Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 45, Issue 8, pp 2155–2171 | Cite as

Identification with Stimuli Moderates Women’s Affective and Testosterone Responses to Self-Chosen Erotica

Original Paper

Abstract

Sexual thoughts are sufficient to increase testosterone (T) in women, yet erotic films are not. A key confound in past studies is autonomy in stimulus selection: women choose the content of their sexual thoughts but films have been selected by researchers. We hypothesized that self-chosen erotic films, compared to researcher-chosen erotic films, would (1) increase women’s self-reported arousal, enjoyment, and identification with stimuli, and decrease negative affect; and (2) increase T. Participants (N = 116 women) were randomly assigned to a neutral documentary condition or one of three erotic film conditions: high choice (self-chosen erotica from participants’ own sources), moderate choice (self-chosen erotica from films preselected by sexuality researchers), or no choice (researcher-chosen erotica). Participants provided saliva samples for T before and after viewing the film in the privacy of their homes. Compared to researcher-chosen erotica, self-chosen erotica increased self-reported arousal and enjoyment, but also unexpectedly disgust, guilt, and embarrassment. Self-chosen erotica only marginally increased identification with stimuli compared to researcher-chosen erotica. Overall, film condition did not affect T, but individual differences in identification moderated T responses: among women reporting lower levels of identification, the moderate choice condition decreased T compared to the no choice condition, but this difference was not observed among women with higher identification. These results highlight the importance of cognitive/emotional factors like identification for sexually modulated T. However, self-chosen erotica results in more ambivalent rather than unequivocally positive cognitive/emotional responses, perhaps because stigma associated with viewing erotica for women becomes more salient when choosing stimuli.

Keywords

Erotica Identification Sexual arousal Testosterone Women 

References

  1. Alexander, M. G., & Fisher, T. D. (2003). Truth and consequences: Using the bogus pipeline to examine sex differences in self-reported sexuality. Journal of Sex Research, 40, 27–35.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Barlow, D. H. (1986). Causes of sexual dysfunction: The role of anxiety and cognitive interference. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 54, 140–148.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Bay-Cheng, L. Y. (2015). The agency line: A neoliberal metric for appraising young women’s sexuality. Sex Roles, 73, 279–291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bloemers, J., Gerritsen, J., Bults, R., Koppeschaar, H., Everaerd, W., Olivier, B., & Tuiten, A. (2010). Induction of sexual arousal in women under conditions of institutional and ambulatory laboratory circumstances: A comparative study. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 7, 1160–1176.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Bossio, J. A., Spape, J., Lykins, A. D., & Chivers, M. L. (2014). Observational stance as a predictor of subjective and genital sexual arousal in men and women. Journal of Sex Research, 51, 303–315.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Both, S., Laan, E., & Everaerd, W. (2011). Focusing “hot” or focusing “cool”: Attentional mechanisms in sexual arousal in men and women. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 8, 167–179.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Both, S., Spiering, M., Everaerd, W., & Laan, E. (2004). Sexual behavior and responsiveness to sexual stimuli following laboratory-induced sexual arousal. Journal of Sex Research, 41, 242–258.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Bridges, A. J., & Morokoff, P. J. (2011). Sexual media use and relational satisfaction in heterosexual couples. Personal Relationships, 18, 562–585.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brotto, L. A., & Yule, M. A. (2011). Physiological and subjective sexual arousal in self-identified asexual women. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 699–712.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Cohen, J. (2001). Defining identification: A theoretical look at the identification of audiences with media characters. Mass Communication and Society, 4, 245–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Correa, S. M., Horan, C. M., Johnson, P. A., & Adkins-Regan, E. (2011). Copulatory behaviors and body condition predict post-mating female hormone concentrations, fertilization success, and primary sex ratios in Japanese quail. Hormones and Behavior, 59, 556–564.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Dabbs, J. M., & de La Rue, D. (1991). Salivary testosterone measurements among women: Relative magnitude of circadian and menstrual cycles. Hormone Research, 35, 182–184.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Dabbs, J. M., & Mohammed, S. (1992). Male and female salivary testosterone concentrations before and after sexual activity. Physiology & Behavior, 52, 195–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dickerson, S. S., Gruenewald, T. L., & Kemeny, M. E. (2004). When the social self is threatened: Shame, physiology, and health. Journal of Personality, 72, 1191–1216.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Exton, M. S., Bindert, A., Kruger, T., Scheller, F., Hartmann, U., & Schedlowski, M. (1999). Cardiovascular and endocrine alterations after masturbation-induced orgasm in women. Psychosomatic Medicine, 61, 280–289.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Gleason, E. D., Fuxjager, M. J., Oyegbile, T. O., & Marler, C. A. (2009). Testosterone release and social context: When it occurs and why. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, 30, 460–469.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Goldey, K. L., & van Anders, S. M. (2011). Sexy thoughts: Effects of sexual cognitions on testosterone, cortisol, and arousal in women. Hormones and Behavior, 59, 754–764.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Goldey, K. L., & van Anders, S. M. (2012). Sexual arousal and desire: Interrelations and responses to three modalities of sexual stimuli. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 9, 2315–2329.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Goldey, K. L., & van Anders, S. M. (2015). Sexual modulation of testosterone: Insights for humans from across species. Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology, 1, 93–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gonzalez-Bono, E., Salvador, A., Serrano, M. A., & Ricarte, J. (1999). Testosterone, cortisol, and mood in a sports team competition. Hormones and Behavior, 35, 55–62.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Gorman, S., Monk-Turner, E., & Fish, J. N. (2010). Free adult Internet web sites: How prevalent are degrading acts? Gender Issues, 27, 131–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Graham, C. A., Janssen, E., & Sanders, S. A. (2000). Effects of fragrance on female sexual arousal and mood across the menstrual cycle. Psychophysiology, 37, 76–84.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Gwinner, H., Van’t Hof, T., & Zeman, M. (2002). Hormonal and behavioral responses of starlings during a confrontation with males or females at nest boxes during the reproductive season. Hormones and Behavior, 42, 21–31.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Hald, G. M. (2006). Gender differences in pornography consumption among young heterosexual Danish adults. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 35, 577–585.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Hamilton, L. D., Fogle, E. A., & Meston, C. M. (2008). The roles of testosterone and alpha-amylase in exercise-induced sexual arousal in women. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 5, 845–853.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  26. Hamilton, L. D., & Meston, C. M. (2010). The effects of partner togetherness on salivary testosterone in women in long distance relationships. Hormones and Behavior, 57, 198–202.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Hamilton, L. D., Rellini, A. H., & Meston, C. M. (2008). Cortisol, sexual arousal, and affect in response to sexual stimuli. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 5, 2111–2118.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  28. Heiman, J. R., & Rowland, D. L. (1983). Affective and physiological sexual response patterns: The effects of instructions on sexually functional and dysfunctional men. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 27, 105–116.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Heiman, J. R., Rowland, D. L., Hatch, J. P., & Gladue, B. A. (1991). Psychophysiological and endocrine responses to sexual arousal in women. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 20, 171–186.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Hellhammer, D. H., Hubert, W., & Schurmeyer, T. (1985). Changes in saliva testosterone after psychological stimulation in men. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 10, 77–81.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Hinshelwood, S. (1997). Scotland: The beauty and majesty [Video/DVD]. Ontario: Point Two Ltd.Google Scholar
  32. Horne, S., & Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J. (2006). The Female Sexual Subjectivity Inventory: Development and validation of a multidimensional inventory for late adolescents and emerging adults. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 30, 125–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Janda, L. H., & Bazemore, S. D. (2011). The Revised Mosher Sex-Guilt Scale: Its psychometric properties and a proposed ten-item version. Journal of Sex Research, 48, 392–396.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Janssen, E., Carpenter, D., & Graham, C. A. (2003). Selecting films for sex research: Gender differences in erotic film preference. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 32, 243–251.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Janssen, E., Goodrich, D., Petrocelli, J. V., & Bancroft, J. (2009). Psychophysiological response patterns and risky sexual behavior in heterosexual and homosexual men. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 538–550.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Koukounas, E., & McCabe, M. (1997). Sexual and emotional variables influencing sexual response to erotica. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 35, 221–230.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Kuffel, S. W., & Heiman, J. R. (2006). Effects of depressive symptoms and experimentally adopted schemas on sexual arousal and affect in sexually healthy women. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 35, 163–177.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Laan, E., Everaerd, W., Van Aanhold, M. T., & Rebel, M. (1993). Performance demand and sexual arousal in women. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 31, 25–35.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Laan, E., Everaerd, W., van Bellen, G., & Hanewald, G. (1994). Women’s sexual and emotional responses to male- and female-produced erotica. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 23, 153–169.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Laan, E., Everaerd, W., van Berlo, R., & Rijs, L. (1995). Mood and sexual arousal in women. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 33, 441–443.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Lawrence, K. A., & Herold, E. S. (1988). Women’s attitudes toward and experience with sexually explicit materials. Journal of Sex Research, 24, 161–169.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Lopez, H. H., Hay, A. C., & Conklin, P. H. (2009). Attractive men induce testosterone and cortisol release in women. Hormones and Behavior, 56, 84–92.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Lorenz, T. A., & Meston, C. M. (2012). Acute exercise improves physical sexual arousal in women taking antidepressants. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 43, 352–361.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  44. Marshall, R. C., Leisler, B., Catchpole, C. K., & Schwabl, H. (2005). Male song quality affects circulating but not yolk steroid concentrations in female canaries (Serinus canaria). Journal of Experimental Biology, 208, 4593–4598.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Mazur, A., & Lamb, T. A. (1980). Testosterone, status, and mood in human males. Hormones and Behavior, 14, 236–246.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. McCaul, K. D., Gladue, B. A., & Joppa, M. (1992). Winning, losing, mood, and testosterone. Hormones and Behavior, 26, 486–504.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Miller, S. L., & Maner, J. K. (2010). Scent of a woman: Men’s testosterone responses to olfactory ovulation cues. Psychological Science, 21, 276–283.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Morrison, T. G., & Tallack, D. (2005). Lesbian and bisexual women’s interpretations of lesbian and ersatz lesbian pornography. Sexuality and Culture, 9, 3–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Mosher, D. L., & MacIan, P. (1994). College men and women respond to X-rated videos intended for male or female audiences: Gender and sexual scripts. Journal of Sex Research, 31, 99–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Nyby, J. G. (2008). Reflexive testosterone release: A model system for studying the nongenomic effects of testosterone upon male behavior. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, 29, 199–210.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Oliveira, G. A., Uceda, S., Oliveira, T., Fernandes, A., Garcia-Marques, T., & Oliveira, R. F. (2013). Threat perception and familiarity moderate the androgen response to competition in women. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 389.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  52. Parvez, Z. F. (2006). The labor of pleasure: How perceptions of emotional labor impact women’s enjoyment of pornography. Gender & Society, 20, 605–631.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Paterson, L. Q. P., Jin, E. S., Amsel, R., & Binik, Y. M. (2014). Gender similarities and differences in sexual arousal, desire, and orgasmic pleasure in the laboratory. Journal of Sex Research, 51, 801–813.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Petersen, J. L., & Hyde, J. S. (2011). Gender differences in sexual attitudes and behaviors: A review of meta-analytic results and large datasets. Journal of Sex Research, 48, 149–165.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. Peterson, Z. D., & Janssen, E. (2007). Ambivalent affect and sexual response: The impact of co-occurring positive and negative emotions on subjective and physiological sexual responses to erotic stimuli. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36, 793–807.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. Pirke, K. M., Kockott, G., & Dittmar, F. (1974). Psychosexual stimulation and plasma testosterone in man. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 3, 577–584.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. Redoute, J., Stoleru, S., Gregoire, M. C., Costes, N., Cinotti, L., Lavenne, F., … Pujol, J. F. (2000). Brain processing of visual sexual stimuli in human males. Human Brain Mapping, 11, 162–177.Google Scholar
  58. Royalle, C. (1998). Eyes of desire [Video/DVD]. USA: Femme Productions.Google Scholar
  59. Rupp, H. A., & Wallen, K. (2007). Relationship between testosterone and interest in sexual stimuli: The effect of experience. Hormones and Behavior, 52, 581–589.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  60. Salvador, A. (2005). Coping with competitive situations in humans. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 29, 195–205.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  61. Salvador, A., & Costa, R. (2009). Coping with competition: Neuroendocrine responses and cognitive variables. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 33, 160–170.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  62. Sheen, J., & Koukounas, E. (2009). The role of absorption in women’s sexual response to erotica: A cognitive-affective investigation. Journal of Sex Research, 46, 358–365.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  63. Spector, I. P., Carey, M. P., & Steinberg, L. (1996). The sexual desire inventory: Development, factor structure, and evidence of reliability. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 22, 175–190.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  64. Spence, J. T., & Helmreich, R. L. (1978). Masculinity and femininity: Their psychological dimensions, correlates, and antecedents. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  65. Stoleru, S., Ennaji, A., Cournot, A., & Spira, A. (1993). LH pulsatile secretion and testosterone blood levels are influenced by sexual arousal in human males. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 18, 205–218.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  66. Stoleru, S., Gregoire, M. C., Gerard, D., Decety, J., Lafarge, E., Cinotti, L., … Comar, D. (1999). Neuroanatomical correlates of visually evoked sexual arousal in human males. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 28, 1–21.Google Scholar
  67. Ter Kuile, M. M., Vigeveno, D., & Laan, E. (2007). Preliminary evidence that acute and chronic daily psychological stress affect sexual arousal in sexually functional women. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 45, 2078–2089.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  68. Thompson, J. K., van den Berg, P., Roehrig, M., Guarda, A. S., & Heinberg, L. J. (2004). The Sociocultural Attitudes Towards Appearance Scale-3 (SATAQ-3): Development and validation. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 35, 293–304.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  69. Toledano, R., & Pfaus, J. (2006). The Sexual Arousal and Desire Inventory (SADI): A multidimensional scale to assess subjective sexual arousal and desire. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 3, 853–877.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  70. Traeen, B., Nilson, T. S., & Stigum, H. (2006). Use of pornography in traditional media and on the Internet in Norway. Journal of Sex Research, 43, 245–254.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  71. van Anders, S. M., Brotto, L., Farrell, J., & Yule, M. (2009). Associations among physiological and subjective sexual response, sexual desire, and salivary steroid hormones in healthy premenopausal women. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 6, 739–751.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  72. van Anders, S. M., & Goldey, K. L. (2010). Testosterone and partnering are linked via relationship status for women and ‘relationship orientation’ for men. Hormones and Behavior, 58, 820–826.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  73. van Anders, S. M., Goldey, K. L., & Bell, S. N. (2014). Measurement of testosterone in human sexuality research: Methodological considerations. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43, 231–250.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  74. van Anders, S. M., Hamilton, L. D., Schmidt, N., & Watson, N. V. (2007). Associations between testosterone secretion and sexual activity in women. Hormones and Behavior, 51, 477–482.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  75. van Anders, S. M., & Watson, N. V. (2006). Social neuroendocrinology: Effects of social contexts and behaviors on sex steroids in humans. Human Nature, 17, 212–237.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  76. van Lankveld, J., Hubben, D., Dewitte, M., Dingemans, M. E., den Butter, C., & Grauvogl, A. (2014). The partner’s presence in the sex research lab differentially affects sexual arousal in women and men. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 11, 697–708.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  77. Vannier, S. A., Currie, A. B., & O’Sullivan, L. F. (2014). Schoolgirls and soccer moms: A content analysis of free “Teen” and “MILF” online pornography. Journal of Sex Research, 51, 253–264.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  78. Vilarinho, S., Laja, P., Carvalho, J., Quinta-Gomes, A. L., Oliveira, C., Janssen, E., & Nobre, P. J. (2014). Affective and cognitive determinants of women’s sexual response to erotica. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 11, 2671–2678.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  79. Ward, L. M. (2002). Does television exposure affect emerging adults’ attitudes and assumptions about sexual relationships? Correlational and experimental confirmation. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 31, 1–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Zucker, A. N. (2004). Disavowing social identities: What it means when women say, ‘I’m not a feminist, but…’. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 28, 423–435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Departments of Psychology and Women’s Studies; Programs in Neuroscience and Reproductive Sciences; Science, Technology, and Society Program; Biosocial Methods CollaborativeUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

Personalised recommendations