Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 538–550 | Cite as

Psychophysiological Response Patterns and Risky Sexual Behavior in Heterosexual and Homosexual Men

  • Erick JanssenEmail author
  • David Goodrich
  • John V. Petrocelli
  • John Bancroft
Original Paper


The past few years have seen an increased awareness of the relevance of studying the role of sexual response, emotion, and traits such as sensation seeking and the propensity for sexual inhibition in risky sexual behavior. The current study examined the association between self-reported sexual risk taking and psychophysiological response patterns in 76 heterosexual and homosexual men. Measures included genital, electrodermal, startle eyeblink, and cardiovascular responses, and stimuli included threatening (depicting coercive sexual interactions) and nonthreatening (depicting consensual sexual interactions) sexual film excerpts. Sexual risk taking was hypothesized to be associated with decreased inhibition of sexual arousal and hyporeactive affective and autonomic responses to threatening sexual stimuli. Controlling for age and number of sexual partners in the past year, sexual risk taking (number of partners during the past 3 years with whom no condoms were used) was found to be associated with stronger genital responses and smaller eyeblink responses to both threatening and nonthreatening sexual stimuli. Correlations between genital and subjective sexual arousal were relatively low. Sexual risk taking was related to sensation seeking but not to the propensity for sexual inhibition. The findings suggest that risky sexual behavior may involve a role for psychophysiological mechanisms that are specific to sex as well as for ones that are associated with more general approach/avoidance response tendencies.


Sexual arousal Risky sexual behavior Condom use Psychophysiology 



This study was made possible by NIMH Grant R01-MH60519-02. We wish to thank the various organizations and venues who helped us recruit study participants, the many men who assisted us in the selection of the films, and Todd Agee, Kevin Bogart, and Ken McKinley for their help in collecting the data.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erick Janssen
    • 1
    Email author
  • David Goodrich
    • 1
  • John V. Petrocelli
    • 2
  • John Bancroft
    • 1
  1. 1.The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and ReproductionIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyWake Forest UniversityWinston-SalemUSA

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