The habituation of sexual arousal

Abstract

The effects of two levels of stimulus intensity (medium and high) and two levels of stimulus variability (varied stimuli and constant stimuli) on the habituation of subjective and physiological sexual arousal were investigated in a 2 × 2 factorial design. Forty male volunteers served as subjects. It was hypothesized that, as compared to constant stimuli, varied stimuli would produce higher rates of response attenuation on indices of sexual arousal. This hypothesis was confirmed for both penile response and a subjective measure of sexual arousal. Second, it was hypothesized that stimuli of medium intensity would produce higher rates of response of attentuation on subjective and physiological indices of sexual arousal than would stimuli of high intensity. This hypothesis was partially confirmed for subjective arousal but was not confirmed for the physiological measure of sexual arousal. These results were interpreted as supporting the notions that sexual arousal to erotic stimuli decreases with repeated stimulus presentations and, since the experimental design properly controlled for physiological fatigue, that a habituation process is involved in this observed decrement. The implications of habituation for sex research are discussed.

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Correspondence to James H. Geer Ph.D..

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This manuscript was based on a Masters thesis submitted by the senior author in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Psychology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

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O'Donohue, W.T., Geer, J.H. The habituation of sexual arousal. Arch Sex Behav 14, 233–246 (1985). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01542106

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Key words

  • habituation
  • sexual arousal
  • genital measures