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Assessing the Relationship Between Sexual Concordance, Sexual Attractions, and Sexual Identity in Women

Abstract

On average, there is a gender difference in sexual concordance, with men exhibiting greater agreement between genital and self-reported sexual arousal, relative to women. Much less is known about the substantial variation in women’s sexual concordance; women’s genital and self-reported sexual responses may correlate strongly and positively, not at all, or even strongly negatively. The within-gender variation in sexual concordance suggests that individual differences may be related to sexual concordance. We examined whether sexual concordance varies as a function of sexual orientation (based on self-reported sexual attractions and sexual identity labels) in a sample (N = 76) that included exclusively androphilic, predominantly androphilic, ambiphilic, and predominantly/exclusively gynephilic women. Participants viewed sexual and nonsexual stimuli that varied by actor gender while their vaginal vasocongestion and subjective sexual responses were measured. Women’s sexual concordance varied as a function of their sexual attractions; women with any degree of gynephilia exhibited higher sexual concordance than exclusively androphilic women across a variety of sexual concordance measures, and these effects were demonstrated using correlation and multi-level modeling analyses. Only sexual concordance based on overall feelings of arousal varied by sexual identity, with heterosexual women exhibiting the lowest sexual concordance. Stimulus gender significantly influenced sexual concordance for most groups of women: Ambiphilic and predominantly/exclusively gynephilic women exhibited greater sexual concordance to female stimuli and exclusively androphilic women exhibited greater sexual concordance to male stimuli. These findings suggest that sexual orientation (particularly one’s degree of gynephilia) may explain some of the within-gender variation seen in women’s sexual concordance.

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Acknowledgments

This study was funded by a postdoctoral fellowship awarded to the first author from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, an Ontario Trillium Scholarship awarded to the second author, a postdoctoral fellowship awarded to the last author from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and grants awarded to the last author from the American Institute of Bisexuality and the Canadian Foundation for Innovation.

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Correspondence to Kelly D. Suschinsky.

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Kelly D. Suschinsky declares that she has no conflict of interest. Samantha J. Dawson declares that she has no conflict of interest. Meredith L. Chivers declares that she has no conflict of interest.

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All procedures performed in the current study were in accordance with the ethical standards of Queen’s University and the University of Toronto, the Canadian Tri-Council Policy, and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Suschinsky, K.D., Dawson, S.J. & Chivers, M.L. Assessing the Relationship Between Sexual Concordance, Sexual Attractions, and Sexual Identity in Women. Arch Sex Behav 46, 179–192 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-016-0874-4

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-016-0874-4

Keywords

  • Sexual concordance
  • Sexual orientation
  • Vaginal photoplethysmography
  • Self-reported sexual arousal
  • Sexual attractions
  • Sexual identity
  • Multi-level modeling