The structural patterns of sexual arousal are examined for eight male and eight female heterosexuals. Comparisons are made in terms of physiological and subjective arousal. The results indicate (1) that males and females differ in both the direction and magnitude of their arousal response to a variety of erotic stimuli and (2) that there is a stronger correspondence between subjective and physiological measures of sexual arousal for males than for females. A social acceptability and/or unacceptability theory is suggested to account for similarities and differences between the male and female structural patterns of arousal. Several methods of assessing subjective arousal are included to represent those most frequently used in clinical research settings. It is demonstrated that each of the subjective measures discriminates between erotic conditions and that the information provided by each of the measures are comparable.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Barlow, D. H. (1977). Assessment of sexual behavior. In Ciminero, A., Calhoun, K., and Adams, H. (eds.),Handbook of Behavioral Assessment Wiley, New York.
Barlow, D. H., Becker, R., Leitenberg, H., and Agras, W. S. (1970). A mechanical strain gauge for recording penile circumference change.J. Appl. Behav. Anal. 6: 355–367.
Barr, R., and Blaszcyznski, A. (1976). Autonomic responses of transsexual and homosexual males to erotic film sequences.Arch. Sex. Behav. 5: 211–222.
Barr, R., Raphael, B., and Hennessey, N. (1974). Apparent heterosexuality in two male patients requesting change-of-sex operations.Arch. Sex. Behav. 3: 325–330.
Bem, S. L. (1974). The measurement of psychological androgyny.J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 42: 155–162.
Bentler, P. M. (1968a). Heterosexual behavior assessment—I. Males.Behav. Res. Ther. (1968b). 6= 21–25.
Bentler, P. M. (1968b). Heterosexual behavior assessment—II. Females.Behav. Res. Ther. 6: 27–30.
Blumstein, P. W., and Schwartz, P. (1976). Bisexuality in women.Arch. Sex. Behav. 5: 171–181.
Conrad, S., and Wincze, J. (1976). Orgasmic reconditioning: A controlled study of its effects upon the sexual arousal and behavior of adult male homosexuals.Behav. Ther. 7: 155–166.
Freund, K. (1957). Diagnostika homosexuality umuzu.Cesk. Psychiat. 53: 382–393.
Gagnon, J. H., and Simon, W. (1973).Sexual Conduct. Aldine, Chicago.
Geer, J., Morokoff, P., and Greenwood, P. (1974). Sexual arousal in women: The development of a measurement device for vaginal blood volume.Arch. Sex. Behav. 3: 559–564.
Heiman, J. (1975). Use of the vaginal photophythesmograph as a diagnostic and treatment device in female sexual dysfunction. Paper delivered at the meeting of the American Psychological Association, Chicago.
Heiman, J. R. (1978). A psychosiological exploration of sexual arousal patterns in females and males.Psychophysiology 14: 266–274.
Henson, D., Rubin, H., Henson, C., and Williams, J. (1977). Temperature change of the labia minora as an objective measure of female eroticism.J. Behav. Ther. Exp. Psychiat. 4: 401–410.
Hoon, E., and Hoon, P. Sexual arousability: Differences between males and females on a self-report measure. Unpublished manuscript.
Hoon, E. F., Hoon, P. W., and Wincze, J. P. (1976). An inventory for the measurement of female sexual arousability: The SAI.Arch. Sex. Behav. 5: 291–300.
Hoon, P., Wincze, J., and Hoon, E. (1976). Physiological assessment of sexual arousal in women.Psychophysiology 11: 196–204.
Izard, C., and Caplan, S. (1974). Sex differences in emotional responses to erotic literature.J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 42: 468.
Katchadourian, H. A., and Martin, J. A. (1979). Analyses of human sexual behavior. In Katchadourian, H. A. (ed.),Human Sexuality: A Comparative and Developmental Perspective. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles.
Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., and Martin, C. (1948).Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. W. B. Saunders, Philadelphia.
Kinsey, A., Pomeroy, W., Martin, C., and Gebhard, P. (1953).Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. W. B. Saunders, Philadelphia.
Mavissakalian, M., Blanchard, E., Abel, G., and Barlow, D. (1975). Responses to complex erotic stimuli in homosexual and heterosexual males.Brit. J. Psychiat. 126: 252–257.
McConaghy, H. (1969). Subjective and penile phethysmographic responses following aversion therapy for homosexual impulses.Brit. J. Psychit. 115: 723–730.
Morin, S. F., and Garfinkle, E. M. (1978). Male homophobia.J. Soc. Issues 34: 29–47.
Mosher, D. L., and Abramson, P. R. (1977). Subjective sexual arousal to films of masturbation.J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 45: 796–807.
Mosher, D. L., and O'Grady, K. E. (1979). Homosexual threat, negative attitudes toward masturbation, sex guilt, and males' sexual and affective reactions to explicit sexual films.J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 47: 860–873.
Sanford, D. A. (1974). Patterns of sexual arousal in heterosexual males.J. Sex. Res. 10: 150–155.
Schmidt, G. (1975). Male-female differences in sexual arousal and behavior during and after exposure to sexually explicit stimuli.Arch. Sex. Behav. 4: 353–365.
Sigusch, V., Schmidt, G., Reinfeld, A., and Widemann-Sutor, I. (1970). Psychosexual stimulation: Sex differences.J. Sex Res. 6: 10–24.
Sintchak, G., and Geer, J. A. (1975). A vaginal phethysmograph system.Psychophysiology 12: 113–115.
Steele, D. G., and Walker, C. E. (1974). Male and female differences in reaction to erotic stimuli as related to sexual adjustment.Arch. Sex. Behav. 3: 459–470.
Stoller, R. J. (1976). Sexual excitement.Arch. Gen. Psychiat. 33: 899–909.
Wincze, J. P., Hoon, E. F., and Hoon, P. W. (1976). Physiological responsivity of normal and dysfunctional women during erotic stimulus exposure.J. Psychosom. Res. 20: 445–451.
Wincze, J., Hoon, P., and Hoon, E. (1977). Sexual arousal in women: A comparsion of cognitive and physiological responses by continuous measurement.Arch. Sex. Behav. 6: 121–133.
Research was funded by VA Grant No. 041-34-7119 (1977).
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Steinman, D.L., Wincze, J.P., Sakheim et al. A comparison of male and female patterns of sexual arousal. Arch Sex Behav 10, 529–547 (1981). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01541588
- sexual arousal
- social acceptability
- social unacceptability
- subjective measures
- sex differences