Journal of Nonverbal Behavior

, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 63–71 | Cite as

Facial Behavior While Experiencing Sexual Excitement

  • José-Miguel Fernández-DolsEmail author
  • Pilar Carrera
  • Carlos Crivelli
Brief Report


We analyzed the facial behavior of 100 volunteers who video-recorded their own expressions while experiencing an episode of sexual excitement that concluded in an orgasm, and then posted their video clip on an Internet site. Four distinct observational periods from the video clips were analyzed and coded by FACS (Facial Action Coding System, Ekman and Friesen 1978). We found nine combinations of muscular movements produced by at least 5% of the senders. These combinations were consistent with facial expressions of sexual excitement described by Masters and Johnson (Human sexual response, 1966), and they included the four muscular movements of the core expression of pain (Prkachin, Pain, 51, 297–306, 1992).


Facial expression Sexual behavior Enjoyment Sexual excitement Pain Emotion 



This research was carried out within the project PSI2008-04849 funded by the Spanish Government (MICINN). We thank María Angeles Ruiz-Belda, David Weston and James Russell for their help in the preparation of this article.


  1. Arnow, B. A., Desmond, J. E., Banner, L. L., Glover, G. H., Solomon, A., Polan, M. L., et al. (2002). Brain activation and sexual arousal in healthy, heterosexual males. Brain, 125, 1014–1023.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Baumeister, R. F., & Bratslavsky, E. (1999). Passion, intimacy, and time: Passionate love as a function of change in intimacy. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 3, 49–67.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Bianchi-Demicheli, F., & Ortigue, S. (2007). Toward an understanding of the cerebral substrates of woman’s orgasm. Neuropsychologia, 45, 2645–2659.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Craig, K. D., Hyde, S. A., & Patrick, C. J. (1991). Genuine, suppressed, and faked facial behavior during exacerbation of chronic low back pain. Pain, 46, 161–171.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Darwin, C. (1872/1965). The expression of emotions in man and animals. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  6. Eibl-Eibesfeldt, I. (1989). Human ethology. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  7. Ekman, P., & Friesen, W. V. (1978). Facial Action Coding System (FACS): Investigator’s guide (Part Two). Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.Google Scholar
  8. Ekman, P., Davidson, R. J., & Friesen, W. V. (1990). The Duchenne smile: Emotional, expression and brain physiology: II. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58, 342–353.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Frijda, N. (2007). The laws of emotion. Mahwah, N.J: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  10. Garcia, L. T., Cavalie, C., Goins, L., & King, E. (2008). Enjoyment of sexual activities and attributions of enjoyment to the other gender. The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 17, 173–182.Google Scholar
  11. Hjortsjö, C. H. (1969). Man’s face and mimic language. Lund, Sweden: Studentlitteratur.Google Scholar
  12. Holstege, G., Georgiadis, J. R., Paans, A. M. J., Meiners, L. C., van der Graaf, F. H. C. E., & Reinders, A. A. T. S. (2003). Brain activation during human male ejaculation. The Journal of Neuroscience, 23, 9185–9193.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Hughes, S. M., & Nicholson, S. E. (2008). Sex differences in the assessment of pain versus pleasure facial expressions. Proceedings of the 2nd Annual Meeting of the NorthEastern Evolutionary Psychology Society (pp. 133–142). Retrieved at
  14. Karama, S., Lecours, A. R., Leroux, J. M., Bourgouin, P., Beaudoin, G., Joubert, S., et al. (2002). Areas of brain activation in males and females during viewing of erotic film excerpts. Human Brain Mapping, 16, 1–13.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Keltner, D., & Ekman, P. (2000). Facial expression of emotion. In M. Lewis & J. M. Haviland-Jones (Eds.), Handbook of emotions (2nd ed., pp. 236–249). New York: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  16. Mah, K., & Binik, Y. M. (2001). The nature of human orgasm: A critical review of major trends. Clinical Psychology Review, 21, 823–856.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Masters, W. H., & Johnson, V. E. (1966). Human sexual response. Boston: Little, Brown and Co.Google Scholar
  18. Meston, C. M., Levin, R. J., Sipski, M. L., Hull, E. M., & Heiman, J. R. (2004). Women orgasm. Annual Review of Sex Research, 15, 173–257.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Pfaus, J. G. (1999). Neurobiology of sexual behavior. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 9, 751–758.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Pinkerton, S. D., Cecil, H., Bogart, L. M., & Abramson, P. R. (2003). The pleasures of sex: An empirical investigation. Cognition and Emotion, 17, 341–353.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Prkachin, K. M. (1992). The consistency of facial expressions of pain: A comparison across modalities. Pain, 51, 297–306.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Rauch, S. L., Shin, L. M., Dougherty, D. D., Alpert, N. M., Orr, S. P., Lasko, M., et al. (1999). Neural activation during sexual and competitive arousal in healthy men. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging Section, 91, 1–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Redouté, J., Stoléru, S., Grégoire, M. C., Costes, N., Cinotti, L., Lavenne, F., et al. (2000). Brain processing of visual sexual stimuli in human males. Human Brain Mapping, 11, 162–177.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Stoleru, S., Gregoire, M. C., Gerard, D., Decety, J., Lafarge, E., Cinotti, L., et al. (1999). Neuroanatomical correlates of visually evoked sexual arousal in human males. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 28, 1–21.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • José-Miguel Fernández-Dols
    • 1
    Email author
  • Pilar Carrera
    • 1
  • Carlos Crivelli
    • 1
  1. 1.Facultad de PsicologíaUniversidad Autónoma de MadridMadridSpain

Personalised recommendations