Sexual tension is one of the most exciting things a human being can experience.
It puts butterflies in your stomach, gets your heart pumping, and primes you for sex.
But how do you know whether what you’re feeling between yourself and another person is sexual tension or something else?
When should you make a move, and when should you not?
The good news is that there are scientifically proven sexual signs that will let you know whether what you’re feeling is simply a feeling – or whether there is true sexual chemistry between you and someone else.
In this article, we’ll be taking a look at what these 21 sexual tension signs are. But first …
What's Sexual Tension?
There is no clinical definition of sexual tension, however, there are typical physiological signs when sexual tension occurs. Increased heart rate, increased body temperature, nervousness/anxiety, and a shift in vocal patterns are all common indicators that sexual tension is present, according to AASECT Certified Sex Therapist, Indigo Stray Conger.
These physiological signals are responses to pheromones, which are little understood chemicals that our bodies release to prime the sexual excitation system. Others' pheromones are perceived by our olfactory senses on an unconscious level and catalyze our own pheromone release
Once our excitation system is engaged and we directly interact with someone with whom we have sexual tension, we begin to incorporate the limbic systems in our brains into the response cycle. When our limbic systems interact with other limbic systems through eye contact, physical touch, belly laughter, or playful rough housing our bodies release dopamine, norepinephrine, and oxytocin (all the good stuff!).
This kind of mutual connection is the next step up from sexual tension – commonly referred to as “new relationship energy” or, more scientifically, limerence.
What causes Sexual Tension?
The thing with sexual tension is that it can happen to just about anyone, regardless of your relationship with one another. It can happen between friends, colleagues – and of course dates. It’s usually caused by a build-up of sexual attraction between two people. When two people find each other sexually attractive, they do things that keep the fire of passion burning and burning until, eventually, there must be a release.
How to tell if Sexual Tension is mutual?
You can tell if sexual tension is mutual by: Body language – is there eye contact? Smiling? Leaning in? Touching? Over texting: ask a flirty question and if they flirt back, there is likely reciprocation.
“There will be certain energy between the two of you when together or apart. Pay attention to the tone of voice or text, the words used. In texting/messaging – how quickly do they respond? This is one way to gauge interest. Do they suggest meeting up or put off a meeting? If you wonder if someone is into you, they probably aren't.” – Dr. Tari Mack.
21 Clinically Proven Sexual Tension Signs:
1. Eye Contact
A good rule of thumb when it comes to working out whether or not there is sexual tension is to check for eye contact. If they’re staring at you in the eyes as they talk to you, it’s a sign that they’re deeply, deeply attracted to you.
2. Their Gaze Wanders To Your Lips
Eye contact is one thing, but if they remove their gaze from your eyes for a moment and move your lips, it’s a huge sign that they’re lusting after you. Right at that moment, they’re probably thinking about all the things they’d love to do to you.
3. Your Mind Wanders
When you’re talking to someone you fancy, check to see if you mind wanders onto naughtier things. For example, if you’re speaking to them and you suddenly find yourself fantasising about them, it’s a sign that sexual tension is brewing – at least on your part.
4. They Touch You
Body language is very important when it comes to spotting sexual tension, so pay attention to what they do with their hands. If they playfully or subtly touch you, be it a punch on the shoulder or a hand resting on your knee momentarily, it can mean that things are hotting up.
5. The Two Of You Flirt
The easiest way to increase sexual tension is by flirting. Think about it – would you flirt with a close friend? Not really because a) you don’t want to have sex with them and b) it’d be weird.
But once you start flirting with someone you fancy and they flirt back, sexual tension is apparent. It’s clear that something is developing between the two of you, and that both of you have your minds on sex.
6. You Both Smile a Lot
Yes, two people can smile around each other without wanting sex. But if the two of you literally can’t help grinning throughout your conversation, it’s another sign of sexual tension.
Look out for cheeky grins and smirks, too.
7. You Both Laugh a Lot, Too
Someone once said that when a man on a woman enjoying a date laugh a lot, the next step is sex. That’s not always true, of course. But a telltale sign that sexual tension is heating up is laughter.
If you laugh at their jokes and they laugh at yours, and especially if the two of you are almost falling over with laughter, it can mean that there’s something more than friendship developing here.
8. You Tease Each Other
As well as flirting with each other, teasing each other is a strong sign of sexual attraction. Teasing is a form of playful behaviour. It’s completely harmless but it ups the ante when we’re on a date with someone because it’s always a sign that we fancy them.
Again, just think about it: Would you tease someone that you’re really not interested in? They wouldn’t be worth the effort.
9. You Dream About Them
It’s not enough that you have a regular dream about someone where you do regular, everyday things. When it comes to sexual tension, your dream has to be sexual.
If, then, you go to bed and have an x-rated dream about this person, it means that, at least on your part, sexual tension is hotting up and you probably want to take this to the next, steamy level.
10. Hugging Becomes Awkward
Hugging becomes awkward because you’re suddenly not sure whether to hug – or kiss.
Have you ever noticed the way you hug a friend? It’s totally natural. You hug them tight, you say “see you later,” and then walk away.
But when there’s sexual tension, a hug becomes different. Maybe you prolong it a little bit longer, look into each other’s eyes, gaze at their lips – and wonder what to do next.
11. Your Voice Changes
(Or their voice changes)
If you noticed that your voice or their voice is suddenly higher than usual, or if there’s suddenly a nervous tremor, it can be a sign of sexual tension. In fact, science has even proven that sexual tension modifies our voice.
12. Neither Of You Wants To Go Home
When sexual tension is brewing, the last thing anyone wants to do is call the date quits and go home. So if you notice that they appear to be hesitating about going home – perhaps they’re asking you for one last drink – it’s a sign that they’re more than interested in you. Perhaps they want to continue the date, but elsewhere …
13. Your Friends Have Mentioned It
Sometimes, it takes our friends to point out how well we’re getting along with someone before we even notice it. If your friends can see that there’s sexual tension between the two of you, you’d better start believing it.
14. They Love How You Smell
If your date says to you that you “smell good” tonight, take this as a sign of sexual tension. We’re biologically designed to react to smells, and a good smell, such as cologne or perform, can turn a person on and put them in the mood for sex.
And while someone loving the way you smell doesn’t always signal sexual tension, if they actively tell you that you smell good, you should take it as a sign.
15. The Two Of You Get Up, Close and Personal
The closer the two of you get to one another during your date, the clearer are the signs of sexual tension. And we don’t just mean closer in terms of getting to know one another – we mean it in terms of how physically close you are. If you, for instance, notice them leaning in as they talk to you, it’s a sign that things are heating up – and they probably want to get even closer to you.
16. There Are Lots of Compliments
Is it normal to compliment a friend? Yes, of course. But complimenting when the two of you are feeling sexually tense is different. There are lots of compliments – some will be subtle, others will be clear. These compliments are genuine and it’s a sign that the two of you want to know each other more.
17. You Talk About Sex
If the conversation turns to sex all of a sudden, you should see this as a sign. The conversation could be cheeky, flirty or even a bit serious. Either way, sex is a naughty topic and it can’t do anything else other than put the two of you in the mood for sex – probably with each other.
18. You Feel Giddy
Some people describe feeling giddy as feeling as though there are butterflies in your stomach. Others say it’s like being a teenager again, experiencing love or lust for the first time. However you define it, if you start to feel a bit giddy when you’re with a date and feel a sort of nervousness in your stomach, it can signify sexual tension.
19. You Get Distracted
Ever notice that you’re talking to your date … when all of a sudden your mind literally wanders? Maybe you start fantasizing about them and imagine what they look like naked.
Or, maybe your eyes wander – while you’re trying hard to focus on what they’re saying, you can’t keep your eyes off their chest/legs/lips.
20. You Feel Flustered
A huge sign of sexual tension is when one of you goes red in the face. You’re hot, you’re bothered and now you’re flushing. This is because adrenaline is coursing through your body – and you’re massively turned on right now.
21. You Just Know
Lastly, sexual tension is a feeling deep within us. If you know that there is a sexual attraction between the two of you and intuitively feel it in your gut, you’re probably right. As such, the next thing to do is to act on it – preferably as soon as possible.