Increasing Neutral Distraction Inhibits Genital but not Subjective Sexual Arousal of Sexually Functional and Dysfunctional Men

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To assess the effects of distraction and level of erotic stimulation on physiological and subjective sexual arousal, sexually dysfunctional (n = 23) and functional (n = 26) men were studied. It was hypothesized from previous investigations that men with erectile dysfunction would show a different genital response pattern to distraction during sexual stimulation when compared with sexually functional men. Distraction load was manipulated through different verbal instructions about how to deal with pairs of random digits. Erotic stimulation level was manipulated through the selection of erotic video content. In both groups, increasing distraction was found to increasingly inhibit genital responding, but not to affect subjective arousal. Both physiological and subjective arousal were higher when erotic stimulation level was high. An interaction effect of distraction and erotic stimulation level was observed: the linear dose–response association that was found during high erotic stimulation was not found under low stimulation conditions, which may reflect a floor effect. The implications of the findings for the cognitive theory of sexual arousal disorder are discussed.

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