23 January, 2008

Female arousal is in the mind

Many studies report discordance between women's genital (vaginal pulse amplitude) and subjective sexual arousal responses to erotica. Consistent with our previous research, I hypothesized that the association between physiological and subjective domains would be greater for women with greater orgasmic consistency (OC) during penile-vaginal intercourse but not for OC during masturbation or noncoital partnered sexual activities. I confirmed this specific hypothesis in a sample of young Dutch women (N = 27, mean age 20, all with current partners), replicating our earlier psychophysiological findings with postmenopausal women. Also replicated were the findings that intercourse OC (40% of the women had an orgasm from 90-100% of intercourse events, 44% from 9-89% of intercourse events) was not less than for other sexual activity and that OC during intercourse was uncorrelated with OC during masturbation. We observed the association of intercourse consistency with genital-subjective concordance when visual erotica was presented in a sequence of increasing intensity (analogous to typical real sexual encounters) but not when presented in decreasing, random, or fixed-intensity sequence. I discuss the results in terms of the unique nature of penile-vaginal intercourse and the study's implications for sex therapy and sex research.

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