Sexual responsiveness of college students to rape depictions: inhibitory and disinhibitory effects (1980)

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J Pers Soc Psychol. 1980 Mar;38(3):399-408.

Malamuth NM, Heim M, Feshbach S.

Abstract

Two experiments were conducted to identify the specific dimensions in portrayals of sexual violence that inhibit or disinhibit the sexual responsiveness of male and female college students. The first experiment replicated earlier findings that normals are less sexually aroused by portrayals of sexual assault than by depictions of mutually consenting sex.

In the second experiment, it was shown that portraying the rape victim as experiencing an involuntary orgasm disinhibited subjects' sexual responsiveness and resulted in levels of arousal comparable to those elicited by depictions of mutually consenting sex. Surprisingly, however, it was found that although female subjects were most aroused when the rape victim was portrayed as experiencing an orgasm and no pain, males were most aroused when the victim experienced an orgasm and pain.

The relevance of these data to pornography and to the common belief among rapists that their victims derive pleasure from being assaulted is discussed. Misattribution, identification, and power explanations of the findings are also discussed. Finally, it is suggested that arousing stimuli that fuse sexuality and violence may have antisocial effects.