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Keywords:

  • Sexual Function;
  • Self-Awareness;
  • Spectatoring;
  • Vaginal Photoplethysmograph;
  • Cognitive Interference;
  • Body Image

ABSTRACT

Introduction.  The impact of self-awareness during sexual activity has been widely discussed. However, research has been largely focused on the effects of performance anxiety in male erectile functioning. It has been suggested that physical appearance concerns may have a similar influence on sexual function in women as does men's self-awareness about erectile function. However, the role that physical appearance or awareness of one's body may play in female sexual response has received little empiric attention.

Aim.  To examine the effects of body awareness and self-report levels of body esteem on sexual response in 21 sexually dysfunctional women.

Methods.  Body awareness was induced in one of two counterbalanced sessions. A full-length mirror was placed in front of participants throughout the experimental session, and participants were instructed to use the mirror to place 10 electrodes on each side of their bodies to prepare for a possible electrocardiogram. This methodology was used to ensure that women looked at themselves in the mirror and became more aware of their bodies during the experimental session.

Main Outcome Measures.  Self-reported mental arousal, perceptions of physical arousal, physiological sexual arousal, affect, anxiety, and cognitive distraction responses to erotica.

Results.  Results showed that subjective mental sexual arousal and perceptions of physical sexual arousal increased in response to erotica in the Body Awareness condition compared to in the No Body Awareness condition. These results were not accounted for by level of body esteem. There were no changes in physiological sexual arousal, affect, anxiety, or level of cognitive distraction across the two conditions.

Conclusions.  Findings suggest that awareness of one's body is related to increased subjective sexual response in conditions where cognitive distraction does not occur. It is particularly noteworthy that the current sample was made up of sexually dysfunctional women, all of whom had relatively low body image. Seal BN, and Meston CM. The impact of body awareness on sexual arousal in women with sexual dysfunction. J Sex Med 2007;4:990–1000.