Mechanisms Contributing to the Specificity of Gynephilic Men’s Sexual Responses
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Men’s sexual responses have historically been characterized by their gender specificity, meaning that men show stronger genital and subjective arousal to preferred (i.e., sexual stimuli that include one’s preferred gender) versus non-preferred (i.e., sexual stimuli that do not include one’s preferred gender) sexual stimuli. But recent work suggests that many gynephilic (i.e., sexually attracted to women) men show varying degrees of same-sex attraction, fantasies, and behaviours. Previous research on men’s gender-specific sexual responses has not investigated potential bidirectional relationships between men’s attentional, affective, and genital responses to non-preferred sexual stimuli. New information about these relationships will contribute to our understanding of gynephilic men’s capacity for nonexclusive sexual attractions. Two models of sexual responding, the information processing model and the incentive motivation model, include pathways that detail the role of initial attention, controlled attention, and affect in activating or inhibiting arousal to nonpreferred sexual stimuli. Across two studies, these models of sexual responding are used as a framework to explore how greater negative affect (i.e., homonegativity and trait-level disgust) and attentional biases (i.e. vigilant initial attention and avoidant controlled attention) reduce men’s sexual responses to non-preferred sexual stimuli. In Study 1, which examined men’s detection of human stimuli at the earliest stages of stimulus processing, gynephilic men were more accurate when they identified images of nude women than when they identified images of clothed men or clothed women. There was no significant difference in their speed and accuracy, however, when detecting nude women versus nude men, suggesting that gynephilic men’s gender-specific sexual responses may only occur during later stages of processing. In Study 2, which examined men’s visual attention and genital responses during later stages of stimulus processing, greater levels of homonegativity and trait-level disgust predicted attentional avoidance of sexual stimuli featuring men, as well as lower genital responses to these stimuli. Results expand our current understanding of men’s sexuality by identifying factors that contribute to gender-specific and gender-nonspecific sexual responses in gynephilic men. Future work should explore whether gynephilic men’s sexual behaviours become increasingly malleable as society continues to become more accepting of same-sex sexuality.