A Multimethod Investigation of Women's Sexual Arousal
The research program presented in this dissertation describes a multimethod investigation of women’s sexual arousal. Across three empirical studies, alternative approaches to sexual psychophysiology research were adopted to further develop the ways in which women’s sexual arousal is elicited and measured in the laboratory. In Chapter 2, two direct measures of genital response—the litmus test strip and the laser Doppler imager—were used concurrently to provide the first empirical evidence of the positive relationship between genital lubrication and blood flow during sexual arousal. Both measures detected a genital response and were suitable for repeated measurement within a single session; however, only the laser Doppler imager detected low levels of genital response. Chapter 3 validated the only direct and continuous measure of genital blood flow in women—laser Doppler flowmetry. The study showed that laser Doppler flowmetry is a valid and sensitive measure of genital response that is reliable across testing sessions, and results indicated that genital blood flow assessed by flowmetry is highly responsive over time. In consideration of the way in which sexual arousal is elicited in the laboratory, Chapter 4 applied a novel stimulus selection task, which enabled the direct comparison of using participant- versus researcher-selected sexual stimuli to elicit sexual arousal. The study demonstrated the feasibility and utility of using participant-selected sexual stimuli in sexual psychophysiology research, such that a participant-selected sexual stimulus elicited equal or greater sexual arousal than a researcher-selected one. The studies that comprise this dissertation represent alternative approaches to the dominant methods used in sexual psychophysiology research. The studies described herein have implications for experimental and applied sexual arousal research. The multiple methods used to elicit and measure sexual arousal in this program of research are novel and show promise for enhancing the study of women’s sexual arousal.