We don’t need an expert to tell us that men and women are completely different. Since the dawn of time, we have realized we don’t look the same, we certainly act, dress and communicate in dissimilar ways and in the bedroom…well…let’s just say that different requirements can sometimes lead to a difference of opinion. A new study of physiological measures of sexual arousal in men and women confirms what we may have known all along – whilst men’s minds and genitals are usually in alignment, women are not as likely to have a link between their mind and their genital area.
It seems that in men, the mind and body tend to be in tune with each other whereas women's minds and genitals respond differently and sometimes oppositely to sexual arousal. This information comes from a study made by Assistant Professor Meredith Chivers, from Queen's University in Kingston, Canada and her international collaborators, Michael Seto, Martin Lalumière, Ellen Laan, and Teresa Grimbos. That’s a lot of people to tell us what we already knew…but let’s delve deeper.
Chivers and her colleagues wanted to find out how an individual's experience of sexual arousal mirrors physiological genital activity. They were also keen to determine whether gender played any part in how an individual responds sexually – both in mind and body.
The authors used information from 134 studies, published between 1969 and 2007, which detailed data received from over 2,500 women and 1,900 men. Participants were asked how they felt after being exposed to sexual stimuli called “subjective arousal” and the researchers then measured changes using different methods, (warning - stop reading now if you don’t want the intimate details!) including changes in penile erection for men and changes in genital blood flow for women.
They discovered that men's subjective and physiological measures of sexual arousal showed a greater degree of agreement than women's - or in layman’s terms – men’s minds and genitals were closely linked. They also found that the agreement between women’s minds and their bodies were not as closely matched as men’s. In some cases, the readings from the physiological measurements and their subjective ratings were quite different.
So what is the reason behind the gender difference? The researchers discovered two methodological differences that could explain. Firstly, the type of sexual stimuli and how it was presented – either visually or as an audio recording made absolutely no difference to how men responded. But if women were exposed to a greater range and number of sexual stimuli they were more likely to have a stronger link between their mind and body.
Secondly, the timing of the assessment was important. If participants were asked to rate their subjective arousal when the sexual stimulus was finished, men’s responses were similar to each other rather than the women’s responses. However, if men and women were asked to rate arousal during exposure to the stimulus there was no gender difference – men’s concordance dropped to the women’s range.
The authors concluded that understanding measures of arousal is important in the study of human sexuality particularly in terms of assessment, gender differences and sexual response models.
So without repeating one of the multitude of crude jokes on the subject, men really do have a strong link between their brain and their…ahem…surely I don’t need to spell it out.