Sexual concordance—the agreement between physiological (genital) and psychological (emotional) sexual arousal—is, on average, substantially lower in women than men. Following social role theory, the gender difference in sexual concordance may manifest because women and men are responding in a way that accommodates gender norms. We examined genital and self-reported sexual arousal in 47 women and 50 men using a condition known to discourage conformity to gender norms (i.e., a bogus pipeline paradigm). Participants reported their feelings of sexual arousal during a sexually explicit film, while their genital arousal (penile circumference, vaginal vasocongestion), heart rate (HR), and galvanic skin (GS) responses were recorded. Half of the participants were instructed that their self-reported sexual arousal was being monitored for veracity using their HR and GS responses (bogus pipeline condition; BPC); the remaining participants were told that these responses were recorded for a comprehensive record of sexual response (typical testing condition; TTC). Using multi-level modeling, we found that only women’s sexual concordance was affected by testing condition; women in the BPC exhibited significantly higher sexual concordance than those in the TTC. Thus, we provide the first evidence that the gender difference in sexual concordance may at least partially result from social factors.
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Given that the time scales for the individual items are different (e.g., the last month for masturbation frequency versus a lifetime for number of sexual partners), we also standardized the individual items into z-scores. The results are consistent when composite scores based on z-scores of the individual items are used.
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Funding for the research described was provided by an Insight Development Award from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada awarded to M. L. Chivers. Additional support from post-doctoral fellowship awards was provided to K. D. Suschinsky from the Institute of Gender and Health (Canadian Institutes of Health Research) and L’Oreal Canada UNESCO for Women in Science. We would like to thank Lucas Hildebrand, Michelle McCowan, and Graham Hutchings for their assistance with data collection.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.
All experimental procedures were carried out following the ethical guidelines of the Canadian Tri-Council Policy Statement and were approved by the Health Sciences and Affiliated Hospitals Research Ethics Board at Queen’s University.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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Appendix: Multi-level Model Specifications
Appendix: Multi-level Model Specifications
Model 1 and 2: Genital Response and Testing Condition Predicting CSR.
Level 2 random intercept model:
Level 2 random slope model:
Model 3 and 4: Genital Response, Gender Norm Conformity, and Testing Condition Predicting CSR.
Level 2 random intercept model:
Level 2 random slope model:
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Suschinsky, K.D., Fisher, T.D., Maunder, L. et al. Use of the Bogus Pipeline Increases Sexual Concordance in Women But Not Men. Arch Sex Behav 49, 1517–1532 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-020-01737-4
- Sexual concordance
- Gender differences
- Sexual arousal
- Bogus pipeline
- Social role theory