Genital Arousal and Sexual Desire Aren’t Necessarily the Same Thing

Genital Arousal and Sexual Desire Aren’t Necessarily the Same Thing

Scientists who study sexual desire have long been wary of over-relying on self-report data because people don’t always tell the truth on surveys. Some people answer questions about what turns them on and what their sex lives are like in whatever way makes them look best. For example, someone might underreport their sexual desires and experiences in order to appear wholesome, or perhaps because they don't want to own up to something. To get around this issue, many sex scientists utilize devices that can measure genital arousal under the assumption that “genitals don’t lie.” Among researchers who subscribe to this belief, they have a tendency to let genital data trump self-report data whenever they seem to be saying different things.

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Can Men Fake Their Genital Responses In Sex Studies? Yes, But Their Eyes Reveal The Truth

Can Men Fake Their Genital Responses In Sex Studies? Yes, But Their Eyes Reveal The Truth

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.

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Sex Question Friday: What Is The Average Penis Size?

Sex Question Friday: What Is The Average Penis Size?

One of the most common questions I get from students in my classes and readers of the blog concerns the average or typical penis size. Unfortunately, this is one of the hardest questions to answer with any degree of certainty because the research in this area is fraught with problems. Traditionally, researchers have adopted one of two approaches to studying penis size: self-report vs. clinical measurement. In self-report studies, guys are provided with standardized instructions on how to measure their penises and then asked to report their size. In clinical measurement studies, guys need to drop their trousers and become aroused in front of a trained scientist who performs all of the measurements. The concern with the self-report method is that guys will lie or exaggerate, while the concern with the clinical measurement studies is that only more well-endowed men will opt to participate. Both methods are therefore thought to artificially inflate the average. However, a clever new study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine reveals a new method for obtaining perhaps even more accurate data on penis size and presents some findings that may surprise you. 

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Why Is “Fifty Shades of Grey” So Popular? Do Women Really Prefer Erotic Fiction To Hardcore Porn?

Why Is “Fifty Shades of Grey” So Popular? Do Women Really Prefer Erotic Fiction To Hardcore Porn?

“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.

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