Methodological Factors Impacting Sexual Concordance in Women
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A growing body of research investigating sexual concordance (the degree to which genital and subjective arousal are related) suggests that on average, women exhibit a weak, positive correlation between their genital and subjective arousal, whereas men exhibit a strong positive correlation between these responses. Although some researchers view this gender difference as a true phenomenon, others argue that women’s lower degree of concordance is the result of methodological factors, produced by the device that is most commonly used to measure genital response in women. Other factors, such as stimulus duration and content, may also have systematic effects on genital blood flow, potentially impacting the relationship between genital and subjective arousal in women. In the current study, sexual concordance was examined using concurrent measures of vulvar blood flow (using the laser Doppler imager; LDI) and vaginal vasocongestion (using the vaginal photoplethysmograph; VPP) to investigate potential differences in vulvar and vaginal concordance. Twenty-five women viewed two erotic films that differed in sexual activity content (foreplay and intercourse) while their genital and subjective arousal was measured. In support of previous meta-analytic findings, results from the current study suggest that the choice of genital arousal measurement device significantly impacts estimates of sexual concordance in women. That is, subjective arousal is significantly less correlated with vaginal vasocongestion assessed by the VPP than with vulvar blood flow assessed by LDI. Other methodological factors, such as stimulus content, order of presentation, and duration appear to have negligible impact on estimates of vulvar or vaginal concordance. Findings from the current study suggest that special consideration should be taken when selecting which genital arousal measurement device to employ for investigating sexual concordance in women.