Instructional control of female sexual responding


To examine whether women can suppress genital arousal under instructional control, 25 women were presented with three erotic films and instructions to "become as aroused as possible" (Arouse) or to "suppress arousal" (Suppress). Genital responding was assessed using the heated oxygen electrode which yields two measures of vaginal responding: oxygen perfusion and thermistor assessment of vasocongestion. 36 to 40% of the sample was able to demonstrate a substantial reduction in sexual responding under Suppress instructions (depending upon the measure used), based on externally derived criteria to determine suppression. Differences were noted in the patterns of responding between suppressors and nonsuppressors, on both the pO2 and heat measures. Examination of thought-listing data indicated that subjects were able to identify cognitive strategies they used to suppress responding. In particular, successful suppressors were more likely to report the use of 2+ cognitive strategies, whereas the nonsuppressors reported reliance on a single strategy. Results are discussed in light of current theories of emotional factors in sexual responding, with emphasis on clinical implications. Directions for future research in female sexuality are highlighted. © 1994 Plenum Publishing Corporation.

Publication Title

Archives of Sexual Behavior