The agreement of subjective and genital sexual response, also referred to as sexual concordance, shows substantial variability between women. Identifying predictors of sexual arousal and sexual concordance is important to improve our understanding of female sexual response and its relationship to sexual function or dysfunction. The aim of this study was to assess the relevance of sexual excitation and sexual inhibition as predictors of subjective sexual arousal, genital arousal, and sexual concordance. In a laboratory setting, sexual arousal was induced by erotic video stimuli. Subjective sexual arousal was assessed continuously during stimulus presentation and genital arousal was measured with vaginal photoplethysmography. Data of 58 women (M age = 24.95, SD = 4.65) were analyzed using multilevel analyses (HLM). This data analytic technique estimates the within-subject associations of subjective and genital arousal, by controlling for between-subject differences. An interaction term of sexual excitation and sexual inhibition significantly predicted genital sexual arousal. In exploratory analyses, two lower order factors of sexual inhibition (Concerns about Sexual Function and Arousal Contingency) were predictive of sexual concordance. Further examination of these associations might increase our knowledge of female sexual function and deepen our understanding of how sexual excitation and sexual inhibition affect sexual arousal and consequently, impact sexual behaviors, in women.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Bancroft, J., Graham, C. A., Janssen, E., & Sanders, S. A. (2009). The dual control model: Current status and future directions. Journal of Sex Research, 46, 121–142.
Bancroft, J., & Janssen, E. (2000). The dual control model of male sexual response: A theoretical approach to centrally mediated erectile dysfunction. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 24, 571–579.
Bloemendaal, L. B. A., & Laan, E. T. M. (2013). The Psychometric properties of the Sexual Excitation/Sexual Inhibition Inventory for Women (SESII-W) within a Dutch population. Journal of Sex Research, 52, 69–82.
Brotto, L., Basson, R., & Luria, M. (2008). A mindfulness-based group psychoeducational intervention targeting sexual arousal disorder in women. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 5, 1646–1659.
Brotto, L., Basson, R., Smith, K. B., Driscoll, M., & Sadownik, L. (2014). Mindfulness based group therapy for women with provoked vestibulodynia. Mindfulness, 6, 417–432.
Carpenter, D., Janssen, E., Graham, C., Vorst, H., & Wicherts, J. (2008). Women’s scores on the Sexual Inhibition/Sexual Excitation Scales (SIS/SES): Gender similarities and differences. Journal of Sex Research, 45, 36–48.
Chivers, M. L. (2010). A brief update on the specificity of sexual arousal. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 25, 407–414.
Chivers, M. L., & Bailey, J. M. (2005). A sex difference in features that elicit genital response. Biological Psychology, 70, 115–120.
Chivers, M. L., Seto, M. C., Lalumière, M. L., Laan, E., & Grimbos, T. (2010). Agreement of self-reported and genital measures of sexual arousal in men and women: A meta-analysis. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 5–56.
Clifton, J., Seehuus, M., & Rellini, A. H. (2015). Testing cognitive predictors of individual differences in the sexual psychophysiological responses of sexually functional women. Psychophysiology, 52, 957–968.
Cohen, J. (1992). A power primer. Psychological Bulletin, 112, 155–159.
Cohen, J., Cohen, P., West, S. G., & Aiken, L. S. (2013). Applied multiple regression/correlation analysis for the behavioral sciences. London: Routledge.
Field, A. P., Miles, J. N. V., & Field, Z. C. (2012). Discovering statistics using R. London: Sage.
Gelman, A., & Hill, J. (2007). Data analysis using regression and hierarchical/multilevel models. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Graham, C. A., Sanders, S. A., & Milhausen, R. R. (2006). The Sexual Excitation/Sexual Inhibition Inventory for Women: Psychometric properties. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 35, 397–409.
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.
Huberman, J. S., Suschinsky, K. D., Lalumière, M. L., & Chivers, M. L. (2013). Relationship between impression management and three measures of women’s self-reported sexual arousal. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 45, 259–273.
Janssen, E., & Bancroft, J. (2007). The dual control model: The role of sexual inhibition and excitation in sexual arousal and behavior. In E. Janssen (Ed.), The psychophysiology of sex (pp. 197–222). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Janssen, E., Vorst, H., Finn, P., & Bancroft, J. (2002a). The Sexual Inhibition (SIS) and Sexual Excitation (SES) Scales: I. Measuring sexual inhibition and excitation proneness in men. Journal of Sex Research, 39, 114–126.
Janssen, E., Vorst, H., Finn, P., & Bancroft, J. (2002b). The Sexual Inhibition (SIS) and Sexual Excitation (SES) Scales: II. Predicting psychophysiological response patterns. Journal of Sex Research, 39, 127–132.
Kukkonen, T. M. (2015). Devices and methods to measure female sexual arousal. Sexual Medicine Reviews, 3, 225–244.
Kukkonen, T. M., Binik, Y. M., Amsel, R., & Carrier, S. (2007). Thermography as a physiological measure of sexual arousal in both men and women. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 4, 93–105.
Laan, E., & Everaerd, W. (1995). Determinants of female sexual arousal: Psychophysiological theory and data. Annual Review of Sex Research, 6, 32–76.
Laan, E., & Janssen, E. (2007). How do men and women feel? Determinants of subjective experience of sexual arousal. In E. Janssen (Ed.), The psychophysiology of sex (pp. 278–290). Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
Levin, R. J., & Wylie, K. (2008). Vaginal vasomotion—Its appearance, measurement, and usefulness in assessing the mechanisms of vasodilatation. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 5, 377–386.
Meston, C. M., & McCall, K. M. (2005). Dopamine and norepinephrine responses to film-induced sexual arousal in sexually functional and sexually dysfunctional women. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 31, 303–317.
Meston, C. M., Rellini, A. H., & McCall, K. (2010). The sensitivity of continuous laboratory measures of physiological and subjective sexual arousal for diagnosing women with sexual arousal disorder. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 7, 938–950.
Nguyen, H. V., Koo, K. H., Davis, K. C., Otto, J. M., Hendershot, C. S., Schacht, R. L., … Norris, J. (2012). Risky sex: Interactions among ethnicity, sexual sensation seeking, sexual inhibition, and sexual excitation. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 41, 1231–1239.
Page-Gould, E. (2016). Multilevel modeling. In J. T. Cacioppo, L. Tassinary, & G. Berntson (Eds.), Handbook of psychophysiology (4th ed.). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Palace, E. M., & Gorzalka, B. B. (1990). The enhancing effects of anxiety on arousal in sexually dysfunctional and functional women. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 99, 403–411.
Palace, E. M., & Gorzalka, B. B. (1992). Differential patterns of arousal in sexually functional and dysfunctional women: Physiological and subjective components of sexual response. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 21, 135–159.
Payne, K. A., Binik, Y. M., Pukall, C. F., Thaler, L., Amsel, R., & Khalifé, S. (2007). Effects of sexual arousal on genital and non-genital sensation: A comparison of women with vulvar vestibulitis syndrome and healthy controls. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36, 289–300.
Pinheiro, J., Bates, D., DebRoy, S., Sarkar, D., & R Development Core Team. (2015). nlme: Linear and nonlinear mixed effects models. R package version 3.1-114. Retrieved from www.CRAN.R-project.org/package=nlme. Accessed May 2015.
Pinxten, W., & Lievens, J. (2015). An exploratory study of factors associated with sexual inhibition and excitation: Findings from a representative survey in Flanders. Journal of Sex Research, 52, 679–689.
Prause, N., & Janssen, E. (2006). Blood flow: Vaginal photoplethysmography. In I. Goldstein, C. M. Meston, S. R. Davis, & A. M. Traish (Eds.), Women’s sexual function and dysfunction: Study, diagnosis and treatment (pp. 359–367). Boca Raton, FL: Taylor & Francis.
Pulverman, C. S., Hixon, J. G., & Meston, C. M. (2015). Uncovering category specificity of genital sexual arousal in women: The critical role of analytic technique. Psychophysiology, 52, 1396–1408.
R Development Core Team. (2010). R: A language and environment for statistical computing. Vienna: R Foundation for Statistical Computing.
Raudenbush, S. W., & Bryk, A. S. (2002). Hierarchical linear models: Applications and data analysis methods (Vol. 1). London: Sage.
Rellini, A. H., McCall, K. M., Randall, P. K., & Meston, C. M. (2005). The relationship between women’s subjective and physiological sexual arousal. Psychophysiology, 42, 116–124.
Rieger, G., Cash, B. M., Merrill, S. M., Jones-Rounds, J., Dharmavaram, S. M., & Savin-Williams, R. C. (2015). Sexual arousal: The correspondence of eyes and genitals. Biological Psychology, 104, 56–64.
Rosen, C., Brown, J., Heiman, S., Leiblum, C., Meston, R., Shabsigh, D., … D’Agostino, R. (2000). The Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI): A multidimensional self-report instrument for the assessment of female sexual function. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 26, 191–208.
Sanders, S. A., Graham, C. A., & Milhausen, R. R. (2008). Predicting sexual problems in women: The relevance of sexual excitation and sexual inhibition. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 37, 241–251.
Singer, J. D., & Willett, J. B. (2003). Applied longitudinal data analysis: Modeling change and event occurrence. Oxford: University Press.
Suschinsky, K. D., Lalumière, M. L., & Chivers, M. L. (2009). Sex differences in patterns of genital sexual arousal: Measurement artifacts or true phenomena? Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 559–573.
Traish, A. M., Botchevar, E., & Kim, N. N. (2010). Biochemical factors modulating female genital sexual arousal physiology. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 7, 2925–2946.
van Lankveld, J. J. D. M., Platteau, T., van Montfort, K., Nieuwenhuijs, F., & Syroit, J. (2015). The predictive validity of SIS/SES and BIS/BAS scores for sexual and non-sexual risk behavior. Personality and Individual Differences, 79, 7–12.
Velten, J., Scholten, S., Graham, C. A., & Margraf, J. (2016a). Psychometric properties of the Sexual Excitation Sexual Inhibition Inventory for Women in a German sample. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 45, 303–314.
Velten, J., Scholten, S., Graham, C. A., & Margraf, J. (2016b). Sexual excitation and sexual inhibition as predictors of sexual functioning: A cross sectional and longitudinal assessment. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy. doi:10.1080/0092623X.2015.1115792.
Velten, J., Scholten, S., Graham, C. A., & Margraf, J. (2016c). Unprotected intercourse and one-night-stands: Impact of sexual excitation and sexual inhibition on risky sexual behaviors in women. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 13, 361–373. doi:10.1016/j.jsxm.2015.12.027.
Wiederman, M. W. (1999). Volunteer bias in sexuality research using college student participants. Journal of Sex Research, 36, 59–66.
Wilhelm, F. H., & Peyk, P. (2005). ANSLAB: Autonomic nervous system laboratory (Version 6.0). Society for Psychophysiological Research.
Conflict of Interest
All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
About this article
Cite this article
Velten, J., Scholten, S., Graham, C.A. et al. Investigating Female Sexual Concordance: Do Sexual Excitation and Sexual Inhibition Moderate the Agreement of Genital and Subjective Sexual Arousal in Women?. Arch Sex Behav 45, 1957–1971 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-016-0774-7
- Sexual excitation
- Sexual inhibition
- Sexual arousal
- Sexual response
- Multilevel analysis