Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 39, Issue 5, pp 1073–1079 | Cite as

Subliminal Sexual Stimuli Facilitate Genital Response in Women

  • Jorge PonsetiEmail author
  • Hartmut A. G. Bosinski
Original Paper


Visual sexual stimuli (VSS) are believed to undergo an automatic process of stimulus appraisal and (genital or subjective) response generation. Consistent with this belief, studies have found that subliminal VSS can facilitate responses to subsequent sexual stimulus presentations. We tested whether subliminal sexual stimuli facilitated a genital response in women and, furthermore, whether this genital response could be modulated by both opposite-sex stimuli and same-sex stimuli (i.e., whether the genital response to subliminal stimuli is category-specific or nonspecific). Twenty heterosexual women underwent vaginal photoplethysmography while being subliminally (20 ms) exposed to same-sex, opposite-sex, and nonsexual slides in a priming experiment. Vaginal pulse amplitude was increased when target stimuli were preceded by both opposite-sex and same-sex priming stimuli relative to nonsexual priming stimuli. This finding suggests that subliminal VSS were subjected to automatic stimulus processing, thereby facilitating nonspecific genital response preparation. Results are discussed in terms of implicit and explicit memory access and the evolutionary benefit of female nonspecific genital response.


Memory Sexual arousal Subliminal Backward masking Vaginal photoplethysmography 



Subliminal picture presentation was enabled by a software tool particularly developed for the requirements of this study by Roger Dow from Contact Precision Instruments. We wish to thank Roger for his very sufficient technical and IT support.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Section of Sexual Medicine, Medical SchoolChristian-Albrechts-University of KielKielGermany

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