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Sexual Pleasure, Arousal, and Response People in all cultures around the world have their own ways offlirting Human motivation to engage in sexual behavior arises from several physiological and psychological factors. For example, we would place hormones, which are part of sexual moti-vation, in the physiological category. But the and expressing a desire for interaction. desire for physical pleasure, another element of sexual motivation, can be placed in both catego-ries (Abramson & Pinkerton, 1995). Pleasure is influenced both by our thoughts or cog-nitions and by our physiological functioning. We can become sexually aroused for many reasons, from flirting, to having fantasies, to wanting to reproduce. These possibilities all appear to be part of our human sexual nature, which inclines us to express pleasure in relationships. Sexual motivations are the mechanisms for this expression. Other components of sexual arousal and response include our senses, pheromones, and sexual fantasy, which we discuss next. The Five Senses and Pleasure We experience and communicate sexuality through our senses-touch, taste, smell, sound, and sight. From the day we are born until we die, these organs allow us to see and touch beauty; taste the world's wonderful foods; enjoy the sounds of nature, laughter, and music; and breathe in the scent of forests and all the smells that connect us to other people. These sensory stimulations are so invigorating that many poets and artists have written or represented them, including the sensuality of sexuality. In fact, research shows that these sensual senses are basic to human sexual nature (Ryan & Jetha, 201 O). People's experiences of the senses vary by culture. In the United States, for example, we tend to deodorize our bodies with perfumes, aftershave colognes, and commercial deodor-ants. In other parts of the world such as Europe, Africa, and Asia, there is not as much emphasis placed on covering natural body odors. In fact, people in the United States are considered to be hypersensitive to such odors because of the great measures we take to mask them (MacPhee, 1992). It is almost as if people in our culture want to downplay natural odors associated with sexuality (Gagnon, 2004). Additionally, the media in this country have developed our visual sense of sexual images. By comparison, people living in societies with little or no access to electronic media do not have this visual sense of sexuality and do not have the cultural understanding of being aroused by a picture or an image of a sexual 135
136 HUMAN SEXUALlTY body. They experience sexual arousal when they see an actual human being. How might chis change people's sense of visual sensory stimulation? In countries with a lot of visual images, people may become somewhat desen-sitized to them. Consequently, their intimate interactions with partners may not be as visually arousing as for those who are flooded with erotic images.