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The Relationship Between Sexual Concordance and Interoception in Anxious and Nonanxious Women

Authors

  • Kelly D. Suschinsky PhD,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychology, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, AB, Canada
    • Corresponding Author: Kelly D. Suschinsky PhD, Department of Psychology, Queen's University, 62 Arch Street, Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7L 3N6. Tel: (613) 533-6000 (ext. 79495); Fax: (613) 533-2499; E-mail: kelly.suschinsky@queensu.ca

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    • Department of Psychology, Queen's University, Kingston, ON, Canada
  • Martin L. Lalumière PhD

    1. Department of Psychology, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, AB, Canada
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    • School of Psychology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada

  • The research was conducted while both authors were affiliated with the University of Lethbridge. Please see below for current affiliations for each author.

Abstract

Introduction

Sexual concordance refers to the association between physiological and self-reported sexual arousal. Women typically exhibit lower sexual concordance scores than men. There is also a sex difference in interoception—awareness of (nonsexual) physiological states or responses—such that women, compared with men, tend to be less aware of and less accurate at detecting changes in their physiological responses. Women with anxiety problems tend to have better interoceptive abilities than nonanxious women.

Aim

To investigate whether women's lower sexual concordance is associated with interoception using a sample likely to show high variation in interoceptive abilities.

Method

Sixteen anxious and 15 nonanxious women were presented with twelve 90 seconds sexual and nonsexual film clips while their genital response, heart rate, and respiration rate were measured. A heartbeat mental tracking task was also employed.

Main Outcome Measures

Genital response was measured with a vaginal photoplethysmograph. Heart rate was measured with an electrocardiogram and respiration rate with a thermistor. Participants estimated their physiological responses after each film. A mental tracking task was also used to assess participants' awareness of heart rate. Within-subject correlations were computed for each physiological/self-reported response combination.

Results

Overall, sexual concordance (i.e., the correlation between genital responses and perceptions of genital response) was not significantly associated with heart rate awareness or respiration rate awareness. Anxious women did not exhibit significantly higher sexual concordance or heart rate awareness than nonanxious women; the nonanxious women actually exhibited higher respiration rate awareness.

Conclusion

The results suggest that sexual concordance may be a distinct phenomenon from interoception and in need of its own explanation. Suschinsky KD and Lalumière ML. The relationship between Sexual concordance and interoception in anxious and nonanxious women. J Sex Med 2014;11:942–955.

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