These studies together emphasize the differential and polarizing effects that socialization appears to have on men and women in their reports of sexual behavior, which is important to consider when investigating sex differences in response to sexual stimuli. Although the results are difficult to interpret because the phenomenon was observed only in women at the extremely low testosterone levels, they do suggest that testosterone may increase attention to sexual stimuli. Sociological variables likely play a significant role in observed sex differences in reports of sexual arousal.
Women, in contrast, did not show a difference in reported sexual arousal between heterosexual or female homosexual films. This effect was only observed, however, when the cover page of the survey contained a statement saying that women were recently shown to be more sexually permissive and experienced than men. The next section provides evidence that the sex differences observed from subjective reports of sexual arousal may be the product of sex differences in the cognitive processing of stimuli, reflected in differences in neural activity. Women show a preference for masculine male traits during their ovulatory phase of the cycle that is not observed during other phases Feinberg et al. The underlying cause of the sex differences in stimulus preference is unclear. The first common methodological problem is that many studies use subjective units of measurement as indicators of interest in stimuli. Korff J, Geer JH. A sex difference in the specificity of sexual arousal. Archives of General Psychiatry. Changes in overall sexual arousal and desire and mate preferences with fluctuations in hormone levels across the menstrual cycle may be due to variability in the cognitive processing of sexual stimuli across the cycle. Journal of Psychosomatic Research. The divergence between men and women is proposed to occur at this time, reflected in differences in neural activation, and contribute to previously reported sex differences in downstream peripheral physiological responses and subjective reports of sexual arousal. Journal of Sex Research. Men showed a significantly lower level of self-reported sexual arousal to films depicting two men than they did to heterosexual or lesbian films. Previous studies have used women taking oral contraceptives Hamann et al. Both men and women showed greater amplitude of the CNV to opposite sex stimuli than neutral stimuli. Only recently have fMRI scanners developed the resolution to accurately scan this deeply embedded region. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. Alexander and Sherwin found that attention to auditory sexual stimuli in a subgroup of women, with low levels of testosterone, was correlated with their endogenous levels of testosterone. Automatic processes and the appraisal of sexual stimuli. Inhibition also influences measures of neural activation, demonstrated by an fMRI study in which men were told to watch erotic films with or without inhibiting their reactions. This difference was comparatively small and men still had higher ratings than women even for women-selected films. Females first exposed to visual sexual stimuli during their luteal phase had lower levels of physiological arousal when subsequently tested across other phases of their menstrual cycle than females whose initial exposure occurred at another phase. Sociological variables likely play a significant role in observed sex differences in reports of sexual arousal. The observed disconnect between psychological and physical arousal may be related to the negative emotions causing the female subjects to invoke other cognitive mechanisms, such as social acceptability of the portrayal of sexuality, resulting in an inhibition or censoring of subjective report, but leaving their physiological response unaffected.
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