You don’t need us to tell you the basic ways your body changes when you’re turned on. Your breathing speeds up, you get wet, your nipples might get hard, your brain turns to total mush, et cetera et cetera. But there are also a few less obvious—and more interesting—ways some people’s bodies respond to sexual arousal.
Here are a few odd, sometimes annoying, and occasionally beneficial things that can potentially happen to your body when you’re turned on.
1. Parts of your body feel numb or paralyzed. This doesn’t happen to everyone, but there are some people who report feeling numb, paralyzed, or tingly in their face or hands during sex. Being sexually aroused, especially when you’re really close to orgasm, can make you tense up, and all the stimulation can have tingly effects throughout the body. If this happens to you, don’t be alarmed—it may feel funny, but it’s probably normal.
2. You sneeze. Yup! Some people actually sneeze when they’re turned on or right after they orgasm. Scientists think this is more common than we realize and might stem from the parasympathetic nervous system, which is activated during both sex and sneezing.
3. You blink more quickly. When you’re excited—whether emotionally or physically—your eyes start blinking more quickly. Sexologist Tracey Cox believes this happens because the more emotion you feel, the more important it is for your eyes to clear out potential tears.
4. You can tolerate gross things. When you’re horny, you become way less easily grossed out. One study found that after watching porn, women were less likely to get disgusted by images of things like corpses, feces, and vomiting—though this effect only worked with women who reported not being easily grossed out in the first place. Another study found that women who had just watched porn were more likely to drink from a cup with a bug on it, eat a cookie next to a worm, or wipe their hands on a used tissue. This makes evolutionary sense: If we didn’t have this reaction, we might find sex itself a little gross.
5. You become braver. The same study that found women could tolerate disgusting images more when they were turned on also found that they could view scary images with greater ease. Pictures of wolves, sharks, fires, and tornados were rated as less frightening after a good porn-viewing session.
6. You get headaches. A few unfortunate souls just can’t enjoy a good romp without a painful side effect: headaches. Some people get dull aches in their heads or necks as things are heating up, and some have more severe ones around the time they orgasm. These usually don’t point to any major issue, but they can still put a damper on things.
7. Your pain tolerance skyrockets. In one cruel and unusual experiment, rats were less likely to vocalize in response to shocks to their tails after their vaginas were stimulated with a glass rod. Another study found that when women were masturbating, their pain thresholds doubled. The same researchers also discovered that women experienced less pain during childbirth while the baby was moving past the G-spot. So it appears that this effect serves at least one very useful purpose.