We so often hear the assertion, “women are more complicated than men” that it sounds like a tired cliché. But whether the statement is generally true or not, a decent amount of research is proving it right on when it comes to sex.
Case in point, a new study in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior investigated how in-sync women’s and men’s minds and bodies are in a state of sexual arousal. The study authors reviewed 134 studies, published between 1969 and 2007, which measured the degree of agreement between subjective experiences of sexual arousal and physiological genital responses. Overall, the studies reviewed data collected from over 2,500 women and 1,900 men.
Participants indicated how aroused they felt during or after they were exposed to a variety of sexual stimuli, called subjective arousal. Researchers measured the physiological responses to the sexual stimuli using different methods, including changes in erection for men and changes in genital blood flow for women.
Here’s what they found: For the male participants, the subjective ratings closely matched the physiological readings, indicating that men’s minds and nether parts were in agreement.
For the women, responses of the mind and genitals were not so closely aligned. The readings from the physiological measurements and their subjective ratings were at times significantly different.
So the researchers looked at factors that might explain the differences. First they examined the type of sexual stimuli (such as visual vs. auditory, and different kinds of sexual content), and found that whatever type of stimuli was used, it made no difference in the subjective and physiological responses of men.
For women, however, it made a big difference. The greater the range of sexual stimuli for women—in both content and form—the more agreement was found between subjective and physiological responses. In other words, it took much more sexual variety to get women’s bodies and minds synced up
Researchers also examined the effect of timing of sexual stimuli on responses, and found that when participants were asked to rate their subjective arousal at the end of each stimulus, men’s responses were closer to one another than women’s. But when both men and women were asked to rate their arousal while they were being stimulated, the gender differences disappeared. Men became just as “un-synced” as women.
What does this tell us? Overall, men are a lot easier to figure out when it comes to getting aroused. When a man is exposed to sexual stimuli—any sort of sexual stimuli—what he says he thinks about it pretty much mirrors what’s going on with his body.
For women, not necessarily so. Much more variety is needed to get the female mind and body on the same page when it comes to arousal.
So the old stereotype that men “think” with their engorgements is partially true, although it might be truer to say that men’s minds and units are just really, really simpatico.