Gender Differences in Liking and Wanting Sex: Examining the Role of Motivational Context and Implicit Versus Explicit Processing
The present study investigated the specificity of sexual appraisal processes by making a distinction between implicit and explicit appraisals and between the affective (liking) and motivational (wanting) valence of sexual stimuli. These appraisals are assumed to diverge between men and women, depending on the context in which the sexual stimulus is encountered. Using an Implicit Association Test, explicit ratings, and film clips to prime a sexual, romantic or neutral motivational context, we investigated whether liking and wanting of sexual stimuli differed at the implicit and explicit level, differed between men and women, and were differentially sensitive to context manipulations. Results showed that, at the implicit level, women wanted more sex after being primed with romantic mood whereas men showed the least wanting of sex in the romantic condition. At the explicit level, men reported greater liking and wanting of sex than women, independently of context. We also found that women’s (self-reported) sexual behavior was best predicted by the incentive salience of sexual stimuli whereas men’s sexual behavior was more closely related to the hedonic qualities of sexual stimuli. Results were discussed in relation to an emotion-motivational account of sexual functioning.