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Friday, February 19, 2010

"You need only reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the struggle for independence." - Charles Austin Beard


The Heat of the Moment: The Effect of Sexual Arousal on Sexual Decision Making

"We examine the effect of sexual arousal in young male adults on three aspects of judgment and choice: (1) their preferences for a wide range of sexual stimuli and activities, (2) their willingness to engage in morally questionable behaviors in order to obtain sexual gratification, and (3) their willingness to engage in unsafe sex when sexually aroused...

Prior research has shown that sexual motivation can distort judgments of the risk of contracting sexually transmitted disease, and that it leads to steeper time discounting in males...

People who were not aroused would underestimate the influence of emotional arousal on their preferences and decisions...

The set of questions that asked subjects to evaluate the attractiveness of different sexual stimuli and activities included questions about the attractiveness of women’s shoes, a 12-year-old girl, an animal, a 40-, 50-, and 60-year-old-woman, a man, an extremely fat person, a hated person, a threesome including a man, a woman who was sweating, cigarette smoke, getting tied up by their sexual partner, tying up their sexual partner, a woman urinating, getting spanked by a woman, spanking a woman, anal sex, contacts with animals, having sex with the lights on, and reactions to ‘‘just’’ kissing.

The set of questions that asked subjects to assess the lengths they would go to procure sex included questions about whether they would encourage a date to drink, slip her a drug, take her to a fancy restaurant or tell her they loved her (when they in fact did not), in all cases with the goal of having sex, and also whether they would try to have sex even after the person they were dating said ‘‘no.’...

Questions on the attractiveness of different activities:

Are women’s shoes erotic?
Can you imagine being attracted to a 12-year-old girl?
Can you imagine having sex with a 40-year-old woman?
Can you imagine having sex with a 50-year-old woman?
Can you imagine having sex with a 60-year-old woman?
Can you imagine having sex with a man?
Could it be fun to have sex with someone who was extremely fat?
Could you enjoy having sex with someone you hated?
If you were attracted to a woman and she proposed a threesome with a
man, would you do it?
Is a woman sexy when she’s sweating?
Is the smell of cigarette smoke arousing?
Would it be fun to get tied up by your sexual partner?
Would it be fun to tie up your sexual partner?
Would it be fun to watch an attractive woman urinating?
Would you find it exciting to spank your sexual partner?
Would you find it exciting to get spanked by an attractive woman?
Would you find it exciting to have anal sex?
Can you imagine getting sexually excited by contact with an animal?
Do you prefer to have sex with the light on?
Is just kissing frustrating?

... only one activity (Do you prefer to have sex with the light on?) was viewed as less appealing by those in the arousal condition than by those in the non-aroused condition, though not significantly so (p = 0.46). One activity (Can you imagine having sex with a man?) was viewed as more appealing, but not significantly so (p = 0.14) by those who were aroused, and one question was only marginally significant (Would you find it exciting to spank your sexual partner? p = 0.1). The remaining 16 questions were all significantly different in the predicted direction...

Different questions on the likelihood to engage in immoral ‘‘date-rape’’ like behaviors:

Would you take a date to a fancy restaurant to increase your chance of
having sex with her?
Would you tell a woman that you loved her to increase the chance that
she would have sex with you?
Would you encourage your date to drink to increase the chance that she
would have sex with you?
Would you keep trying to have sex after your date says ‘‘no.’’
Would you slip a woman a drug to increase the chance that she would
have sex with you?

... All five individual questions were statistically significant in the expected direction...

There were no differences between the aroused and nonaroused treatments for the four questions dealing with the perceived efficacy of coitus-interruptus, acknowledgment that a friend can transmit STDs, trusting someone they have just met, and assigning responsibility... for birth control to women (which was marginally significant). Answers to all four questions dealing with condoms were, however, strongly influenced by sexual arousal...

Like other drive-states, and also somewhat analogous to the effects of alcohol, sexual arousal seems to narrow the focus of motivation, creating a kind of tunnel-vision where goals other than sexual fulfilment become eclipsed by the motivation to have sex...

Any failure to appreciate the impact of sexual arousal on one’s own behavior is likely to lead to inadequate measures to avoid such situations. Similarly, if people under-appreciate their own likelihood of having sex, they are likely to fail to take precautions to limit the potential damage from such encounters. A teenager who embraces ‘‘just say no,’’ for example, may feel it unnecessary to bring a condom on a date, thus greatly increasing the likelihood of pregnancy or transmission of STDs if he/she ends up getting caught up in the heat of the moment.

The same logic applies interpersonally. If people judge others’ likely behavior based on observing them when they are not sexually aroused, and fail to appreciate the impact of sexual arousal, then they are likely to be caught by surprise by the other’s behavior when aroused. Such a pattern could easily contribute to daterape. Indeed, it can create the perverse situation in which people who are the least attracted to their dates are most likely to experience date-rape because being unaroused themselves they completely fail to understand or predict the other (aroused) person’s behavior.

At a social level the failure to appreciate the influence of sexual arousal when one is unaroused can have diverse consequences. For example, judges and jurors, who are generally unaroused when making decisions of guilt and punishment, may be excessively condemnatory and punitive toward sexual offenders because they make their decisions in a sexually unaroused state and fail to appreciate how intense sexual arousal would alter even their own decision making in potentially compromising circumstances. The result is that decisions will be stigmatized as immoral misbehavior even by people who would themselves make the same choice when in an aroused state. It should be clear that such effects of arousal cannot justify any sexual exploitation, but they can make such behaviors somewhat more understandable. From the perspective of the legal system it is possible that sexual arousal should be given more credit as a partially mitigating factor than it would normally receive. Moreover, understanding these effects can help guide individuals (sex offenders for example) such that they will be less likely to sexually exploit or re-exploit. Finally, as alluded to in the discussion of individual decision making, the failure to appreciate sexual arousal by those who are not themselves immediately aroused can also help to explain the enactment of misguided and ineffective policies such as ‘‘just say no’’, leaving young adults unprepared to limit the potential damage from their own behavior in the heat of the moment.

As an initial investigation into the effect of sexual arousal on judgment and decision making, our study inevitably suffers from serious limitations. For example, it is important to note that we did not observe actual behavior. It is therefore possible that the effect of sexual arousal was not to change the desirability of different actions and activities, but to make respondents more willing to admit to their feelings...

The study focused only on men, so it is possible that the observed effects do not generalize to women. Baumeister, Catanese, and Vohs (2001) concluded from multiple sources of evidence that the male sex drive is more intense and uncompromising than the female, and it is at least, in principle, possible that the lesser intensity of the female sex drive entails that women would not be (or not as much) affected by sexual arousal in their decisions...

Given the politically and socially charged nature of sex, research on the topic is inherently difficult, so compromises are unavoidable...

At a practical level, our results suggest that efforts to promote safe, ethical sex should concentrate on preparing people to deal with the ‘‘heat of the moment’’ or to avoid it when it is likely to lead to self-destructive behavior. Efforts at self-control that involve raw willpower are likely to be ineffective in the face of the dramatic cognitive and motivational changes caused by arousal."

Bringing a date to a fancy restaurant and telling a woman you love her when you don't are "date-rape" like behaviors?!

I wonder what the results for women would be.

Keywords: horny unable to think, morals, ethics, men hornier endorse behaviors, aroused have different standards, heat of the moment, lower threshold, lower thresholds
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