Sweet Release — What Is Sexual Tension?

When you're into someone, and they're into you, a powerful force comes into play: sexual tension.

Table of Contents

What Is Sexual Tension?

sexual tension

Sexual tension is the tension between two people attracted to each other but is unable or unwilling to fulfill their sexual desires together. Sexual tension can lead to characteristic feelings of attraction, such as sensitivity to someone's touch or the feel of butterflies in your stomach when they're around. 

Conscious Sexual Tension

Conscious sexual tension is the tension between two people who are aware of their attraction to each other. They may have even spoken together about their appeal.

Unconscious Sexual Tension

Unconscious sexual tension is between two people who have sexual chemistry together but aren't willing to admit their feelings to one another or even to themselves. Friends may notice the unconscious sexual tension long before the people in the sexually tense relationship do. 

What Causes Sexual Tension?

Sexual tension builds when two people can't release their pent-up mutual sexual attraction. This can occur in several situations.

Unwillingness to Admit Feelings

sexual tension couple

Some people may be unwilling to admit their attraction toward each other. This leads to the will-they-won't-they dynamic that is so common in sitcoms. Two people flirt and banter back and forth nonstop for seasons without acting on their sexual impulses. Part of the reason this dynamic is so popular with comedy writers may be that it prevents the characters' relationships from changing. After all, you may want to hold off on romantic or sexual feelings to preserve an existing friendship in real life. 

Inconvenient or Morally Questionable Relationships

People can be sexually attracted to each other despite knowing that acting on their impulses would be a bad idea. For example, a boss and an employee may avoid fulfilling sexual desires they have for each other because relationships in the workplace can be awkward or even against company policy. 

Friendship With an Ex

People who've had a sexual relationship in the past may still feel attracted to one another when interacting in public. Even if a relationship ended on bad terms, it could be hard to forget the ways you turned each other on. A particular look or mannerism may remind you of what your ex was like in bed. ‌

Attraction Outside of a Committed Relationship

Most people feel sexual attraction to people other than their chosen sexual partners. Even if you're happily married, you may still be attracted to larger-than-life Hollywood stars — and who could blame you? Since you don't interact with the celeb in person, there's no tension, just the one-way attraction. But a mutual interest in someone you know in real life who isn't your partner can lead to sexual tension. 

Kinks 

If you are in a committed relationship with someone who doesn't share the same sexual kinks as you, you may find yourself attracted to people who do.  

How Do You Build Sexual Tension?

how to build a sexual tension

When you've established mutual attraction with someone and are just beginning a relationship with them, you may want to build sexual tension in anticipation of your first time together to make your first mutual release that much more memorable. See each other for long periods before having sex. Throw in as much flirting as you can handle. Have fun! 

Flirting long before a sexual encounter can also make for steamier-than-usual sex in an established relationship. Taking it slow can lead to a fun mix of anticipation and arousal, sometimes inducing fantasies. 

How Do You Stop Sexual Tension?

Of course, not all people who are mutually attracted to each other can fulfill their desires. In these cases, you will want to relieve that tension differently. Luckily, you have a few options.

Remind Yourself Why You Shouldn't Be Together

Sometimes the best way to get rid of sexual feelings is to calm down and reason with yourself. If you're trying not to have sex with someone, you probably have a good reason.

Masturbate

The old mainstay: masturbation. Grab your favorite sex toy and let your imagination go wild! 

Watch Ethical Porn

Ethical porn can be a great way to relieve sexual tension, especially when it's related to a kink you can't play out with a partner. Some porn scenarios may play out relationship dynamics that are similar to the situation you are in, allowing you to feel the escape without having any real-life implications. 

Have Sex With a Partner

Hear us out! Having sex with a partner can be a way to relieve sexual tension from attraction to another person. However, do not visualize the person who got you worked up in the first place. Instead, please pay attention to your partner and remind yourself why you're with them. This is especially helpful if you're in a committed relationship and want to avoid the urge to cheat. 

Avoid the Person You're Mutually Attracted To

If all else fails, do what you can to avoid the person you are trying not to have sex with. 

Sexual Tension and Sexuality

Are friendships between two people attracted to each other's sexualities doomed to sexual tension? For example, can a heterosexual male and heterosexual female be friends without sexual tension? Can two lesbians be friends without sexual tension? 

These questions are still up for debate. While a 2012 paper suggests that cross-sex friendships between heterosexual males and females may face unique challenges based on the evolutionary instinct to procreate, more research is needed to confirm this. More research specifically focusing on the sexual tension between LGBTQIA+ people is also required. ‌

Suppose you're friends with someone of sexuality you're attracted to. In that case, we suggest not worrying unless you begin to feel the signs of sexual attraction that could threaten an existing relationship. If this happens, take the steps mentioned above to relieve the sexual tension. 

When the Tension Fizzles

The physiological changes associated with the relationship's honeymoon phase (increased neuron growth in the brain and production of cortisol, the stress hormone) usually end around 12 to 24 months after the start of a relationship. The sexual tension experienced while around that partner may lessen when this happens. 

Not feeling tingles whenever a partner touches you doesn't mean your relationship is doomed. Feeling comfortable around each other can be an enjoyable change. Still, if you miss the butterfly feelings, you can ramp up the sexual tension with a bit of romance and delayed sexual gratification. Sometimes, a little absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Conclusion

Sexual tension can be the fun prequel to a satisfying relationship. It can also be a fun part of an existing relationship. But if it happens between the wrong set of people, it can lead to discomfort and even destroy a friendship or a committed relationship with someone else. Luckily, you have the power to encourage or prevent sexual tension in your life.

SOURCES:

Benefit or burden? Attraction in cross-sex friendship. (April 2012). Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. 

What Physiological Changes Can Explain the Honeymoon Phase of a Relationship?. (September 2013). Scientific American.

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