If you read my blog it's probably safe to assume that your sexual interests fall somewhere outside of "the norm." At times within the lifestyle (or fantasy of the lifestyle) there's a tendency to develop fetish and fantasy scenarios where the line between arousal and subspace triggers get blurred and they can seem almost inseparable. This is usually way more confusing for me than for women.
While one could argue it's impossible to generalize for everyone, most with a lot of experience within the BDSM realm tend to agree that this is true in most cases. Male arousal is often equated to a light switch. You're on or you're off. Female arousal is closer to a pot of water on the stove (or a tea kettle), it must gradually heat up before it reaches a boil. Subspace tends to manifest differently across the genders as well. A female sub will usually fall into subspace first and then she gets aroused. A male sub will usually get aroused first and then fall into subspace. In many cases these happenings might be instantaneous and this is one root of potential confusion.
Some terminology I will use:
Turn on - something that instigates arousal or increases sexual desire/frustration if already aroused. This includes erection attempts that are prevented by chastity.
Subspace trigger - something that initiates the sub's fall into subspace or increases the depth of subspace if he is already there.
The easiest way to separate arousal from subspace is to find a scenario where one is present but the other is not: Stroking a sub's cock will make him aroused but it doesn't necessarily trigger subspace.
Trying to find a state of subspace without arousal is almost impossible. A through and through submissive will likely put himself into subspace while masturbating. A sub that is performing an unpleasant chore with negative thoughts about it may simply picture his Domme's order or remember the potential consequences before he falls into a basic level of subspace and resigns himself to the task at hand (pleasing her/avoiding punishment begins to outweigh the unpleasantness of the chore). Arousal accompanies this realization.
To summarize it simply: subspace always includes arousal, but arousal doesn't always include subspace.
This leads us to the submissive loop. You get aroused and are in subspace. You go deeper into subspace and it makes you more aroused. You get more aroused and it opens you up to deeper subspace. They feed each other but jumping subspace levels may require some outside factors present (either in reality or in the sub's mind).
Turn ons can take on many different forms. While many of these are visual stimulation or fetish-related, they can also include personality characteristics or "reasons that we love her."
A few examples:
-A particular hairstyle, style of make-up, perfume, or bodily characteristic.
-An article of clothing such as lingerie, boots, gloves, fetish apparel, etc.
-A seductive action, motion, or posture.
Subspace triggers vary greatly as well:
-A phrase or attitude indicating the D/s "roles" are now active.
-A command, activity, or ritual frequently performed in D/s play.
-Fetish related items such as bondage gear, spanking devices, etc.
-Emotional triggers such as humiliation, emasculation, depersonalization, pet names, etc.
If you have any amount of experience with your partner you likely have picked up on many of these and you can always grill them to get their list. Having a sub write out his fantasies will often reveal most if not all of them. Knowing these things can open many doors to exploiting male sexuality.
Any turn on can become a subspace trigger through association. Include said turn on in D/s play regularly and even over a short period of time that turn on may become a subspace trigger. This may happen already with certain things if a sub has a fantasy that pops into his mind upon seeing them.
Most subspace triggers act as a turn on. This is a bit more delicate since certain activities may appeal to a sub that is already in deep subspace but give no appeal if they are in a vanilla state. However, the more experiences the sub has with that trigger, the more likely they are to respond favorably if confronted with it out of the gate.
Since a lot of subspace triggers bring on both arousal and subspace, a sub can easily be mind fucked into thinking a trigger is a true stand alone turn on. e.g. if pegging a sub puts him into a deep subspace, teasing him about getting a hard on from being ass raped will probably immediately put him into subspace, give him an erection and cause some emotional turmoil where he feels fucked up about it.
Overall, being able to acknowledge the difference between turn ons and subspace triggers is probably the main point of this post. They are quite different even if the result is the same. I think there's a lot of novice subs out there that probably get freaked out at what gives them a hard on and maybe this will help them understand themselves a bit better. There may be some novice Dommes out there that this may help shed some light on the inner-workings of the submissive mind/penis and provide some creative ways to fuck with a sub.
I have included a list of my own turn ons vs. subspace triggers in case you wanted additional examples.
My turn ons/fetishes:
-Breasts, thighs, curves.
-Eyes, lips, facial expressions.
-A woman's aggressive and dominant personality.
-Women wearing fur or fur-trimmed clothing.
-Women wearing certain styles of boots.
-Women wearing certain styles of gloves.
-The touch of fur.
My subspace triggers:
-Bondage: both restraining and ornamental (e.g. collars).
-Tease and denial or chastity.
-Inequality of power.
-The removal of "true" choice and freedom.
-Expectations of perfection and strict consequences.
-Having actions or activities forced upon me.
-Justifications for cruelty (e.g. this is for your own good, you can't control your penis, etc.).