Advertisement

Sex Roles

, Volume 37, Issue 3–4, pp 135–153 | Cite as

Gender and Self-Reported Sexual Arousal in Response to Sexual Stimuli: A Meta-Analytic Review

  • Sarah K. Murnen
  • Mary Stockton
Article

Abstract

Social constructionist theories and sociobiological perspectives have led to increased interest in gender differences in sexual behavior. This study involved a meta-analysis of gender differences in sexual arousal in response to sexual stimuli. Forty-six studies in which participants were presented with a sexual stimulus depicting males and females and in which participants responded using a self-report measure of arousal were compiled, and 62 independent effect sizes were aggregated. An overall effect size of d = .31 showed a small to moderate-sized gender difference in sexual arousal with men reporting more arousal than women across all studies. There was significant variation in the effect sizes, though, which was only partially explained by variables coded from the studies. It was found that the gender difference was slightly larger for studies using pornographic vs. erotic stimuli, was larger for studies where participants were tested in a private setting or small group compared to a large group, and was much larger for college age participants compared to those who were older than college age. Generally, the pattern of results provided more support for predictions from social influence theories compared to sociobiological theory.

Keywords

Gender Difference Social Influence Sexual Arousal Social Constructionist Constructionist Theory 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

Studies Used in the Meta-Analysis

  1. Becker, M., & Byrne, D. (1985). Self-reported exposure to erotica, recall errors, and subjective reactions as a function of erotophobia and Type A coronary-prone behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48, 760-767.Google Scholar
  2. Byrne, D., & Lamberth, J. (1971). The effect of erotic stimuli on sexual arousal, evaluative responses, and subsequent behavior. In Technical report of the commission on obscenity and pornography (Vol. 8). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  3. Check, J. V. P., & Malamuth, N. M. (1983). Sex role stereotyping and reactions to depictions of stranger versus acquaintance rape. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45, 344-356.Google Scholar
  4. Dawson, L. J. (1995). The effects of aggression and dominance cues on sexual arousal, positive affect, and perceptions of the actor. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, the University at Albany, State University of New York.Google Scholar
  5. Dekker, J., Everaerd, W. (1988). Attentional effects on sexual arousal. Psychophysiology, 25, 45-54.Google Scholar
  6. Dekker, J., Everaerd, W., & Verhelst, N. (1985). Attending to stimuli or to images of sexual feelings: Effects on sexual arousal. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 23, 139-149.Google Scholar
  7. Dunwoody, V., & Pezdek, K. (1979). Factors affecting the sexual arousal value of pictures. Journal of Sex Research, 15, 276-284.Google Scholar
  8. Fisher, W. A., & Byrne, D. (1978a). Individual differences in affective, evaluative, and behavioral responses to erotic film. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 8, 355-365.Google Scholar
  9. Fisher, W. A., & Byrne, D. (1978b). Sex differences in response to erotica? Love vs. lust. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36, 117-125.Google Scholar
  10. Garcia, L. T., Brennan, K., DeCarlo, M., McGlennon, R., & Tait, S. (1984). Sex differences in sexual arousal to different erotic stories. The Journal of Sex Research, 20, 391-402.Google Scholar
  11. Griffitt, W., & Kaiser, D. L. (1978). Affect, sex guilt, gender, and the rewarding-punishing effects of erotic stimuli. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36, 850-858.Google Scholar
  12. Griffitt, W. (1973). Response to erotica and the projection of response to erotica in the opposite sex. Journal of Experimental Research in Personality, 6, 330-338.Google Scholar
  13. Griffitt, W., May, J., & Veitch, R. (1974). Sexual stimulation and interpersonal behavior: Heterosexual evaluative responses, visual behavior, and physical proximity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 30, 367-377.Google Scholar
  14. Hatfield, E., Sprecher, S., & Traupmann, J. (1978). Men's and women's reactions to sexually explicit films: A serendipitous finding. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 7, 583-592.Google Scholar
  15. Herrell, J. (1975). Sex differences in emotional responses to “erotic” literature. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 43, 921.Google Scholar
  16. Kelley, K., & Musialowski, D. (1986). Repeated exposure to sexually explicit stimuli: Novelty, sex, and sexual attitudes. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 15, 487-498.Google Scholar
  17. Kelley, K. (1985). Sex, sex guilt, and authoritarianism: Differences in responses to explicit heterosexual and masturbatory slides. Journal of Sex Research, 21, 68-85.Google Scholar
  18. Kelley, K. (1984–1985). Sexual fantasy and attitudes as functions of sex of subject and content of erotica. Imagination, Cognition, and Personality, 4, 339-347.Google Scholar
  19. Kelley, K., Miller, C. T., & Byrne, D. (1983). Facilitating sexual arousal via anger, aggression, or dominance. Motivation and Emotion, 7, 191-202.Google Scholar
  20. Levi, L. (1969). Sympatho-adrenomedullary activity, dirusesis, and emotional reactions during visual sexual stimulation in human females and males. Psychosomatic Medicine, 31, 251-268.Google Scholar
  21. Malamuth, N. M., & Check, J. V. P. (1980). Sexual arousal to rape and consenting depictions: The importance of the woman's arousal. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 89, 763-766.Google Scholar
  22. Malamuth, N. M., Check, J. V. P., & Briere, J. (1986). Sexual arousal in response to aggression: Ideological, aggressive, and sexual correlates. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 330-340.Google Scholar
  23. Malamuth, N. M., Heim, M., & Feschbach, S. (1980). Sexual responsiveness of college students to rape depictions: Inhibitory and disinhibitory effects. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 38, 399-408.Google Scholar
  24. Mann, J., Sidman, J., & Starr, S. (1971). Effects of erotic films on the sexual behavior of married couples. In Technical report of the commission on obscenity and pornography (Vol. 8). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  25. Miller, C. T., Byrne, D., & Fisher, J. D. (1980). Order effects on responses to sexual stimuli by males and females. Journal of Sex Research, 16, 131-147.Google Scholar
  26. Mosher, D. L. (1973). Sex differences, sex experience, sex guilt, and sexually explicit films. Journal of Social Issues, 29, 95-112.Google Scholar
  27. Mosher, D. L., & Abramson, P. R. (1977). Subjective sexual arousal to films of masturbation. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 45, 796-807.Google Scholar
  28. Mosher, D. L., & MacIan, P. (1994). College men and women respond to x-rated videos intended for male or female audiences: Gender and sexual scripts. Journal of Sex Research, 31, 99-113.Google Scholar
  29. Norris, J. (1989). Normative influence effects on sexual arousal to nonviolent sexually explicit material. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 19, 341-352.Google Scholar
  30. Norris, J. (1991). Social influence effects on responses to sexually explicit material containing violence. The Journal of Sex Research, 28, 67-76.Google Scholar
  31. Paris, J., & Goodstein, L. D. (1966). Responses to death and sex stimulus materials as a function of repression-sensitization. Psychological Reports, 19, 1283-1291.Google Scholar
  32. Pawlowski, W. (1979). Response to sexual films as a function of anxiety level. Psychological Reports, 44, 1067-1073.Google Scholar
  33. Perlman, B. J., & Weber, S. J. (1979). The effects of preinformation on reactions to a violent passage and an erotic passage. Journal of Social Psychology, 109, 127-138.Google Scholar
  34. Pietras, K. R. (1991). The influence of repression and erotophobia on self-reported sexual arousal and affect to erotica. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Wyoming, Laramie.Google Scholar
  35. Przybyla, D. P. J., & Byme, D. (1984). The mediating role of cognitive processes in self-reported sexual arousal. Journal of Research in Personality, 18, 54-63.Google Scholar
  36. Przybyla, D. P. J. (1985). The effects of exposure to erotica on prosocial behavior. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University at Albany, Albany, NY.Google Scholar
  37. Roberts, L. W. II. (1989). Evaluations of sexually explicit films as a function of film type and selected personality variables. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY.Google Scholar
  38. Sapolsky, B. S. (1981). The effect of soft-core and hard-core erotica on provoked and unprovoked hostile behavior. Journal of Sex Research, 17, 319-343.Google Scholar
  39. Saunders, D., Fisher, W., Hewitt, E., & Clayton, J. (1985). A method for empirically assessing volunteer selection effects: Recruitment procedures and responses to erotica. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49, 1703-1712.Google Scholar
  40. Sayad, R. M. (1985). The effects of gender, distraction, and sexual guilt on sexual arousal and affective responses to a sexually explicit film. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.Google Scholar
  41. Schmidt, G. (1975). Male-female differences in sexual arousal and behavior during and after exposure to sexually explicit stimuli. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 4, 353-365.Google Scholar
  42. Schmidt, G., & Sigusch, V. (1970). Sex differences in responses to sexual stimulation by films and slides. The Journal of Sex Research, 6, 268-283.Google Scholar
  43. Schmidt, G., Sigusch, V., & Schaefer, S. (1973). Responses to reading erotic stories: Male-female differences. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 2, 181-201.Google Scholar
  44. Sigusch, V., Schmidt, G., Reinfeld, A., & Wiedemann-Sutor, I. (1970). Psychosexual stimulation: Sex differences. The Journal of Sex Research, 6, 10-24.Google Scholar
  45. Steele, D. G., & Walker, C. E. (1974). Male and female differences in reaction to erotic stimuli as related to sexual adjustment. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 3, 459-470.Google Scholar

REFERENCES

  1. Bleier, R. (1984). Science and gender: A critique of biology and its theories on women. New York: Pergamon Press.Google Scholar
  2. Buss, D. M. (1994). The evolution of desire. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  3. Buss, D. M. (1989). Sex difference in human mate preferences: Evolutionary hypotheses tested in 37 cultures. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 12, 1-49.Google Scholar
  4. Buss, D. M., & Schmidt, D. P. (1993). Sexual strategies theory: An evolutionary perspective on human mating. Psychological Review, 100, 204-232.Google Scholar
  5. Byrne, D. (1977a). Social psychology and the study of sexual behavior. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 3, 3-30.Google Scholar
  6. Byrne, D., & Clore, G. L. (1970). A reinforcement-affect model of evaluative responses. Personality, 1, 103-128.Google Scholar
  7. Byrne, D., Fisher, J. D., Lamberth, J., & Mitchell, H. E. (1974). Evaluations of erotica: Facts or feelings? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 29, 111-116.Google Scholar
  8. Cohen, J. (1969). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  9. Cowan, G., Lee, C., Levy, D., & Snyder, D. (1988). Dominance and inequality in x-rated videocassettes. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 12, 299-311.Google Scholar
  10. Dekker, J., & Everaerd, W. (1988). Attentional effects on sexual arousal. Psychophysiology, 25, 45-54.Google Scholar
  11. Eagly, A. H. (1987). Sex differences in social behavior: A social-role interpretation. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  12. Eagly, A. H., & Crowley, M. (1986). Gender and helping behavior: A meta-analytic review of the social psychological literature. Psychological Bulletin, 100, 283-308.Google Scholar
  13. Eagly, A. H., & Steffen, V. J. (1986). Gender and aggressive behavior: A meta-analytic review of the social psychological literature. Psychological Bulletin, 100, 309-330.Google Scholar
  14. Fisher, T. D., Pollack, R. H., & Malatesta, V. J. (1986). Orgasmic latency and subjective ratings of erotic stimuli in male and female subjects. The Journal of Sex Research, 22, 85-93.Google Scholar
  15. Fisher, W. A. (1986). The sexual behavior sequence. In D. Byrne & K. Kelley (Eds.), Alternative approaches to the study of sexual behavior. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  16. Gagnon, J. H. (1977). Human sexualities. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foreman, & Co.Google Scholar
  17. Gagnon, J. H., & Simon, W (1973). Sexual conduct: The social sources of human sexuality. Chicago: Aldine.Google Scholar
  18. Gagnon, J. H., Simon, W., & Berger, A. J. (1970). Some aspects of sexual adjustment in early adolescence. In J. Zubin & A. M. Freedman (Eds.), The psychopathology of adolescence. New York: Grune & Stratton.Google Scholar
  19. Glass, V. G., McGaw, B., & Smith, M. L. (1981). Meta-analysis in social research. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  20. Griffitt, W. (1987). Females, males and sexual response. In K. Kelley (Ed.), Females, males, and sexuality: Theories and research. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  21. Hedges, L. V., & Becker, B. J. (1986). Statistical methods in the meta-analysis of research on gender differences. In J. S. Hyde & M. C. Linn (Eds.), The psychology of gender: Advances through meta-analysis. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Heiman, J. R. (1977). A psychophysiological exploration of sexual arousal patterns in males and females. Psychophysiology, 14, 266-274.Google Scholar
  23. Hyde, J. S. (1984). How large are gender differences in aggression? A developmental meta-analysis. Developmental Psychology, 20, 722-736.Google Scholar
  24. Kinsey, A., Pomeroy, W., & Martin, C. (1948). Sexual behavior in the human male. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders.Google Scholar
  25. Kinsey, A., Pomeroy, W., Martin, C., & Gebhard, P. (1953). Sexual behavior in the human female. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders.Google Scholar
  26. Lott, B. (1987). Sexuality: A feminist perspective. In K. Kelley (Ed.), Females, males, and sexuality. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  27. Masters, W. H., & Johnson, V. E. (1966). Human sexual response. Boston: Little, Brown, & Co.Google Scholar
  28. Mosher, D. L., & MacIan, P. (1994). College men and women respond to x-rated videos intended for male or female audiences: Gender and sexual scripts. Journal of Sex Research, 31, 99-113.Google Scholar
  29. Oliver, M. B., & Hyde, J. S. (1993). Gender differences in sexuality: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 114, 29-51.Google Scholar
  30. Rubinsky, H. J., Eckerman, D. A., Rubinsky, E. W., & Hoover, C. R. (1987). Early-phase physiological response patterns to psychosexual stimuli: Comparison of male and female patterns. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 16, 45-65.Google Scholar
  31. Saunders, D., Fisher, W., Hewitt, E., & Clayton, J. (1985). A method for empirically assessing volunteer selection effects: Recruitment procedures and responses to erotica. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49, 1703-1712.Google Scholar
  32. Singer, Barry. (1985a). A comparison of evolutionary and environmental theories of erotic response: Part I: Structural features. The Journal of Sex Research, 21, 229-257.Google Scholar
  33. Singer, Barry. (1985b). A comparison of evolutionary and environmental theories of erotic response: Part II: Empirical arenas. The Journal of Sex Research, 21, 345-374.Google Scholar
  34. Sprecher, S., McKinney, K., & Orbuch, T. L. (1987). Has the double standard disappeared? An experimental test. Social Psychology Quarterly, 50, 24-31.Google Scholar
  35. Steinem, G. (1983). Outrageous acts and everyday rebellions. New York: New American Library.Google Scholar
  36. Stock, W. (1995). The effects of pornography on women. In L. J. Lederer & R. Delgado (Eds.), The price we pay: The case against racist speech, hate propaganda, and pornography. New York: Hill and Wang.Google Scholar
  37. Symons, D. (1979). The evolution of human sexuality. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Symons, D. (1987). An evolutionary approach: Can Darwin's view of life shed light on human sexuality? In J. H. Geer & W. T. O'Donahue (Eds.), Theories of human sexuality. New York: Plenum.Google Scholar
  39. Tavris, C. (1992). The mismeasure of woman. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  40. Tiefer, L. (1995). Sex is not a natural act and other essays. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  41. Trivers, R. L. (1972). Parental investment and sexual selection. In B. Campbell (Ed.), Sexual selection and the descent of man. Chicago: Aldine.Google Scholar
  42. Vance, C (Ed.). (1984). Pleasure and danger: Toward a politics of sexuality. In pleasure and danger: Exploring female sexuality. Boston, MA: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah K. Murnen
    • 1
  • Mary Stockton
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyKenyon CollegeGambier
  2. 2.Kenyon CollegeUSA
  3. 3.Currently a Ph.D. candidate at DePaul UniversityUSA

Personalised recommendations