Oh Joy Sex Toy: The Secret Brain Science of Desire

Erika Moen
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I’ve been producing webcomics since I was 15 and doing it full-time as a professional since the age of 25 at Periscope Studio in Portland, OR. My work has been published by Dark Horse Comics, BOOM! Studios, Image Comics, Fantagraphics, Last Gasp and Villard, among my many self-published projects as well.

Each week on Oh Joy Sex Toy, intrepid artists explore some aspect of sex through comics. This week is a guest strip from R. Stevens and Actual Sex Educator Emily Nagoski who is a super cool lady writing a bunch about the science of sex and all this other stuff about sex.

The stars of this comic discuss how desire isn't just created by "turns ons" but a lack of "turns offs"—for example, not feeling obligated to have sex and feeling safe.

Read more Oh Joy Sex Toy comics from artist Erika Moen and others here on Bitch.

Want more from Erika Moen? Oh Joy, Sex Toy: Volume One is 268 pages of sex tips, interviews, sex toy reviews, and more! Get your autographed copy at BitchMart.

Here is a text transcription of the comic to make it more accessible for people using screen readers. Transcription by Morgan Kelly.  

Erika introduces this comic with an announcement, “My Dearest Perverts! We’re taking a break from reviews today to bring you some straight up SCIENCE from our special Guest Experts! Enjoy!”

Depicted in an 8-Bit style, two people wave. “I’m Dr. Emily Nagoski and this is my romantic euphemism R Stevens and we’re here to tell you about The SECRET Brain Science of Desire. Mostly when people are taught about sexual response, they learn about: Masters and Johnson or Kaplan.”

R Stevens holds a graph labeled Masters and Johnson. This graph depicts escalating points, “Excitement, Plateau, Orgasm, (Whee!!!!), Resolution.” They present another graph depicting the Kaplan model. This graph resembles a recycling symbol, “Desire, Orgasm, Arousal.”

Dr. Nagoski continues, “Both are useful descriptions of what people experience during sexual response. But what I’m gonna teach you today is the brain mechanism that generates sexual response. Allow me to introduce you to the: Dual Control Model. Your sexual response system, like every other domain of your central nervous system, is made up a partnership of inhibition and activation: brakes and gas.” An illustration depicts a brain with arrows toward genitals and then arrows from genitals to the brain.

“Turn On! The sexual excitation system (SES) notices all the sexually relevant information in the environment. Everything you see, hear, touch, taste, smell or imagine that sends signals to your genitals to say ‘turn on’.” Dr. Nagoski provides a list of examples: Partner smell, partner appearance, pleasant genital sensations, seeing or hearing other people having sex, partner makes you feel special, making up after a fight, novelty, trusting your partner, new love.

“Turn off! Your sexual inhibition system (SIS) is the break, it notices all the very good reasons not to be turned on right now. Everything you see, hear, touch, taste, smell or imagine that could be a potential threat.” She provides examples of turn offs: Body image, trauma history, sleep deprivation, relationship conflict, reputation, unwanted pregnancy/STIs, depression/anxiety/stress (for 10-20% of people, stress increases desire, people vary.), performance anxiety, feeling obligated.

Dr. Nagoski continues, “The process of becoming aroused is the process of turning ON the ons and turning OFF the offs. Your level of arousal at any moment is the balance of your brakes and gas- the SES and SIS. Most people think that difficulties with desire and arousal can be solved by adding more stimulation to the gas pedal. Research has shown that it’s much more likely you need less activation to the brakes. For most people, the single best predictor of sexual well-being is overall well-being. The calmer and happier you whole brain is, the better your sex life will be.”



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6 Comments Have Been Posted


<p>I do find these educational, however, many of these comics seem to be very hetero-normative.
It would be nice to feature something for lesbians/bisexual women every now and then.</p>

2nd that! It would have been

2nd that! It would have been nice to see some inclusiveness on the gender/sexuality side of things as these are universal topics.

I don't see this doctor, or any other doctor for that matter, tell us that there are significant and essential differences between the brains of cis-heteros and trans* and/or other queers. Otherwise great sentiment, really! Thought provoking as well.

Her comics feature gay

Her comics feature gay characters all the time! Her personal experience is obviously hetero so that is the perspective she personally writes from (should she go out and have gay sex just to be more inclusive?), but she often depicts gay characters also using the items she reviews.

Anyway, I thought this was a really interesting, but it was only a teaser. I'd like to learn more about turning off the breaks.




Seeing/hearing other people have sex slams on my brakes. That's why I don't understand why anyone would watch porn. Of course, my brakes are always working a lot harder than my gas. (Being pressured to have sex by these websites sure doesn't help anything!)

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