Concept: Sexual arousal
Sex and disgust are basic, evolutionary relevant functions that are often construed as paradoxical. In general the stimuli involved in sexual encounters are, at least out of context strongly perceived to hold high disgust qualities. Saliva, sweat, semen and body odours are among the strongest disgust elicitors. This results in the intriguing question of how people succeed in having pleasurable sex at all. One possible explanation could be that sexual engagement temporarily reduces the disgust eliciting properties of particular stimuli or that sexual engagement might weaken the hesitation to actually approach these stimuli.
Sexual arousal is a motivational state that moves humans toward situations that inherently pose a risk of disease transmission. Disgust is an emotion that adaptively moves humans away from such situations. Incongruent is the fact that sexual activity is elementary to human fitness yet involves strong disgust elicitors. Using an experimental paradigm, we investigated how these two states interact. Women (final N=76) were assigned to one of four conditions: rate disgust stimuli then watch a pornographic clip; watch a pornographic clip then rate disgust stimuli; rate fear stimuli then watch a pornographic clip; or watch a pornographic clip then rate fear stimuli. Women’s genital sexual arousal was measured with vaginal photoplethysmography and their disgust and fear reactions were measured via self-report. We did not find that baseline disgust propensity predicted sexual arousal in women who were exposed to neutral stimuli before erotic content. In the Erotic-before-Disgust condition we did not find that sexual arousal straightforwardly predicted decreased image disgust ratings. However, we did find some evidence that sexual arousal increased self-reported disgust in women with high trait disgust and sexual arousal decreased self-reported disgust in women with low trait disgust. Women who were exposed to disgusting images before erotic content showed significantly less sexual arousal than women in the control condition or women exposed to fear-inducing images before erotic content. In the Disgust-before-Erotic condition the degree of self-reported disgust was negatively correlated with genital sexual arousal. Hence, in the conflict between the ultimate goals of reproduction and disease avoidance, cues of the presence of pathogens significantly reduce the motivation to engage in mating behaviors that, by their nature, entail a risk of pathogen transmission.
In women, low sexual desire and/or sexual arousal can lead to sexual dissatisfaction and emotional distress, collectively defined as female sexual interest/arousal disorder (FSIAD). Few pharmaceutical treatment options are currently available.
Traditional factors that once explained men’s sexual difficulties appear insufficient to account for the sharp rise in erectile dysfunction, delayed ejaculation, decreased sexual satisfaction, and diminished libido during partnered sex in men under 40. This review (1) considers data from multiple domains, e.g., clinical, biological (addiction/urology), psychological (sexual conditioning), sociological; and (2) presents a series of clinical reports, all with the aim of proposing a possible direction for future research of this phenomenon. Alterations to the brain’s motivational system are explored as a possible etiology underlying pornography-related sexual dysfunctions. This review also considers evidence that Internet pornography’s unique properties (limitless novelty, potential for easy escalation to more extreme material, video format, etc.) may be potent enough to condition sexual arousal to aspects of Internet pornography use that do not readily transition to real-life partners, such that sex with desired partners may not register as meeting expectations and arousal declines. Clinical reports suggest that terminating Internet pornography use is sometimes sufficient to reverse negative effects, underscoring the need for extensive investigation using methodologies that have subjects remove the variable of Internet pornography use. In the interim, a simple diagnostic protocol for assessing patients with porn-induced sexual dysfunction is put forth.
Human perception is invariably accompanied by a graded feeling of confidence that guides metacognitive awareness and decision-making. It is often assumed that this arises solely from the feed-forward encoding of the strength or precision of sensory inputs. In contrast, interoceptive inference models suggest that confidence reflects a weighted integration of sensory precision and expectations about internal states, such as arousal. Here we test this hypothesis using a novel psychophysical paradigm, in which unseen disgust-cues induced unexpected, unconscious arousal just before participants discriminated motion signals of variable precision. Across measures of perceptual bias, uncertainty, and physiological arousal we found that arousing disgust cues modulated the encoding of sensory noise. Furthermore, the degree to which trial-by-trial pupil fluctuations encoded this nonlinear interaction correlated with trial level confidence. Our results suggest that unexpected arousal regulates perceptual precision, such that subjective confidence reflects the integration of both external sensory and internal, embodied states.
Research on multidimensional sexual perfectionism differentiates four forms: self-oriented, partner-oriented, partner-prescribed, and socially prescribed. Self-oriented sexual perfectionism reflects perfectionistic standards people apply to themselves as sexual partners; partner-oriented sexual perfectionism reflects perfectionistic standards people apply to their sexual partner; partner-prescribed sexual perfectionism reflects people’s beliefs that their sexual partner imposes perfectionistic standards on them; and socially prescribed sexual perfectionism reflects people’s beliefs that society imposes such standards on them. Previous studies found partner-prescribed and socially prescribed sexual perfectionism to be maladaptive forms of sexual perfectionism associated with a negative sexual self-concept and problematic sexual behaviors, but only examined cross-sectional relationships. The present article presents the first longitudinal study examining whether multidimensional sexual perfectionism predicts changes in sexual self-concept and sexual function over time. A total of 366 women aged 17-69 years completed measures of multidimensional sexual perfectionism, sexual esteem, sexual anxiety, sexual problem self-blame, and sexual function (cross-sectional data). Three to six months later, 164 of the women completed the same measures again (longitudinal data). Across analyses, partner-prescribed sexual perfectionism emerged as the most maladaptive form of sexual perfectionism. In the cross-sectional data, partner-prescribed sexual perfectionism showed positive relationships with sexual anxiety, sexual problem self-blame, and intercourse pain, and negative relationships with sexual esteem, desire, arousal, lubrication, and orgasmic function. In the longitudinal data, partner-prescribed sexual perfectionism predicted increases in sexual anxiety and decreases in sexual esteem, arousal, and lubrication over time. The findings suggest that partner-prescribed sexual perfectionism contributes to women’s negative sexual self-concept and female sexual dysfunction.
Recent research suggests profound sex and sexual orientation differences in sexual response. These results, however, are based on measures of genital arousal, which have potential limitations such as volunteer bias and differential measures for the sexes. The present study introduces a measure less affected by these limitations. We assessed the pupil dilation of 325 men and women of various sexual orientations to male and female erotic stimuli. Results supported hypotheses. In general, self-reported sexual orientation corresponded with pupil dilation to men and women. Among men, substantial dilation to both sexes was most common in bisexual-identified men. In contrast, among women, substantial dilation to both sexes was most common in heterosexual-identified women. Possible reasons for these differences are discussed. Because the measure of pupil dilation is less invasive than previous measures of sexual response, it allows for studying diverse age and cultural populations, usually not included in sexuality research.
During sexual stimulation, some women report the discharge of a noticeable amount of fluid from the urethra, a phenomenon also called “squirting.” To date, both the nature and the origin of squirting remain controversial. In this investigation, we not only analyzed the biochemical nature of the emitted fluid, but also explored the presence of any pelvic liquid collection that could result from sexual arousal and explain a massive fluid emission.
Recent research suggests that romantic kissing may be utilized in human sexual relationships to evaluate aspects of a potential mate’s suitability, to mediate feelings of attachment between pair-bonded individuals, or to facilitate arousal and initiate sexual relations. This study explored these potential functions of romantic kissing by examining attitudes towards the importance of kissing in the context of various human mating situations. The study involved an international online questionnaire, which was completed by 308 male and 594 female participants aged 18-63 years. Support was found for the hypothesis that kissing serves a useful mate-assessment function: women, high mate-value participants, and participants high in sociosexual orientation placed greater importance on kissing in romantic relationships and stated that an initial kiss was more likely to affect their attraction to a potential mate than did men, low-mate value participants or low sociosexual orientation participants. Kissing also seemed to be utilized in the mediation of pair-bond attachments: kissing was seen to be more important at established stages of relationships by low sociosexual participants, kissing was generally seen as more important in long-term relationship contexts (but particularly so by women), and kissing frequency was found to be related to relationship satisfaction. The findings of this research showed very little evidence to support the hypothesis that the primary function of kissing is to elevate levels of arousal.
Responsiveness may signal to a potential partner that one is concerned with her or his welfare, and may therefore increase sexual interest in this person. Research shows, however, that this proposition holds true for men, but not for women. In three studies, one observational and two experimental, we explored a potential mechanism that explains why men and women diverge in their sexual reactions to a responsive opposite-sex stranger. Studies 1 and 2 showed that men, but not women, perceived a responsive stranger as more gender typical (masculine/feminine) and, in turn, as more attractive. Study 3 revealed that responsiveness increased men’s perception of partner’s femininity. This, in turn, was associated with higher sexual arousal, which was, in turn, linked to greater partner attractiveness and greater desire for a long-term relationship. These findings suggest that whether responsiveness affects perceptions of partner attractiveness varies in individuals, depending on the contextually based meaning of responsiveness.