Turned-On Tears: The Highly Sensitive’s Sex Life

“Beauty of whatever kind, in its supreme development, invariably excites the sensitive soul to tears.” — Edgar Allan Poe

sensitive person

Do you ever cry during sex? I’m not talking upset tears. I mean the euphoric, I’m-too-blown-away-for-words, soul-shook, HEART-GASM kind. One of the first times I did, my then boyfriend looked horrified. “It’s okay,” I said, sniveling. “I’m just happy!” Sappy is more like it, some might say. Others know better.

While most people are somewhat emotional after orgasm due to feel-good brain chemical release, some of us are more prone to intense emotions than others. Like many of you, I’m a highly sensitive person (HSP). While heightened sensitivity can pose challenges, I’ve learned to seriously adore its perks.

If you’re familiar with work by Carl Jung or Elaine Aron, PhD or read my post Learning to Love: Am I Happier Single?, you know that high sensitivity is fairly common, magnifying all-things-sensory in up to 20% of the population. Here’s a refresher on the basics and some interesting ways high sensitivity can affect our sexuality:

What is an HSP?

In short, an HSP processes sensory data far deeper than the average Joe/Joanne, which causes greater sensitivity to sensory stimuli, such as pain, aromas, textures, flavors and bright lights. As an HSP, you’re likely to experience heartache deeper and longer than most, but you also have a greater capacity for pleasure.

Even sexual pleasure? Yes indeed!

*pauses while HS readers and their partners cheer* It’s okay! Take your time. 🙂

Introvert or extrovert?

About 70% of highly sensitive people are introverts (HSIs), who gain energy from solace and quiet. The remaining 30% are extroverted (HSEs), gaining energy from interacting with others, yet valuing alone time than other extros (where I fall). Being highly sensitive and introverted doesn’t mean you’re shy, though you could be. Highly sensitive extroverts, a.k.a. high sensation seekers, don’t run around feeling deeply and LOUDLY, though—heck. We all have our moments!

How does all of this affect our sensual lives? Countless ways, including:

Gentleness, frequency and foreplay

While HSIs can be highly turned on by subtle cues (the brush of your lover’s hand on your leg, a soft kiss…), HSEs tend to want more sex and overt passion (intense fondling, deep kisses…)  than others. Both types tend not to need much foreplay in order to become aroused or reach orgasm (WOO HOO!), writes Aron, but going too hard or fast may offset the introverts; they’re so easily aroused that a little goes a long way. HSIs are also less interested in casual sex than HSEs, valuing and considering emotional connectedness regarding sex to the max.

Turn-ons and offs

Once we’re offset by a negative influence, HS people can move swiftly from mega-turned on to buzz-killed. For introverts, this might be the sound of loud, annoying loud music or an embarrassing moment. Sensation seekers may be turned off by a lack of intensity or find overly subtle cues perplexing.

While HSEs have an intense curiosity and need to explore in their love lives, according to Aron’s research, HSIs typically desire fewer partners and less sexual variety.

Emotional tension of any kind can work like a cold shower on highly sensitives’ Girl Boners, which is yet another reason it’s important to seek comfort with our sexuality, selves and bodies. It’s also particularly important for us to seek and maintain gratifying relationships, having a low tolerance for discontent. Since we’re empathetic, deep-feelers, the potential for beautiful connectedness with Mr./Ms. Right is immense.

Woman and man kissing

HSPs are particularly skilled at fantasizing, reports Aron, and HS males tend to fantasize vividly about partners while masturbating. (Yumminess...) This is likely true for women, too, in my opinion, but we’re less sadly likely to admit to masturbating and fantasizing. And while I’m not aware of specific findings that support this, it only makes sense that when HSPs climax, we CLIMAX!!! Our capacity for pleasure, after all, is gargantuan. In my experience, highly sensitive people make the best lovers, partners and friends.

Regardless of how it manifests itself, high sensitivity brings greater intensity to sexual and intimate experiences. What’s important, as with so many areas of our sexuality, is finding what works for us and our partners. We’re all unique, with varied needs, challenges and desires. The more we lovingly discuss them, the better. Don’t you think?

Related links and resources:

The Highly Sensitive Person in Love, by Elaine Aron, Ph.D
Psychology Today: Understanding the Highly Sensitive Person: Introverted, Extroverted or Both?
HighlySensitive.org: Relationships and Highly Sensitive People
Space2Live: How Does Introversion Affect Your Sexuality?
Oprah.com: Am I Too Sensitive? Highly Sensitive Person Quiz

Where do you fall on the sensitivity spectrum? Are you more of an extrovert, introvert or ambivert (quite mixed)? How has your personality influenced your sex life? Would you like to learn more about introverts and extroverts in love? I LOVE hearing your thoughts and questions. 🙂

The next episode of Girl Boner Radio will air on Monday, January 27th—and the series will be available on iTunes soon! If you’d like to submit a sound clip for potential airing on an upcoming episode, email me for details. Thanks for your ongoing support! ♥

Leave a comment


  1. Reblogged this on Satin Sheet Diva's Blog and commented:
    I’m a firm believer that in order to come to fully know and love who we are, we must explore all aspects of what makes us human. August McLaughlin’s blog, Girl Bonner, has some of the best posts about women’s sexuality. Add it to your list of resources for your Satin Sheet Diva Experience.

    • “…explore all aspects of what makes us human.” Amen! As you know, sexuality is too often lacking from that equation. I can’t thank you enough for the support!

  2. Gerry Hinshaw

     /  January 20, 2014

    I LOVE you so much!!! I hope one day to meet you!

  3. Wow, just wow! Can’t wait to dig in to this. I would be a HSE. And, yes the first time I burst into tears we were both a little startled. Likewise the time I burst into this ecstatic laughter that turned into tears.

  4. It’s very good to read the words of an intelligent, caring, good humored person who has the courage to speak so openly on this subject. I keep the “jokers,” in their place, since they’re mostly crass and even rude, and have a totally different agenda, You have the courage to be open on the subject, and to discuss it the right way. The healthy way.

  5. I’ve cried tears of JOY many times and still do. Sexually active in my eighteenth year, 1963, (the norm back then) I’ve been blessed with amazing lovers over fifty years and still am. The older I get the more there are, the more discerning I am. Key to successful outcomes.

    Sex has all-ways been a sacred act. Rarely have I make love to a man who did not share that opinion and why “our” orgasmic/chemistry moved us in an almost a supernatural way.

    People/society assume a woman my age does not have the desire or wherefore-all to nurture and celebrate their sexuality. They are wrong. Go back in history, thousands of years ago, the goddess cultures. Women were in their prime at this age, the teachers, the mentors, the Sacred Prostitutes, spiritually awakened.

    Hundreds of thousands of men are drawn to my profiles on the date sites and have been for ten decades. I use the findings, data, research for my next book, (Sexy In Your 70s) writing projects to prove the naysayers wrong and encourage women to look forward to this phase of life.

    The combination of aging, celebrating sexuality in a respectful passionate approach (men tell me they “feel” my energy immediately) keeps me young in spirit, enjoying the fruits of life as never before. This stage of life far surpasses any stage thus far, That statement speaks worlds.

    So cry, emote, vibrate high, respect yourself, celebrate, love that most divine part of womanhood; sexuality. Create your own reality. Make the experience what you want it to be. The sky’s the limit! The aspect of the Divine Feminine never ceases to be if we cherish it.

    Poe’s quote is spot on. “Beauty of whatever kind, in its supreme development, invariably excites the sensitive soul to tears.” — Edgar Allan Poe

    • Beautifully said, Joan! Our sexuality evolves and deepens over time, as you well exemplify. If only more of us realized and embraced such notions… You are an inspiring woman, and we’re so lucky to have your voice! May your message reach millions. 🙂

      I can’t wait to read and learn more about your work. Thanks so much for chiming in!

  6. Funny enough, I thought that extroverts would’ve been more prone to being HSE’s. Simply because extroverts would be more comfortable showing their emotions. Definitely interesting to think about. I, myself, have a tendency to be introverted and very guarded where my feelings are concerned while Mathair is an extrovert and embraces her emotions. Great post, August. Really got Mathair and I thinking and talking on the subject.

    • Good point! As I understand it, extroverts are more prone to open expression and interaction with others, but are less likely to feel as deeply sensitive or have as active internal worlds as introverts–HSEs being an exception. (Hmm… Say that 10 times fast! ;))

  7. Raani York

     /  January 20, 2014

    Hmmmm… this post made me think A LOT!!
    I do know that I’m a HSP. – but while reading your post I couldn’t figure out whether or not I’m extrovert or introvert… I more tend to “being somewhere in between” – if that’s possible…
    “Depends on the situation” doesn’t help either…
    I like being social – but there are people that definitely are intimidating (in more than one way… not only due to their body length, which isn’t difficult since I’m a merely 5’3″, but often due to their aura which sometimes smells or feels negative) In such a case I can be as introvert as a turtle… (Move in and keep silent)….
    There are days when I’m excited and happy and talkative – but even on days like this loud music or permanent construction sound drives me up the walls…
    You know… maybe I’m neither – not introvert or extrovert – I think, I might just be downright WEIRD…

    • LOL You’re not weird, Raani! You sound like an ambivert, a lovely blend if both. 🙂

      • Raani York

         /  January 20, 2014

        Thank you, August. That’s sweet of you to say. I’ll continue thinking about it for a while… if I ever get another idea of what else I could be, I’ll let you know. 🙂

  8. I have made a few women laugh in bed. Sadly.

  9. krunr20

     /  January 21, 2014

    My first therapist referred to me being HS as being a “spongebob” – soaking up emotions and senses from around me. A good and a bad thing, for sure.

  10. Liz

     /  January 21, 2014

    I had only a couple experiences bursting into tears when i was younger, but for years repressed these emotions because it freaked my partners out too much, & my sex life suffered as a result…
    ….jumping forward to this past fall, when my divorce was finalized, I happened to meet someone I totally clicked with, and who caused me to burst out laughing! A welcome experience…but now I know why I am doing it…at 45, it’s about time!

  11. Late last year I went to a lecture – here in New Zealand – by Elaine Aaron, with Q&A afterwards. She’d been brought out specifically from San Francisco to talk, and the audience was fielded from as far away as Australia. It was interesting. The organisers’d expected to field maybe 30, at most, but ended up having to shift venues to a cinema with a stage on it by way of accommodating the hundreds who wanted to come along. Unfortunately I didn’t get to meet her – she turned up at a stall with some of her books during he intermission, but there were way too many people for me to even try to get near that side of the foyer.

  12. I am an HSP for sure. I am sensitive to everything. I absorb other people’s feelings and can sense when something is wrong. It is a blessing and a curse. But I’d rather be sensitive than otherwise. It means that I can sympathize and have compassion for others. 🙂


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