You are currently viewing Episode 286: What Turns Women On? Female Sexual Cues

Episode 286: What Turns Women On? Female Sexual Cues

What sexual cues turn women on? Here’s a hint—interest is sexy! 32% of women lack sexual interest, according to a research study by Meston & McCall, “Cues Resulting in Sexual Desire for Women.” The study found that increased sexual cues resulted in increased frequency for females. In this episode, we’ll talk about the many cues that trigger a woman’s desire!

Female sexual desire has a more emotional component to it; Women are more externally triggered in relationship factors and setting; connection and presence. What kind of cues increase her desire? Let’s get specific. In this episode, Laurie and George break down the cues from the study: emotional bonding cues, erotic/explicit cues, visual/proximity cues, and romantic/implicit cues.

“Cues Resulting in Sexual Desire for Women” (Meston & McCall): 


George Faller 00:02
Let’s talk about what turns women on, all the cues. Anybody listening- I’m sure Watson knows something about this…Laurie?

Laurie Watson 00:13
Welcome to Foreplay Radio, couples & sex therapy. I’m Laurie Watson, your sex therapist.

George Faller 00:19
And I’m George Faller, couples therapist,

Laurie Watson 00:21
and we are passionate about talking about sex and helping you develop a way to talk to each other.

George Faller 00:27
Our mission is to help our audience develop a healthier relationship to sex that integrates the mind, the heart and the body.

Laurie Watson 00:37
So there was the study, and it was called “Cues resulting in sexual desire for women,” it was by two sex researchers, Meston and McCall. And I have done a lot of research and they’re big in the field. So we appreciate them. And thank them, you know, they thought about how do women turn on. And there’s all kinds of books and articles that make up ideas about what’s turning women on. And 32% of women in this current study says, you know, women lack sexual interest. So really important here, if they’re going to be in relationship to understand for themselves and for their partners, like, what are the cues? How do they turn on? And I found this study fascinating, because I think there’s a predictive value to it, that we can learn sort of certain things, certain pathways and rituals that we can do that reliably turn us on, and I thought, Man, this is gold.

George Faller 01:37
That’s why I decided to do this podcast, Laurie, to learn from you. I love this nerdy side that jumps into the research and is such a wealth of information that could enrich all of our lives. So I’m excited to read this and talk about it.

Laurie Watson 01:50
Okay, yes, I definitely have a nerdy side. Did you know I used to be a software analyst George?

George Faller 01:57
I did not. Yep. I worked on the stealth bomber. Oh, that’s impressive. There might be another episode of stealth bomber? I don’t know, there’s some overlap between that and the sexual conversation, I think?

Laurie Watson 02:09
I think so. So what they did is they took a group of women 800+ women and talked to them about what turns them on sexually. And then essentially, they added that group, eliminated women by certain criteria, they got down to a group of women who some of them had sexual dysfunction. And within that sexual dysfunction, some of them had low libido, which was kind of the most critical thing for this study. And then they also isolated out a group of women, a control group of women who were sexually healthy. So they had no sexual dysfunction whatsoever. And they compared and contrasted and did all kinds of interesting things. And they came up with four categories of cues that turn women on. And I know we have this, I’m going to tell you what the cues are. So there’s emotional bonding, no big surprise there. We talked about this all the time. In fact, it’s kind of the thrust of the podcast, so to speak, every pun intended. You know, emotional bonding to create security. Obviously, this was the biggest cue that turn women on.

George Faller 03:18
Right, well your thrusting comments leads us to the second one, right? Explicit and erotic cues. Yes, yes. Sexual touch, viewing sex, sexual. We’re going to read each one of these just to give our listeners a chance to kind of score for themselves gives you different ways of turning on.

Laurie Watson 03:37
Right. And then there’s visual proximity cues about the people that you are close to. Does that turn you on? Like, their fitness? How well dressed they are? Hey, George, I just gotta tell you, there’s been a lot of EFT women that have asked me, you know, can you get George Faller to wear better shoes? Like, I guess they want you to be well dressed, man.

George Faller 03:59
All right.

Laurie Watson 04:00
I said I pick my battles. I’m not about to do that.

George Faller 04:03
Okay, you should see me in COVID. I haven’t worn shoes in a year, and I’m very happy about it.

Laurie Watson 04:09
Yeah exactly. Me neither. Okay. Then there’s romantic, implicit cues. This is sort of the classic romantic stuff, everything we think about date night, sunsets, all of that. So have you got the study pulled up so we can kind of go through the list and maybe make a few comments. And this this is a long list of stuff. Again, I think will link you to this, we’ll put it on the episode just so that you can see the study and try to understand with us what this is all about.

George Faller 04:41
Exactly. All right. So I’m just gonna read the first 10 of the emotional bonding cues. If you can come out of these 40 cues with a few new ones. Maybe that will spice things up. Okay. So here we go. Emotional bonding cues. 1: Feeling a sense of love with your partner. 2: Feeling a sense of security in your relationship, 3: Your partner is supportive of you. 4: Your partner does something special or loving things for you. 5: Feeling a sense of commitment from a partner. 6: Your partner expresses interest in hearing about you. Ding ding. 7: Talking about the future with your partner.

Laurie Watson 05:28
Wait, what was ding ding?

George Faller 05:31
Being I can’t tell you how many wives I’ve heard. That’s the biggest turn on, just listening to them, how often they feel not heard. 8: Feeling protected by your partner. 9: Experiencing emotional closeness with a partner. And 10: Feeling protective of a partner. There you go. Laurie, what do you think?

Laurie Watson 05:55
I mean, I think this is emotional closeness, emotional security. Yeah, this is what most women talk about, you know, I can’t have sex unless I feel close. All of that. So this is the way they see it, the different little aspects of it. Certainly what I’ve said for a long time, and you kind of said *ding ding* on it is, you know, what’s sexy after 40 is interest. It’s not just how your partner looks or anything. I mean, that’s, that’s really rare.

George Faller 06:26
Right? And that’s what a priest friend of mine said, What’s wrong with pornography is not what it shows, but what it does not show, right. And it doesn’t show all of this, or this or any of this, right. And this is a huge part. I mean, the research in this study is real clear that these emotional cues are so important to women getting turned on.

Laurie Watson 06:50
You know, when we were listening to that other podcast, and it was a bunch of women sitting around talking about all the things they like to do sexually. And you said, you know, they’ve split off the body, from the heart, the mind and their thoughts. And, and your sense was- I don’t know, maybe say it again.

George Faller 07:13
They were focused so much on the physical and the erotic that there were little slippings of well, if I feel connected, I can do this little bit more, they can push the envelope. So even in extreme example, it was still barely mentioning in the importance of the bond, right? Liking somebody, feeling safe, feeling connected. And that’s just how we’re made, how we’re wired to have this, this need for that green brain, right? Feeling open and curious. You can be playful when we’re in that safe place.

Laurie Watson 07:46
I think what was meaningful to me though, as a male therapist, you knew that conversation. That was absent from the conversation. And that’s what to me made it seem like a show, you know, it was an act, they all six women or all five women who were represented, didn’t talk about this at all. It’s like, I’m sorry, but I’ve never heard a female conversation that doesn’t include some of this. So it felt like an act, you know, because I think a lot of women really do want to be with somebody who they feel close to. And it makes so much sense to me, even physiologically, you know, versus a hookup because in a hookup, How can that man know your body? I mean even just technically, to be good? You have to have somebody who cares about you, to make it good for you. And I mean, maybe that’s some other bonding cue, I don’t know haha.

George Faller 08:40
Well, the myth is the opposite. Right? I was out with a few couples this weekend. And somehow sex came up again, somehow. And you know what I actually told him that people that have the best sex or couples in long term committed relationships, they’re like what are you talking about? You know, it’s somebody new, it’s one night stands. And I’m like, Well, actually, that’s it. Then some of the wives started jumping in like, you know what, I don’t even-it’s too much work, I need to know somebody to kind of let myself go. So how do we start dispelling some of this you know, popular culture, that it’s all about this novelty ,when there’s all this science and research saying the state of the emotional bond is critical to really healthy good sex?

Laurie Watson 09:29
Well, I think what you’re saying is so important. Now there’s a gender difference, right? Hey, let’s come back and talk about that conversation because I have some things to say about it. Hey, I just want to take a minute to thank our Patreon supporters. I am very grateful for what you’ve done and we’d love to invite the rest of you in on our mission.

George Faller 09:48
Your support means more than you realize and it keeps this project moving forward. And we’re really hoping to reach greater heights.

Laurie Watson 09:57
Find a link on and we are so thankful for your support.

Announcer 10:05
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George Faller 10:12
So for all you therapists out there, listen into our show, I really want you to check out, our new training website that we believe is taking online therapists training to the next level, it’s so focused on moment by moment practical moves, less theory, to really get people to have immediate success, right, we’re trying to measure targets of change. So we can see if we’re on target, or we need to adjust. And the feedback we’re getting is really excited. We’re incorporating that feedback to continually adjusted to change the schedule and come join us, SIV team.

Laurie Watson 10:54
Also, I’ll just put a plug in for it as well, because I am one of the learners, this kind of instruction just is not out there how to do the micro moves that change people’s hearts toward each other. It’s so good. So it’s reasonably priced, I just encourage you to go over to and sign up. It’s great training. George, though there’s a gender difference there that I think is really important. The men are saying what that the hottest sex of their life is a hookup sex, and then the women are saying not so much. I mean, so different. And they’re and the men are arguing with you like optimal sex is not long term sex. But tell me what you How did you make sense of all that?

George Faller 11:43
I think there are some gender differences going on there. But one of my friends jumped in and said, You know what, it don’t matter if you’re married to supermodel, everybody gets sick of the same person over time. So again, this is a lot of men’s mentality that it would make sense. If you focus on on the physical and you’re not so engaged with your heart and your body and these different things we’ve talked about, then that novelty becomes really important. And the women What did the women say that the women will, you know, didn’t like that commonly go ridiculous. It’s, it’s because you know, the guys killed it was something that they said in there. That sounded like some other words thrown into ridiculous. But again, I think it’s all the women agreed that they actually have the best sex when they could be relaxed, and they know somebody and they do they feel that connection to take a risk. So they really highlight everything on that list, which is a gas pedal. That’s a great way of unleashing that desire.

Laurie Watson 12:44
Mm hmm. So at least your buddy maybe hears for the first time or thinks about, that if he wants better sex with his wife- He’s got to help her feel this.

George Faller 12:53
Yes. I mean, as he was saying he was cuddled up on the couch. I don’t understand. We just got to get him to pay attention to that call.

Laurie Watson 13:01
I guess so haha.

George Faller 13:02
So all you men listening or women that are focused purely on the physical? I mean, this is, see what it’s like to grow that romantic, emotional side. Get the heart more engaged, you’re gonna have better sex. Yeah, for sure.

Laurie Watson 13:16
So the second section of cues, do you want me to read it?

George Faller 13:20

Laurie Watson 13:20
These were the explicit erotic cues that people use to cue themselves or they are cued by a partner with. So watching an erotic movie, reading about sexual activity like a pornographic magazine or probably a romance novel, watching or listening to other people engage in sexual behavior and activity, talking about sexual activity or talking dirty, watching a striptease sensing your own or your partner’s wetness, lubrication or erection, asking for or anticipating sexual activity. Hearing your partner tell you that he or she is fantasized about you, having a sexual fantasy like a sexual daydream, or a real dream that’s sexual. You experience genital sensations, increased blood flow to the genitals. And this study was primarily for women. They did originally do some investigation about cues that men use to turn on I mean, I think all of these very male cues, right? If a man feels an erection, he’s gonna feel sexual. Right? women actually, if they feel lubrication, even sometimes it doesn’t translate to their brain. Talk about a mystery.

George Faller 14:37
Well, I was actually surprised in reading this Laurie. Two different groups they studied- women that had healthy libido versus women that had poor libido, right, which is the most common sexual problem in women low libido, right. But the women that had just healthy libido, they actually scored really high in this erotic score. They did right so and that was really interesting. Because it does typically come across as a male thing. And yet it was a big turn on for women that have a healthy libido and yet the opposite women with a low libido this stuff didn’t really work at all.

Laurie Watson 15:10
Right. And and think about how many men you’ve talked to or couples that you’ve talked to, And he’s like, “you know, if I could just get her to watch a romantic movie and erotic maybe I know it would turn her on.” But you know, it doesn’t actually turn her brain on, which is where the sex drive is.

George Faller 15:28
Well, it actually could be a break, right? It’s more pressure.

Laurie Watson 15:31
Yep. And, and these just don’t work. They’re negatively correlated to her sexual desire. But you’re right, the control group, the sexually healthy women, all of these worked.

George Faller 15:42
Which is worth highlighting. Because this, if you find yourself getting turned on, that’s a really good thing. You’re not just it’s not just about the romance, there’s something about the anticipation, that erotic mind that we do, especially with women, want them to develop because it increases their levels of engagement.

Laurie Watson 16:01
Right. It’s not just romance, it’s actually sex that turns these women on too, so very cool.

George Faller 16:08
Yeah, that’s great. And I hate the labels, “healthy” and “dysfunctional.” I never met a woman or a man with low libido. They didn’t have good reasons for it. It’s not their fault, right? There’s something going on chemically, or there’s something going on in a relationship or, you know. It’s about just being able to face that and say, Hey, listen, for good reasons, I find myself in this place. And there are things I can do to kind of get out of this kind of low libido place.

Laurie Watson 16:35
Yeah, and because low libido is not going to make the coupleship happy. I mean, nobody needs to do what they don’t want to do. But if you stood up in that big white dress and said I promise, a physical sexual relationship. I mean, I don’t think a partnership can survive without sex. We’re going to be asked that tomorrow. George, did you see that? Like, how important do we think sex is to a relationship on that interview we’re doing? I’m like, Yeah, like really important. Can’t survive haha.

George Faller 17:06
The doorway into vulnerability right there.

Laurie Watson 17:09
It is. It is, I mean, into physical vulnerability. Certainly.

George Faller 17:13
Let’s get to number three here. Okay. This is the one that’s a little.. me and Laurie had a nice little argument or conversation, whatever you want to say around the visual or proximity cues. So one sees someone who is well dressed or has class. You want to say something?

Laurie Watson 17:32
Yeah, I mean, this is just like, personally, so not a turn on for me. So it’s, it’s hard for me to get this. I mean, yeah, I guess I like a man when he’s all dressed up. Sure.

George Faller 17:45
Too seeing someone or talking to someone powerful.

Laurie Watson 17:49
And that just screams narcissism to me haha.

George Faller 17:52
Three: Being in close proximity with someone attractive.

Laurie Watson 17:58
Well, maybe that you know, there’s this music video and it was on our sexy playlist or Foreplay sexy playlist, you know, Spotify- everybody we have Foreplay sexy music. So those are the songs were listening to. But there was some video about a group of people, you know, they’re dancing really close. They’re all beautiful, beautiful young bodies. And you know, essentially, they’re just all taking off their clothes. I’m like, Okay, I get that you know, just everybody in the heat of the moment they’re so excited.

George Faller 18:28
Four: Seeing someone famous.

Laurie Watson 18:31
Unless this is Robert Redford or Brad Pitt, forget about it.

George Faller 18:34
There you go. That’s a good game. I’ve seen lots of couples do. Who’s the one person it’d be okay, famous, that you could sleep with?

Laurie Watson 18:42
The hall pass.

George Faller 18:43
Somebody always comes up with somebody so maybe there’s something to this. Here goes number 5: Seeing a well-toned body, you’re at the beach, anybody looking at that?

Laurie Watson 18:53
Yeah- right!

George Faller 18:54
6: Seeing or talking with someone wealthy. Whoo. Here we go.

Laurie Watson 18:59
I don’t get that. Do you get that?

George Faller 19:02
I know there’s a big sugar daddy thing happening on the internet so there’s obviously some of this happening. 7: Watching someone engage in physical activities. watching those boxers, mixed martial artists. 8: Seeing someone act confidently. 9: Seeing or talking with someone intelligence, or 10: Flirting with someone or having someone flirt with you.

Laurie Watson 19:29
So it’s proximity. These do work for some women. They were kind of the lower scores overall. If I read the study right. Okay, watching someone get engaged in physical activities like Tom Brady, I get that this part. It feels somewhat bad to me. I don’t know. I just I have heard so many people feel used women feel used like I gotta have a beautiful perfect body. And men feel used, I gotta make a ton load of money. And I just, there’s got to be something else that is intrinsic in coupleships that you know, we find each other and feel love, and feel sex. Tther than, than just I don’t know, external stuff.

George Faller 20:13
Well, we invite curiosity. If you find yourself- there are a lot of people, we live in a materialistic culture. So if you look at somebody that has all the nice toys, there’s probably something exciting about that. That some of that translates itself sexually. You know, I’m not here to judge but we’re just inviting people to kind of understand what is it about that list of somebody famous? That would really turn you on?

Laurie Watson 20:38
Somebody intelligent, definitely. That was always high on my list.

George Faller 20:42
That was the one on that list you liked.

Laurie Watson 20:45
I liked flirting. I said a bunch of things that I liked, even though I didn’t like this part of the list. Okay, back to romance, George. Whispering in your partner’s ear and having your partner whisper in your ear. Mm hmm. Dancing closely. Gentlemen, learn how to dance. At least learn how to slow dance, that would be sexy.

George Faller 21:10
Make sure you’re wearing nice shoes when you do it.

Laurie Watson 21:14
Watching a sunset, having a romantic dinner with a partner, watching a romantic movie, being in the hot tub, touching your partner’s hair or face, giving or receiving a massage, laughing with a romantic. Okay, you need to say some stuff here, dude. I talked about the other one. You say some stuff, laughing with romantic partner. What do you think?

George Faller 21:36
Laughter is a great sign of a green brain. It’s totally relaxing and open and playful and curious. I mean, who doesn’t like the left? So yes, it’s a big part of being turned on and feeling close.

Laurie Watson 21:46
Yeah, I would say that’s the number one thing in my own sex life is we laugh a lot. And smelling pleasant sense. Yes, please perfume, Cologne, shampoo, aftershave, all of that. Those are good things. Can we just say it all still works, all of these things that, you know, we did when we were dating, that cues women into “it’s going to be sex time.” And it kind of shapes the moment in that direction.

George Faller 22:17
Right. And again, all this translates to men to all this need for this emotional kind of touching of faces, laughing I mean, if you haven’t laughed a while in sex, that’s your homework assignment. To go home and find a way of just making a little bit of joke or not taking yourself so seriously, just see how fun that is to just lighten the load and take some of the pressure off.

Laurie Watson 22:40
I will say though, I don’t mean to contradict G, But the study kind of mentions though, that men are triggered intrinsically just by being male, to have sex. And particularly the explicit erotic cues. Okay, so I want to talk about the thing that-

George Faller 22:55
Hold on, hold on. I’m trying to dispel a lot of this myth that men are just intrinsic and it’s all about the turn on, and the high T scores and that’s certainly there. But you know, they afterglow, they gets men not wanting to cuddle. I mean, this emotional romantic side is so underestimated in the sex acts for men. And we really need to kind of chip in that message. It says, Wait a second, just because it’s maybe not driving it, it’s often culturally accepted that- I haven’t met a man that the romantic part isn’t at some some part really important part of the process.

Laurie Watson 23:34
Well, I think you’re referencing to the studies about optimal sex, right, that show men AND women that it’s the connection, the presence.

George Faller 23:43
Huge. All of that. We know a great love is, it’s all about the connection and feeling safe and open and playful. So that cuts across gender.

Laurie Watson 23:53
Yeah, I think for women, the most exciting thing about this study that I saw was that they they believe sometimes that sexually healthy women or women with higher libido, they unconsciously use these cues, that it’s just a seamless way that they live their life that adds to their sexual desire. I mean, certainly I think women also have intrinsic desire, you know that their body prompts them, that their own mind prompts them, these are external cues by and large. But I just, I got so excited. I thought, you know, what, if a woman listening could say, okay, you know, maybe one of them doesn’t turn me on, but how about a combination of them? And what if you set your pattern so that you built this into your life to kind of develop libido? I’ve often thought that women are like gleaners, you know, okay, maybe it doesn’t turn you on when your husband comes out of the shower, for whatever reason that would be. But you know, all of these things could together, create sort of this platform that makes you more ready and more turned on for sex. So I would say just go through this. Figure out, can you make any of these happen on a regular basis? You know, it’s Friday night, you spend time together, you’re listening to each other, you turn on music, that’s sexy, there’s dancing. I mean, I have one patient who, nothing turns her on. But, when her husband gives her a massage, she finally relaxes, and she kind of does get in the mood. I’m like, why not do that every Friday night. You know, like, if you know that that’s going to work. Why not build that into the ritual?

George Faller 25:34
This is great news for husbands, they really need to read that list. Because so often, their solution is going to be all the external stimulation, you know, put on some erotic movie or take out a vibrator all this stuff that could be helpful, but this study says people with low libido that’s not actually going to help. What they’re going to need is the romantic emotional safety cue. So actually being able to take some of that pressure off. That’s what that massages telling your partner, it’s okay that you know, I still love you, I still want you like trying to get their body that feels safer to then take that next step towards the erotic. I mean, I think that’s really important information that this research is highlighting.

Laurie Watson 26:19
In EFT, the stage too where a partner is saying, you know, I hate this about you, essentially, I hate this part. But I get it how for you, you can’t turn on unless you feel safe with me, unless we’ve done something romantic. I mean, I think just that acceptance, that that’s how she is, that she needs that, would go such a long ways compared to the disappointment and pressure that is often put on these women. You know, “I wish you were different. I wish you were the sexually healthy woman who could turn on with, you know, sexy cues.” It’s just you know, if I were a man I would do it different.

George Faller 27:01
When you’re being rejected. It’s hard to be empathetic, right when you’re a fight or flight response kicks in. And that’s why you get angry, you want to protest. And you know, what we’re hoping listen is now when you’re not triggered, you could open your heart a little bit and say, well, the partner who’s actually has a low libido, they’re in a horrible place. They feel bad about themselves. There’s so much shame, there’s so much pressure, they’re feeling like a failure. I mean, it’s pretty terrible. To just have a little love in that place- makes it a little bit easier than to kind of move the ball, the needle a little bit. So that’s that’s our starting point. Just trying to give them a respite from all that darkness and heaviness.

Laurie Watson 27:40
So if you want to look at this, we’ve got the study on the page on the website, and And also, you know, all kinds of things are happening for us. We’re doing it class, George has got his new module on Success In Vulnerability for you therapists who want to learn more about how to do EFT and how to attune. I got to say, George, best module, I think so far that I’ve listened to, and I’ve liked all of them. And we’re doing our retreat October 1, Friday, October 1. So that’s coming up soon.

George Faller 28:14
We’re also doing a training for therapists in sex, right? When is that, Laurie? Laurie’s a lot better with dates than I am.

Laurie Watson 28:22
It’s in June. It’s on our website- in Canada. Magentix. Yes, June 10 and 11th. Okay, yep. So we’re doing sex and attachment theory and integration of those things. We’d love to have you join us. Thanks for listening.

George Faller 28:37
Keep it hot y’all.

Announcer 28:40
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