An experimental investigation of the impact of body image on subjective sexual arousal among sexually dysfunctional women
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. Based on research linking sexual difficulties to lower levels of body image, it has been suggested that physical appearance concerns may have a similar influence on sexual functioning in women as does men's self-awareness about erectile functioning. On the other hand, research has also shown that in some cases self awareness can improve sexual functioning among women. The role that physical appearance or awareness of one's body specifically may play in female sexual response has received little empirical attention. The aim of the current study was to examine the impact of body image on sexual arousal response to erotica among 48 women with Female Sexual Arousal Disorder (FSAD). Women were randomized to one of two Body Image conditions: Positive Body Image or Negative Body Image. Each woman participated in two sessions: Experimental and Control. In the experimental sessions, participants were asked to adopt and attend to their positive or negative body parts, and a full-length mirror was placed in front of them. Self-reported mental arousal, perceptions of physical arousal, body awareness, body image, anxiety, and cognitive distraction were assessed. Results showed that in the negative and positive experimental sessions, women experienced increased mental and perceptions of physical sexual arousal compared to the control session. Findings were mainly accounted for by levels of body image and body awareness. There were no differences in anxiety or cognitive distraction. Findings suggest that body image and body awareness, whether positive or negative, can result in increased subjective sexual arousal response.
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