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Idiosyncratic Heart Rate Response in Men during Sexual Arousal


David L. Rowland, PhD, Department of Psychology, Valparaiso University, Kretzmann Hall 116, 1700 Chapel Drive, Valparaiso, IN 46383-6493, USA. Tel: 219-464-5446; Fax: 219-464-5381; E-mail:


Introduction.  Heart rate, sensitive to sympathetic activation, is known to change during sexual arousal and therefore may be a useful tool for investigating psychosomatic differences between sexually functional and dysfunctional men. However, heart rate during arousal also tends to be highly variable across individual men, making its predictability based on group patterns relatively poor.

Aim.  We wanted to determine whether individual men show idiosyncratic heart rate patterns during sexual arousal, that is, whether they exhibit consistent patterns across similar (though not identical) stimulus situations.

Main Outcome Measure.  Agreement between heart rates under the two conditions, visual sexual stimulation (VSS) and VSS + vibrotactile (VIB), was assessed using the concordance correlation coefficient (CCC).

Methods.  Thirty-eight men, 25 of whom were diagnosed with premature ejaculation (PE), were monitored for penile response and heart rate under two similar (though not identical) conditions: a 9-minute erotic video (VSS), then a 9-minute erotic video combined with vibrotactile penile stimulation (VSS + VIB).

Results.  CCC for men with PE was 0.65; for the sexually functional comparison group, CCC was 0.82. For both groups combined, CCC was 0.71. For all groupings, the CCC was relatively high, indicating agreement in heart rate from one session to the next within individual men.

Conclusions.  Despite high intersubject variation in heart rate patterns, individual men show signature heart rates across similar sexual stimulus sessions. Such stereotypy helps explain previous inconsistent findings and may also serve as a marker for the effectiveness of treatments designed to improve ejaculatory control in men with PE. Rowland DL and Crawford SB. Idiosyncratic heart rate response in men during sexual arousal. J Sex Med 2011;8:1383–1389.