ceptible to the findings of sex researchers in general. The unfortunate result is that research on topics such as masturbation, sexual fantasy, multiple orgasm, and female ejaculation frequently serves as the basis for prescriptive notions of sexual function. Sex manuals and self-help guides, in particular, all too often oversimplify the results of laboratory research and encourage conformity to everchanging sexual standards. Our experience as sex therapists has also confirmed that popular coverage of research findings commonly evokes concern in the larger community about "normal" sexual functioning.
The most recent example of this phenomenon is the attention devoted to the Grafenberg spot and female ejaculation as new "discoveries" about female sexuality ( Ladas, Whipple, & Perry, 1982). Although individual differences in sexual response patterns in women are clearly a legitimate research topic, most reports of investigations in this area unfortunately have been clearly colored by a prescriptive tone. The novelty of these "discoveries," along with the persuasive rhetoric of the reports, has resulted in many women (and their partners) experiencing pressures to achieve new forms of sexual response.
Despite these potential areas of misuse, the laboratory study of sexual responding holds considerable promise in understanding many facets of male and female sexuality. Toward this goal we have attempted to delineate a range of theoretical and applied issues that need to be considered in conducting research in this area. Considering also that sex research is carried out in the context of an interested and partial society, this review has highlighted potential uses and misuses of psychophysiological studies of sexual arousal. In summation, an attempt has been made to appraise the current status and pinpoint future directions for investigation in this rich and multifaceted field of study.
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