As you know at Couply we’re all about making your love life magic. 

Today, we're here to help you and your partner navigate the hotsy-totsy, tangled world of desire and intimacy.

Today we’re highlighting Emily Nagoski, Ph.D., sex educator extraordinaire and author of 'Come As You Are' (1). She proposes a fantastic, fool-proof theory about sexual response, known as the Dual Control Model (2). 

This theory revolves around two simple concepts: accelerators (the 'go' system) and brakes (the 'stop' system) that regulate sexual arousal.

Imagine your sex life as a fancy sports car (leather seats optional). The accelerator is everything that makes you purr like a well-tuned engine, and the brakes are all those pesky things that screech everything to a halt.

Imagine a scenario: you've spent hours (or maybe minutes, who's counting?) dolling yourself up, scenting the air with your favorite perfume or cologne, putting on that outfit – you know, the one that makes you feel like a million bucks. The table is set, the mood is just right, and yet, when it comes time to take the plunge into the world of intimacy, something The car won't start, the engine just won't rev. Has this happened to you and you’ve wondered why? 

Well, this is due to the complexity of human sexuality, acknowledging that our arousal isn't simply about flipping a switch. It recognizes that while there are things that turn us on (accelerators), there are also factors that actively turn us off (brakes). Understanding this allows us to have more control over our sexual experiences, making them more satisfying and fulfilling.

Makes sense, right? Great. We'll be in the fast lane of desire in no time.

Now, how do you and your partner apply this theory to improve your sex life? Let's break it down.

Step 1: Identify Your Accelerators

First things first, you need to figure out what revs your engine, baby! Maybe it's when your partner gives you that smoldering look across the dinner table, or perhaps it's a particular scent that gets your motor running. Maybe they cleaned up the house for you or wore something sexy. It could even be something as simple as a romantic text during the day. Only one rule here - no judgment! Remember, what gets us going is as diverse as a bag of Skittles; everyone has a favorite flavor.

💡Tip: Take the Couply App Desire Couples Quiz to see you and your partner’s sexual turn ons! This is the ultimate sex couples app quiz.  

Step 2: Identify your partner's Accelerators

Next, it's time for your partner's turn. Just like you, your partner has things that send their desire into overdrive. It might be a certain touch, a naughty whisper, or simply seeing you in that oh-so-sexy sleepwear set. We're all about equality here; it's important for both you and your partner to know each other's turn-ons for a successful journey.

💡: Tip Below we have a list of common brakes and accelerators: check it out!

Step 3: Recognize Your Brakes

Now, for the brakes. These are the things that kill your mood faster than realizing you've run out of your favorite ice cream. Stress, fatigue, negative body image, mind on other things, or even concerns about performance can act as brakes. Identifying these helps you understand what gets in the way of enjoying a joy ride with your partner.

Step 4: Recognize you partner's Brakes

And of course, your partner's brakes are equally essential. What puts the chill on their chili could be very different from yours. It could range from worries about work, family, or feeling disconnected from your partner. The more your partner can share about their brakes, the easier it will be to avoid them, ensuring a smoother drive. 

Also, it’s important to understand that people have different sensitivities as well. So people’s accelerators and brakes might be more sensitive or loaded. Some might have more sensitive brakes: more prone to a quick turn off, other’s accelerators are raring to go!

Now, after figuring out accelerators and brakes, the challenge lies in a) pressing the right accelerators, while b) not stomping on those brakes. 

Let’s look at examples. 


Example 1: Your partner comes home from a long day at work to find that you have prepared a surprise candlelit dinner. The smell of the food, the soft music playing in the background, and your thoughtful gesture all hit your partner's accelerator, shifting the desire into high gear.

Example 2: You are out running errands and receives a flirty text message from your partner that says, "Can't wait to see you tonight..." This unexpected message spikes your excitement, pumping the gas on their accelerator.

Example 3: Your partner, who loves intellectual stimulation, finds themselves incredibly turned on when you passionately explains a complex topic they're an expert in. This intellectual connection steps on your partner's accelerator.


Example 1: You are excited about a date night with your partner, but a last-minute work email of things going wrong floods your mind with stress, firmly applying the brake.

Example 2: Your partner has been looking forward to intimacy with you all day, but an argument about household chores puts the kibosh on the mood, slamming on the brake.

Example 3: You feels self-conscious about their body after an offhand comment from a coworker earlier in the day. This negative body image perception acts as a brake when your partner initiates intimacy.

In each of these scenarios, it's easy to see how accelerators and brakes can significantly affect desire. 

By identifying and communicating these factors to each other, you and your partner can help ensure the accelerators are pressed more often while minimizing the impact of those pesky brakes. Remember, the key is open communication, empathy, and understanding. Just like any good road trip, it's all about the journey and enjoying the ride together.

How do we talk about this stuff?

Let’s use the list method. Go through the list and identify which of these is a brake or an accelerator. 

Don't worry, here's a handy conversation guide to help you and your partner navigate this.

YOU: "Hey, I read this interesting article about improving our sex life. Can we chat about it?"

YOUR PARTNER: "Sure. What's it about?"

YOU: "It's about identifying things that turn us on and what turns us off. There is a list we go through I thought we could discuss it. Would that be okay?"

YOUR PARTNER: "Sounds intriguing, let's do it."

The List 


  • Physical touch or caresses from your partner.
  • Receiving compliments or expressions of desire from your partner.
  • Seeing your partner dressed in a certain way that you find attractive.
  • Sharing a passionate or deep conversation with your partner.
  • Engaging in non-sexual activities that bring you and your partner closer, like cooking or dancing together.
  • Unexpected romantic gestures, like surprise gifts or date nights.
  • Engaging in shared fantasies or new experiences.
  • Flirting or playful teasing with your partner.
  • A certain scent or fragrance that reminds you of your partner.
  • Feeling loved, secure, and emotionally connected with your partner.


  • Stress, whether from work, family, or other life events.
  • Lack of sleep or feeling tired.
  • Feeling rushed or pressured into sex.
  • Negative body image or self-consciousness.
  • Conflict or unresolved issues between you and your partner.
  • Feeling emotionally distant from your partner.
  • Worrying about sexual performance or satisfying your partner.
  • Lack of privacy or fear of being interrupted during intimacy.
  • Negative past sexual experiences or trauma.
  • Health issues, either physical or mental.

From here, you and your partner can talk about what you've discovered about your accelerators and brakes, and how you can mutually support each other to have a more fulfilling sex life.

This dialogue might feel awkward at first, but trust us, it's worth it. Discussing your desires and concerns can lead to deeper intimacy and understanding. It's like upgrading your car to a spaceship - you'll be exploring new galaxies of pleasure in no time!

Remember, it's not always about the destination (though reaching Pleasure Planet is fantastic), but it's about enjoying the journey together. Keep the communication channels open, and there's no limit to where team you and your partner can go.

And lastly, if things still seem a bit hazy or challenging, don't hesitate to seek help from professionals. Many sex therapists and educators, like Nagoski herself (3), are there to help guide you and your partner through your intimate journey.

In the end, it’s about being tuned into all the wonderful, saucy things that press that accelerator and understanding the things that press the brakes. 

To wrap it up, remember, you and your partner: it's your car, your journey, your rules. Now, buckle up and enjoy the ride!

References and further reading: