“We wanted to discover how closely people’s subjective experience of sexual arousal mirrors their physiological genital response – and whether this differs between men and women,” says Dr. Chivers, an expert in human sexual response. Although a gender difference has been reported in individual studies of sexual arousal, until now there has been no systematic analysis.
The Queen’s study is published in the international journal, Archives of Sexual Behavior.
Also on the research team are: Michael Seto of the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group, Martin Lalumière of the University of Lethbridge, Ellen Laan of the University of Amsterdam, and Teresa Grimbos of the University of Toronto/Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.
The researchers looked at 134 studies, published between 1969 and 2007, involving more than 2,500 women and 1,900 men. Participants were asked how aroused they felt during and after exposure to a variety of sexual stimuli. This subjective measure of arousal was compared with physiological responses: changes in penile erection for men and changes in genital blood flow for women.
The men’s subjective ratings more closely matched their physiological measures than the women’s; men’s brain and bodies were almost always in agreement, while there was more often a reported inconsistency between women’s bodies and minds.
“Understanding measures of arousal is paramount to further theoretical and practical advances in the study of human sexuality,” Dr. Chivers says. “Our results have implications for the assessment of sexual arousal, the nature of gender differences in sexual arousal, and models of sexual response.”