Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Alessandra Rellini

Second Advisor

Christine Velez


Sexual arousal problems remain prevalent for many men despite the availability of medications such as phosphodiesterase type 5 (PED5) inhibitors used to treat sexual dysfunction. Theoretical models that attempt to explain the underlying psychological mechanisms of sexual dysfunction highlight the important role of attention during sexual arousal (e.g., Barlow, 1986; Janssen, Everaerd, Spiering, & Janssen, 2000), but fail to integrate a contemporary understanding of attentional processes (i.e., preattentive and selective; Broadbent, 1958, Driver, 2007; Triesman, 1969) to explain why individuals with and without sexual arousal problems direct their attention toward or away from a given stimuli during sex. Moreover, these models do not integrate findings that emotional facial expressions produced by one’s partner may be stimuli to be appraised during sex, and in turn facilitate or inhibit sexual arousal (Rupp & Wallen, 2009; Rupp & Wallen, 2009). The following study aimed to address two main gaps in the literature using a two-part study design which examined 1) whether men with and without sexual arousal difficulties process different stimuli at the preattentive level of attention using a dot probe priming task, and 2) whether men with and without sexual arousal difficulties interpret emotional facial expressions differently in sexual situations. Hypotheses for Part I and Part II of the study were partially supported in that participants responded faster to dot probes which proceeded sexual targets and reported greater pleasure in orgasm faces that proceeded sexual stimuli. In turn, this study adds to the extant literature on sexual arousal problems by evaluating whether discrepancies in the processing of sexual stimuli exist at different levels of attention for men with and without sexual arousal difficulties.



Number of Pages

74 p.