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New Research from The Kinsey Institute

Couples and Viagra Condom use and erection loss
Mood and sexual response Hormonal effects of oral contraceptives on women's sexuality
Male/female gaze

What's Good for the Gander is Good for the Goose?

A new study on Viagra breaks new ground in studying erectile dysfunction by shining the light on the female partners of the male patients undergoing treatment. Led by Kinsey Institute Director Dr. Julia Heiman, the study appears in the April issue of BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Though the males with erectile problems were given Viagra, female partners who expressed dissatisfaction with sexual intercourse were evaluated as well.

The study found that the drug helped the men function better sexually, and that the sexual satisfaction of the couples improved significantly, results which might not surprise you. “What sets this study apart is that we also asked the women about their own relationship satisfaction, sexual response and sexual satisfaction,” said Dr. Heiman. She points out that we should not assume what partners will feel about a change in sexual functioning. However, research is often limited to only the effects on the patient.

“The nice thing about this study is that it reminds us that when people engage in a treatment, even taking a pill, it doesn’t stop at the edge of their skin. It can, and often does, affect others,” said Heiman, whose research over the years has examined the development and impact of different sexual treatments on individuals and couples. “In this study, changes in one partner were correlated with changes in another. If one partner improved than so did the other.”

The article is available online here.

Heiman, J., Talley, D., Bailen, J., Oskin, T., Rosenberg, S., Pace, C., Creanga, D., Bavendam, T. (2007). Sexual function and satisfaction in heterosexual copules when men are administered sildenafil citrate (Viagra®) for erectile dysfunction: a multicentre, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. BJOG An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-0528.2006.01128.x.

The Complexities of Mood and Sexual Response

Historically, researchers have focused on the impact of negative emotion, like performance anxiety, on sexual functioning and problems. This assumes that if there is no negative emotion, than the climate is right and sexual response will occur. A study by Kinsey Institute researchers Zoe Peterson and Erick Janssen shows that though positive mood is predictive of sexual desire and arousal, a combination of positive and negative emotional states can also coexist during sexual response. It was the absence of emotion, or indifference, that was most strongly associated with lower sexual arousal and response.

Erick Janssen explains that not feeling anything is like emotional avoidance, which may be relevant to sexual dysfunction. “For sexual response to occur, it’s important to have some emotional reaction.”

“This study suggests that a combination of emotions may have a distinct impact on sexual functioning and response,” adds Dr. Peterson. “The next step might be to look at how specific combinations of negative and positive emotions, like anxiety or depression and serenity and enthusiasm, might influence sexual functioning and response. This research is getting us started in this complex area.”

You may read the full text of the article online here.

Peterson, Z.D., & Janssen, E. (2007). Ambivalent affect and sexual response: The impact of co-occurring positive and negative emotions on subjective and physiological responses to erotic stimuli. Archives of Sexual Behavior, DOI 10.1007/s10508-006-9145-0.

Men and Women Look at Sexual Photographs Differently

Kinsey Institute researcher Dr. Heather Rupp is the lead author in a new study analyzing the viewing patterns of heterosexual men and women looking at sexual photographs. The results are not what you might expect. 

Researchers hypothesized that women would look at faces in the photographs, and men would look at genitals.  Instead, they found that the men were more likely than the women to look at a woman’s face before other parts of the body, and that men and women did not differ in their overall time spent gazing at pictures or in their subjective evaluations of the sexual attractiveness of the photos.  The photographs were of heterosexual couples in sexual activity.

The study included 3 groups: men, women, and women taking oral contraceptives. 

 “The men looked at the female face much more than both groups of women, and women who were not taking the pill spent the most time looking at the genitals,” said Dr. Rupp. The data also showed interesting differences in attention that may be explained by hormonal state – the women on the pill paid more attention to contextual elements of the pictures, such as the clothing and background scene than did either of the other groups.  These findings may help interpret previously reported sex differences in neural activation in response to similar stimuli. 

Dr. Rupp conducted the study with Dr Kim Wallen while at Emory University.

The full article is available on our website here.

Rupp, H.A., & Wallen, K. (2007). Sex differences in viewing sexual stimuli: An eye tracking study in men and women. Hormones and Behavior, 51, 524-533.

Condom Use with Erection Loss May Pose Added Risk Factor

The results of a new study in a series of condom error studies conducted by researchers at Indiana University and The Kinsey Institute suggest that erection loss while using condoms may contribute to risky sexual behavior. The study involved 278 men ages 18 to 35 who visited an urban STD clinic in the Midwest between October 2004 and September 2005.

Researchers found that men who reported an erection loss associated with condom use reported more unprotected intercourse with women and were less likely to use condoms than men without condom-associated erection loss. Also, men were almost three times more likely to report erection loss if they were less confident about how to use condoms correctly, signaling the need for education on condom application.

"This study has highlighted a difficulty -- loss of erection while using condoms -- that may make men more reluctant to use condoms. The findings have important implications for education and counseling efforts," said Cynthia Graham, a research tutor on the Oxford Doctoral Course in Clinical Psychology and an associate research fellow at the Kinsey Institute.

You can read more details in the full IU press release here.

Graham, C. A., Crosby, R. A., Yarber, W. L., Sanders, S. A., McBride, K. R., Millhausen, R. R., Arno, J. N. (2006). "Erection loss in association with condom use among young men attending a public STI clinic: potential correlates and implications for risk behaviour," Sexual Health, 2006; 3(4). pdf.

Hormonal Effects of Oral Contraceptives on Women's Sexuality

Several recent studies have noted changes in some women's sexual desire and mood related to oral contraceptives. To further understand these effects, researchers at The Kinsey Institute monitored changes in plasma androgen levels (including total testosterone [T], free testosterone [FT], and dehydro-epiandrosterone-sulfate [DHEA-S]) in women after 3 months on the pill. Says lead author, Cynthia Graham, "This is the first study that has assessed both hormone levels and mood and sexuality in women after they started on oral contraceptives."

Results showed some support for the relationship between the decrease in androgen levels and reduction in sexual interest. However, not all of the women starting on oral contraceptives reported adverse changes in sexual interest, and there was no relationship between the hormonal changes and mood. The findings support the idea that some women may be more sensitive to hormonal changes than others.

You may read the article online here.

Cynthia A. Graham, C, Bancroft, J, Doll, H, Greco, T and Tanner, A. (2007) Does oral contraceptive-induced reduction in free testosterone adversely affect the sexuality or mood of women? Psychoendocrinology 32:3, 246-255 .


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