Sex researchers have long been concerned about the reliability of self-report surveys assessing people’s sexual interests and level of sexual arousal. The fear has always been that people will not answer honestly, either because they are not willing to admit their true sexuality to themselves or to a group of scientists. As a result, sexologists have increasingly been moving away from self-reports and instead toward genital arousal measures, with the thought being that genital responses are hard to fake when we’re in the presence of sexually arousing stimuli. Indeed, many scientists have come to view genital responses as a “truer” gauge of our sexual inclinations. But is this necessarily the case? A new study just published in the Journal of Sex Research reveals that genital responses can indeed be faked in lab studies, which suggests that these measures may not always be as reliable as you think. However, these scientists also discovered a novel way of potentially catching fakers: recording their eye movements while they view sexual stimuli.Read More
Every Friday on the blog, I answer people’s questions about sex, love, and relationships. This week’s question comes from a reader who wanted to know whether there is any support for one of the most commonly cited gender differences in sexuality:
Is it really true that men are more visually aroused than women?Read More
“Research has shown that men are more visually stimulated, while women are more literary; they’re turned on by words or erotic stories.” – Dr. Michael Krychman on Fifty Shades of Grey
I have seen variations of the above quote appear in many news articles and Human Sexuality textbooks as a basic “fact” about female sexuality. There seems to be a widely shared belief among both scholars and the general public that explicit visual depictions of sex are far less appealing to women than they are to men, and that women will choose a steamy romance novel of questionable literary value over a graphic porn video any day. In fact, many people believe this is one of the primary reasons why books like Fifty Shades of Grey attract so many female readers. However, I’m not fully convinced by this argument. My reading of the scientific literature on sexual arousal suggests another possibility: perhaps women gravitate toward these books not because they are less aroused by hardcore pornography, but because society tells women that they’re not supposed to enjoy more explicit sexual materials.