Determinants of Sexual Arousal and the Accuracy of Its Self-Estimation in Sexually Functional Males
Nobre, Pedro J., Wiegel, Markus, Bach, Amy K., Weisberg, Risa B., Brown, Timothy A., Wincze, John P., Barlow, David H., The Journal of Sex Research
Discordance between objective and subjective reports of arousal seems to distinguish men with sexual dysfunction from sexually functional males. Beck, Barlow, and Sakheim (1982) reported that compared with sexually functional males, men with erectile disorders presented diminished correlations between tumescence and subjective arousal and perceived themselves as less able to control tumescence, despite the lack of absolute differences on objective arousal (tumescence) compared to the nonclinical group. Rowland and Heiman (1991) also found a substantial disparity between ratings of subjective and physiological arousal in males with erectile disorders. The authors demonstrated that contrary to men without sexual problems, men with erectile difficulties tended to rely more on mental than on physical cues to estimate their levels of subjective arousal.
Additionally, studies with women have found high levels of discrepancy between subjective and genital arousal in samples with and without sexual dysfunction (Geer, Morokoff, & Greenwood, 1974; Heiman, 1977, 1980; Morokoff & Heiman, 1980; Palace & Gorzalka, 1990; Wincze, Hoon, & Hoon, 1977). Laan and Everaerd (1995) as well as Korff and Geer (1983) suggested that compared to men, women in general may rely less on physiological cues to estimate their sexual arousal, and that this fact might explain why the discordance between subjective and physiological arousal is greater among women. Moreover, similar to men, women with sexual dysfunction tend to present lower levels of concordance between subjective and objective measures of sexual arousal compared to women without sexual problems (Morokoff & Heiman, 1980; Palace & Gorzalka, 1992). Morokoff and Heiman (1980) showed that despite the lack of significant differences in physiological sexual arousal responses to erotic materials in women with and without sexual dysfunction, those with sexual dysfunction rated their subjective sexual arousal as significantly lower.
A related but distinct issue is the question of whether individuals with sexual problems tend to be inaccurate in reporting their levels of physiological arousal. Whereas subjective arousal refers to an individual's feelings of arousal, self-reports of physiology may be obtained by asking participants to estimate the degree of their genital response (e.g., degree of erection in males). Though numerous studies have confirmed that discordance often exists between physiological and subjective arousal, less research has been conducted examining individuals' ability to estimate their physiological arousal level. Sakheim, Barlow, Abrahamson, and Beck (1987) found that at the same levels of erectile responding, men with erectile disorders due to psychogenic factors consistently underreported their levels of erection compared to patients with dysfunction due to organic causes and sexually functional males. On the other hand, males with erectile disorders due to organic causes showed a reverse trend, overreporting their levels of erection. Correlational data further confirmed this trend, showing that sexually functional males presented higher concordance between subjective ratings of erection and physiological measures of erectile response compared to the other two groups (Sakheim et al., 1987).
These are several potential lectors underlying the discrepancies found in the studies mentioned above. First. research on the influence of sexual attitudes on sexual behavior and performance consistently reveals a tendency for participants with sexual dysfunction to present with more conservative values regarding sexuality (Fisher, Byrne, White, & Kelley, 1988) and erroneous beliefs about male and female sexual response (Baker & De Silva, 1988: Nobre & Pinto-Gouveia, 2000; Nobre, Pinto-Gouveia, & Gomes, 2003). Specifically, the concept of erotophilia-erotophobia--"the disposition to respond to sexual cues along a …
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Publication information: Article title: Determinants of Sexual Arousal and the Accuracy of Its Self-Estimation in Sexually Functional Males. Contributors: Nobre, Pedro J. - Author, Wiegel, Markus - Author, Bach, Amy K. - Author, Weisberg, Risa B. - Author, Brown, Timothy A. - Author, Wincze, John P. - Author, Barlow, David H. - Author. Journal title: The Journal of Sex Research. Volume: 41. Issue: 4 Publication date: November 2004. Page number: 363+. © 2007 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group.