Men's bodies, minds often agree on sexy
By Amina Khan
Los Angeles Times
When it comes to turn-ons, men's physical and mental reactions are remarkably in sync with each other. Not necessarily so for women, according to a study published online last week in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.
The study (www.queensu.ca/psychology/sage/CurrentResearch.html) examined research between 1969 and 2007.
Women and men were presented with sexual stimuli and then asked to judge their own state of arousal. This was compared with physiological data.
Women often showed a physical response to a stimulus, but didn't report actually feeling turned on. But if women were shown sexual stimuli in a variety of media — films, stories, sexual fantasies — the gap between mind and body narrowed.
"If we look at men as a group and women as a group, there's a difference in the way they integrate sexual information," said lead author Meredith Chivers, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario.
Women's bodies also seemed to respond to a broader spectrum of stimuli than men's did, even if they didn't report finding those stimuli attractive.
The study said additional work could help scientists in future studies identify and address the causes of sexual dysfunction, particularly in women.
"Do women who report better sexual functioning also demonstrate higher concordance between psychological and physiological responses? Indirect evidence suggests this might be the case," the study said.
At one point, the researcher said, the team questioned: Why do men's minds and bodies tend to agree on what's sexy? The study considered the possibility that women may not report (or perhaps even perceive) arousal due to cultural taboos.
Some research asked study participants to evaluate their arousal after the fact, while others asked the question in the heat of the moment.
For men who were asked on the spot, they reported feeling less aroused than their physical response would indicate — whereas for women there was little or no effect, Chivers said.
"It probably serves as a distraction," she theorized.
Points for women's multitasking capabilities? Chivers couldn't say.
"The important information coming out of this is educating women that their feelings of sexual arousal may or may not be tied to their physical state," Chivers said.
"That's important for partners of women to know as well. Just because a woman is responding physiologically doesn't mean she's interested in having sex."