Identification with Stimuli Moderates Women's Affective and Testosterone Responses to Self Chosen Erotica (2015)
COMMENTS: Unlike previous studies, this experimental set-up more closely matches internet porn use where the user can surf tube sites and choose porn they find most arousing. Strong emotions such as disgust and anxiety induced by guilt and embarrassment elevate dopamine and thus arousal. This also suggests that this type of study design may provide more accurate and informative results. From the study:
"Compared to researcher-chosen erotica, self-chosen erotica increased self-reported arousal and enjoyment, but also unexpectedly disgust, guilt, and embarrassment."
Arch Sex Behav. 2015 Nov 6.
Sexual thoughts are sufficient to increase testosterone (T) in women, yet erotic films are not. A key confound in past studies is autonomy in stimulus selection: women choose the content of their sexual thoughts but films have been selected by researchers. We hypothesized that self-chosen erotic films, compared to researcher-chosen erotic films, would (1) increase women's self-reported arousal, enjoyment, and identification with stimuli, and decrease negative affect; and (2) increase T.
Participants (N = 116 women) were randomly assigned to a neutral documentary condition or one of three erotic film conditions: high choice (self-chosen erotica from participants' own sources), moderate choice (self-chosen erotica from films preselected by sexuality researchers), or no choice (researcher-chosen erotica). Participants provided saliva samples for T before and after viewing the film in the privacy of their homes.
Compared to researcher-chosen erotica, self-chosen erotica increased self-reported arousal and enjoyment, but also unexpectedly disgust, guilt, and embarrassment. Self-chosen erotica only marginally increased identification with stimuli compared to researcher-chosen erotica.
Overall, film condition did not affect T, but individual differences in identification moderated T responses: among women reporting lower levels of identification, the moderate choice condition decreased T compared to the no choice condition, but this difference was not observed among women with higher identification.
These results highlight the importance of cognitive/emotional factors like identification for sexually modulated T. However, self-chosen erotica results in more ambivalent rather than unequivocally positive cognitive/emotional responses, perhaps because stigma associated with viewing erotica for women becomes more salient when choosing stimuli.
KEYWORDS: Erotica; Identification; Sexual arousal; Testosterone; Women