Have you ever been on a date and just felt a spark—almost like a jolt of electricity? Well, there are signs of sexual tension to look out for so you can tell whether the feeling is mutual (and to figure out whether you’re not the only one having those, ahem, NC-17 thoughts). But first: What is sexual tension? According to Nicole Prause, Ph.D., CEO of Liberos, sexual psychophysiologist, and neuroscientist, it’s “our pleasurable interpretation of the general body arousal and preparation to engage.”
And there are two types of sexual tension, according to Prause: positive, which is the type we described above in which we feel a spark and desire for another person, and negative, which is when you are “angry, sad, or anxious” thinking about a sexual encounter with someone. Since we’re focusing on positive sexual tension, we’re referring to what Prause says is “the ‘risk’ or not knowing what might happen, even with an established partner.” (Just because you’re in a relationship doesn’t mean you still can’t feel excited about what might happen.) On the flip side, at the beginning of any relationship (fling or otherwise), there’s definitely uncertainty as to whether you’re both on the same page with your physical attraction.
The good news is that with a few little tips, you can learn to spot the signs of sexual tension with someone you’re seeing. Keep reading to discover what they are (and maybe keep them in the back of your mind on your next date).
When the eye contact just won’t stop. We’ve already discussed how eye contact can make you feel joy instead of fear and sadness (yes, a study proved this). But when you’re so into each other that you can’t stop staring into each others’ eyes and you don’t feel like you need to look away (and don’t want to either), that’s when you know it’s the real deal.
When there’s subtle touching. A touch on the knee, brushing their hand against yours… you catch the drift. It might not be a blatant arm around the shoulder or holding hands, but for a split second, you imagine what it would be like if the touch lasted longer than that. Personal space? Who needs that?
When it feels like you’re the only two people in the room. It can be easier to feel the energy when it’s just you two. But when you’re in a crowded room—especially doing your own thing—and you feel a pull toward that person, that’s when you know.
When your hugs last a few seconds longer than normal. There are usually social norms as to how long you hold a hug (for your friend, a certain amount of seconds; for a friend’s partner, a couple of seconds fewer). So when you go in for an embrace and no one lets go, chances are that the sexual tension is there. Bonus points if they give you a bit more of a squeeze than normal.
When you take longer to get ready before seeing them. We’re not saying that you try on 10 outfits before deciding on one, but it’s a sign when you put serious thought into your clothes, hair, you name it. It’s because you want to impress that person, and it’s not a bad thing at all. If they do the same for you, then you’re golden.
When your mind can’t stop wandering. All over the place. Okay, fine, to one place: the bedroom. It’s perfectly normal for your thoughts to drift while you’re with that someone special, whether it’s your first date (or you’re already a couple).
When your voices change. It’s a scientific thing: Sexual tension turns women’s voices higher and men’s voices lower. See how they speak to other people (friends, family) and then compare it to your conversations. One of the best parts? It’s something neither person can really hide.
When there’s winking—and it’s not weird. Winking somehow gets a bad rep. But when you’re into each other, it’s playful and cute. Chances are that it will just happen while you’re talking. And if you’re both into it, then you know things are going well.
When they show up in your fantasies. Whether you’re daydreaming or actually dreaming, when they’re the object of your attraction rather than your celebrity hall pass, that’s a sign. It basically means that you want them more than someone you view as close to perfect yet unattainable. And guess what? Reality is better than dreaming.
When silence is okay. You know how you can’t let a moment pass without talking when you first meet someone? With someone you’re attracted to, you often don’t feel that way. There’s a comfort level with them that’s just indescribable—and maybe it’s because your actions (like gazing into each others’ eyes) speak louder than words.
When one of you lingers. Hesitating a bit at the end of a date means that you don’t want to go. It can be in the form of an embrace that goes on longer than normal or stalling a bit by one of your doorsteps. If you notice that happening, you can tell you’re in lust (congrats).
Now that you’ve read about the signs of sexual tension, you can spot when your chemistry with someone may be out of this world. And remember, even when you’re in a relationship, these feelings of excitement don’t have to stop.