Original Paper

Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 5-56

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Agreement of Self-Reported and Genital Measures of Sexual Arousal in Men and Women: A Meta-Analysis

  • Meredith L. ChiversAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Queen’s University Email author 
  • , Michael C. SetoAffiliated withRoyal Ottawa Health Care Group
  • , Martin L. LalumièreAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of Lethbridge
  • , Ellen LaanAffiliated withDepartment of Sexology and Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam
  • , Teresa GrimbosAffiliated withDepartment of Human Development and Applied Psychology, University of Toronto


The assessment of sexual arousal in men and women informs theoretical studies of human sexuality and provides a method to assess and evaluate the treatment of sexual dysfunctions and paraphilias. Understanding measures of arousal is, therefore, paramount to further theoretical and practical advances in the study of human sexuality. In this meta-analysis, we review research to quantify the extent of agreement between self-reported and genital measures of sexual arousal, to determine if there is a gender difference in this agreement, and to identify theoretical and methodological moderators of subjective-genital agreement. We identified 132 peer- or academically-reviewed laboratory studies published between 1969 and 2007 reporting a correlation between self-reported and genital measures of sexual arousal, with total sample sizes of 2,505 women and 1,918 men. There was a statistically significant gender difference in the agreement between self-reported and genital measures, with men (r = .66) showing a greater degree of agreement than women (r = .26). Two methodological moderators of the gender difference in subjective-genital agreement were identified: stimulus variability and timing of the assessment of self-reported sexual arousal. The results have implications for assessment of sexual arousal, the nature of gender differences in sexual arousal, and models of sexual response.


Sexual psychophysiology Sexual arousal Sex difference Gender difference Plethysmography Photoplethysmography