a village in Africa. It suggests it is hardwired, built in, not based on cultural experience," Turnbull said.
One area which was not commonly on the list, however, was a person’s feet. The survey participants, who lived mostly in the British Isles and Sub-Saharan Africa, rated the feet “surprisingly low,” said the researchers. This was particularly surprising to Turnbull and his colleagues as it was previously understood that the sensors wired to a person’s feet in the brain were next to the sensors which guide the genitalia. The kneecaps were rated just above the feet in this study.
Men and women may have nearly the same number of erogenous zones on their body, but they’re not without their preferences. Men, for instance, were found to prefer being stroked on their hands as well as the backs of their legs.
Turnbull and team weren’t so much interested in understanding where the erogenous zones were as understanding why they were. It makes clear sense why they genitals are considered erogenous, but why is a portion of the body so far removed from the genitals as the shoulder blades responsible for getting people in the mood? In short, the researchers now believe a different part of the brain is responsible for guiding these zones. Finding exactly where that part of the brain is, however, could be difficult.
"I think there is a good argument for it being the insular [cortex], although there are a few ethical issues in trying to take the next step and measure that, as it obviously means that someone has to be stroking someone else whilst the brain is monitored,” said Turnbull.