Erotic stimuli and sexuality in (biological) psychology
Donnerstag, 03.06.2021:
10:15 - 11:45

Chair der Sitzung: Birgit Derntl, Universität Tübingen
Chair der Sitzung: Jana Strahler, Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen
Ort: Hormones and emotions

Zusammenfassung der Sitzung

Sexual health crucially contributes to mental health as it may complement physical, emotional and social health but can also be associated with distress, pain and dysfunctional reward. Most of our knowledge today on erotic stimuli processing stems from studies on males only. To better understand (dys)functional processes in the realm of sexual health, we need to come up with study designs that involve women and men also by incorporating stimuli that are sexually arousing to all genders.

We will start with a study addressing a very timely aspect, i.e. pornography consumption during the COVID 19 pandemic. Here, Sarah Golder* (Gießen) will introduce the study design and present first data. While in the first talk recipients were mostly watching erotic stimuli alone, Katherine Hertlein (Salzburg) will show data on how collective pornography consumption affects heterosexual partnerships in the second talk of our symposium. Next on, Jana Strahler (Gießen) will present new data on influencing factors on sexual cue responsivity in men such as negative affect, while in our last talk, Ann-Christin Kimmig* (Tübingen) will highlight the neural circuits underlying approach-avoidance behavior to erotic stimuli in naturally cycling women and women taking oral contraceptives.

With this symposium we want to highlight the relevance of investigating sexual health in women and men, as this critical aspect of mental health has far reaching individual, societal and clinical consequences that by now, however, are only poorly understood.

* PhD students


Pornography consumption during Corona

Sarah Golder, Rudolf Stark

Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen, Deutschland

At the beginning of the Corona pandemic, Pornhub recorded an increase of pornography consumption between 4 % and 24 % in 27 countries. Patterns of online pornography use (OPU) seemed to be changing in terms of time and frequency. Possible explanations for this increase may be to cope with social isolation, to reduce boredom, and to regulate stress and negative emotions. Aims of this study were to examine longitudinal changes in time, frequency, and problematic consumption behaviors of OPU and how this relates to perceived stress levels.

Eighty subjects (55 women, 22 men, 3 diverse gender), primary students, answered questions about their OPU, problematic consumption behaviors (Problematic Pornography Consumption Scale, PPCS), and perceived stress (Perceived Stress Scale, PSS) at a two-month interval (T1/T2).

Men showed a significant increase of frequency but not in time of pornography consumption and on the PPCS subscale withdrawal. Women showed a significant decrease on the PPCS subscales salience and relapse. Stress level were unchanged and not related to OPU by men. By women Stress and frequency were correlated at T2. Stress at T1 were correlated with overall PPCS at T1 and T2 by women and PPCS subscales salience and mood modification at T2 by men.

Results indicate only a small change in patterns of OPU. Men seem to experience an increase in unpleasant feelings and emotional states when they cannot consume pornography. In contrast, PPC behaviors decreased in women. Stress seems to be related with changes of PPC by men and women.

The advantages of collaborative porn in heterosexual relationships

Katherine Hertlein

University of Nevada, Las Vegas

As the accessibility of pornography has increased through technological advances, the concern over the impact of sexually explicit media on intimate relationships has also increased. Past research has focused mainly on the negative impacts couples experience based on individual perceptions of their partner’s pornography use. Our study focuses on the effects of pornography viewing on individual relationship satisfaction, sexual satisfaction, trust, closeness, and communication after watching pornography together over 8 weeks of time. Findings of both the quantitative and qualitative data revealed collaborative pornography viewing had a positive effect in many areas of the participants’ lives. Specifically, in the quantitative portion, we tested the perception of individual relationship satisfaction, sexual satisfaction, trust, closeness, and communication after watching pornography together for in 28-minute segments once a week for eight weeks. We found that couples who watched collaborative pornography reported increased trust, relationship satisfaction, sexual satisfaction, and improved communication. Qualitative results revealed that participation in the study enabled practice in negotiation, relationship, normalized pornography viewing in their relationship, created a boundary around the couple, and increased conversations. Implications and future directions are discussed.

The impact of negative mood on event-related potentials when viewing pornographic pictures

Jana Strahler, Simon Koch, Andreas M. Baranowski, Rudolf Stark, Charlotte Markert

Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen, Deutschland

Negative affective states may increase the risk for problematic pornography use. Underlying neurophysiological mechanisms are, however, not completely understood. The aim of this study was to investigate neural correlates of negative affect-induced alterations in sexual cue reactivity in healthy men. The moderating effects of trait sexual motivation and symptoms of cybersex addiction were also examined.

Sixty-four men engaged in a sexual cue reactivity task (passive viewing of explicit sexual pictures and neutral pictures depicting scenes of social interaction) in negative or neutral mood, induced via tailored feedback on a performance task. Self-reported sexual arousal and event-related brain potentials indicated cue reactivity and motivated attention. The short Internet Addiction Test adapted to online sexual activities and the Trait Sexual Motivation Questionnaire were filled in.

Negative performance feedback increased negative affect. While sexual pictures compared to neutral pictures elicited significantly larger P300 and late positive potential (LPP) amplitudes, there was no general effect of negative feedback on P300/LPP amplitudes. In the negative feedback group, men with higher solitary sexual motivation levels showed higher P300/LPP difference amplitudes for sexual stimuli. The opposite effect was found in the neutral feedback group. There was no association with other sexual attitudes.

Results suggest that higher levels of solitary sexual motivation may enhance motivated attention towards sexual stimuli among men receiving negative performance feedback. Future studies extending onto men suffering from compulsive sexual behavior disorder will have to closer look at the neurophysiological basis of why and when some men develop an addictive pornography consumption.

Neural circuits underlying female sexual appetence: An integrative account.

Ann-Christin Kimmig1, Inger Sundström Poromaa2, Melanie Henes3, Sara Brucker3, Birgit Derntl1

1Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Tübingen, Germany; 2Women's and Children's Health, University of Uppsala, Sweden; 3Gynecology and Obstetrics, University of Tübingen, Germany

Sexual arousal is a fundamental and evolutionary important affective state. Next to sexual arousal, endogenous as well as exogenous sex hormones seem to also influence also other facets of female sexual behaviour such as sexual urge and mating preferences. The aim of this study was, to examine whether hormonal status also impacts female sexual appetence, operationalized as sexual arousal and approach-avoidance behaviour.

A total of 111 heterosexual women with varying hormone profiles (i.e. naturally cycling women in (1) the early follicular phase, n = 37, (2) the periovulatory phase, n = 28, and (3) women taking oral contraceptives (OC) during the active intake phase, n = 46) participated in a fMRI-based erotic approach avoidance task (AAT). The AAT contained images displaying couples in three different conditions: erotic, non-erotic positive and aversive. Next to the BOLD signal, other physiological measures such as heart rate and skin conductance as well as the behavioural responses were recorded.

Preliminary analysis of neural, physiological as well as behavioural correlates of sexual appetence and potential hormonal group differences will be presented. Next to their influence on mate preferences and sexual desire, hormone induced alterations (especially long-term as with OC use) in actual female sexual approach avoidance behaviour could have far reaching individual as well as societal consequences and underlines the importance of further investigation in this area of research.