Presentation Title

Spectatoring Mediates Associations Between Penis Appearance Concerns and Sexual Arousal Difficulties

Project Collaborators

David C. de Jong, Christopher J. Holden, Alessandra Rellini

Abstract

Frequent and satisfying sex is good for relationships, and sexual difficulties and dissatisfaction contribute to breakups and divorce(Galisky & Waite, 2013). Men with penis appearance concerns (i.e., that one’s penis is too small or inadequate) are especially at risk of experiencing sexual difficulties (i.e., problems with erection and orgasm; Veale et al., 2015). The purpose of this study was to understand the processes explaining why men with penis appearance concerns experience sexual difficulties.

Theories of sexual arousal illustrate how attention is central to the facilitation of arousal and orgasm. Attention directed towards positive sexual stimuli is a fundamental component of the Information Processing Model of Sexual Arousal (Janssen et al., 2000). Primarily, stimuli in one’s environment are appraised for sexual or non-sexual through cognitive processes that pair stimuli with implicit and explicit memories encoded by past experiences (Janssen et al., 2000). If a stimulus is appraised as sexual, physiological sexual arousal (e.g., erection) may occur (Janssen et al., 2000). Attentional focus then acts as a spotlight (Gopher and Iani, 2003) bringing the sexual meanings and physiological responses out of the peripheral and into one’s conscious awareness.

However, attentional processing of non-sexual meanings or negative emotional stimuli results in cognitive interference that disrupts the processing of erotic cues, and in turn, impedes sexual arousal (Barlow, 1986; Wiegel, Scepkowski, & Barlow, 2007). Spectatoring, a form of cognitive fixation on self-perceptions during sex, focuses one’s attention on negative self-focused information, and impedes arousal and orgasm (Masters & Johnson, 1970; van Lankveld et al., 2008). In other words, during sex, a man may experience feelings of embarrassment due to perceiving his penis as unattractive or inadequate, become increasingly aware of his behaviors, autonomic arousal responses, and performance during sex (van Lankveld et al., 2008), and in turn, experience problems with erection and orgasm.

The present study demonstrated that spectatoring is a pathway by which penis appearance concerns impact erectile and orgasmic function. Men in romantic relationships (N = 512, in predominantly mixed-gender relationships) reported on sex they had with their partner in the previous month. Multiple ordinary least-squares regressions were conducted with PROCESS model 4 (Hayes, 2017) using SPSS 20.0.0. to test our mediation hypotheses. Indirect effects were tested using 5,000 resampled bootstrap confidence intervals (95% CI). Indirect effects indicated that penis appearance concerns predicted greater spectatoring, and in turn predicted greater erectile and orgasmic difficulties. The current study contributes to a better clinical understanding of sexual difficulties among men with penis appearance concerns by suggesting that spectatoring is one mechanism by which concerns regarding the shape or size of one’s own penis increases the risk of sexual difficulties.

References

Barlow, D. H. (1986). Causes of sexual difficulties: The role of anxiety and cognitive interference. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 54(2), 140–148.

Galinsky, A.M., & Waite, L.J. (2013). Sexual activity and psychological health as mediators of the relationship between physical health and marital quality. Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 69, 482–492.

Gopher, D., & Iani, C. (2003). Attention. In L. Nadel (Ed.), Encyclopedia of cognitive science (pp. 220–226). New

York, NY: Nature Publication Group.

Hayes, A. F. (2017). Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford Press.

Janssen, E., Everaerd, W., Spiering, M., & Janssen, J. (2000). Automatic processes and the appraisal of sexual stimuli: Toward an information processing model of sexual arousal. The Journal of Sex Research, 37, 8-23.

Masters, W. H., & Johnson, V. E. (1970). Human sexual inadequacy. Boston, MA: Little, Brown.

van Lankveld, J. J. D. M., Geijen, W. E. H., & Sykora, H. (2008). The sexual self-consciousness scale: Psychometric properties. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 37, 925-933.

Veale, D., Miles, S., Read, J., Troglia, A., Wylie, K., & Muir, G. (2015). Sexual functioning and behavior of men with body dysmorphic disorder concerning penis size compared with men anxious about penis size with controls: A cohort study. Sexual Medicine, 3, 147-155.

Wiegel, M., Scepkowski, L. A., & Barlow, D. H. (2007). Cognitive-affective processes in sexual arousal and sexual difficulties. In E. Janssen (Ed.), The psychophysiology of sex (pp. 143-165). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Primary Faculty Mentor Name

Alessandra Rellini

Status

Graduate

Student College

College of Arts and Sciences

Program/Major

Psychological Science

Primary Research Category

Social Sciences

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Spectatoring Mediates Associations Between Penis Appearance Concerns and Sexual Arousal Difficulties

Frequent and satisfying sex is good for relationships, and sexual difficulties and dissatisfaction contribute to breakups and divorce(Galisky & Waite, 2013). Men with penis appearance concerns (i.e., that one’s penis is too small or inadequate) are especially at risk of experiencing sexual difficulties (i.e., problems with erection and orgasm; Veale et al., 2015). The purpose of this study was to understand the processes explaining why men with penis appearance concerns experience sexual difficulties.

Theories of sexual arousal illustrate how attention is central to the facilitation of arousal and orgasm. Attention directed towards positive sexual stimuli is a fundamental component of the Information Processing Model of Sexual Arousal (Janssen et al., 2000). Primarily, stimuli in one’s environment are appraised for sexual or non-sexual through cognitive processes that pair stimuli with implicit and explicit memories encoded by past experiences (Janssen et al., 2000). If a stimulus is appraised as sexual, physiological sexual arousal (e.g., erection) may occur (Janssen et al., 2000). Attentional focus then acts as a spotlight (Gopher and Iani, 2003) bringing the sexual meanings and physiological responses out of the peripheral and into one’s conscious awareness.

However, attentional processing of non-sexual meanings or negative emotional stimuli results in cognitive interference that disrupts the processing of erotic cues, and in turn, impedes sexual arousal (Barlow, 1986; Wiegel, Scepkowski, & Barlow, 2007). Spectatoring, a form of cognitive fixation on self-perceptions during sex, focuses one’s attention on negative self-focused information, and impedes arousal and orgasm (Masters & Johnson, 1970; van Lankveld et al., 2008). In other words, during sex, a man may experience feelings of embarrassment due to perceiving his penis as unattractive or inadequate, become increasingly aware of his behaviors, autonomic arousal responses, and performance during sex (van Lankveld et al., 2008), and in turn, experience problems with erection and orgasm.

The present study demonstrated that spectatoring is a pathway by which penis appearance concerns impact erectile and orgasmic function. Men in romantic relationships (N = 512, in predominantly mixed-gender relationships) reported on sex they had with their partner in the previous month. Multiple ordinary least-squares regressions were conducted with PROCESS model 4 (Hayes, 2017) using SPSS 20.0.0. to test our mediation hypotheses. Indirect effects were tested using 5,000 resampled bootstrap confidence intervals (95% CI). Indirect effects indicated that penis appearance concerns predicted greater spectatoring, and in turn predicted greater erectile and orgasmic difficulties. The current study contributes to a better clinical understanding of sexual difficulties among men with penis appearance concerns by suggesting that spectatoring is one mechanism by which concerns regarding the shape or size of one’s own penis increases the risk of sexual difficulties.

References

Barlow, D. H. (1986). Causes of sexual difficulties: The role of anxiety and cognitive interference. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 54(2), 140–148.

Galinsky, A.M., & Waite, L.J. (2013). Sexual activity and psychological health as mediators of the relationship between physical health and marital quality. Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 69, 482–492.

Gopher, D., & Iani, C. (2003). Attention. In L. Nadel (Ed.), Encyclopedia of cognitive science (pp. 220–226). New

York, NY: Nature Publication Group.

Hayes, A. F. (2017). Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford Press.

Janssen, E., Everaerd, W., Spiering, M., & Janssen, J. (2000). Automatic processes and the appraisal of sexual stimuli: Toward an information processing model of sexual arousal. The Journal of Sex Research, 37, 8-23.

Masters, W. H., & Johnson, V. E. (1970). Human sexual inadequacy. Boston, MA: Little, Brown.

van Lankveld, J. J. D. M., Geijen, W. E. H., & Sykora, H. (2008). The sexual self-consciousness scale: Psychometric properties. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 37, 925-933.

Veale, D., Miles, S., Read, J., Troglia, A., Wylie, K., & Muir, G. (2015). Sexual functioning and behavior of men with body dysmorphic disorder concerning penis size compared with men anxious about penis size with controls: A cohort study. Sexual Medicine, 3, 147-155.

Wiegel, M., Scepkowski, L. A., & Barlow, D. H. (2007). Cognitive-affective processes in sexual arousal and sexual difficulties. In E. Janssen (Ed.), The psychophysiology of sex (pp. 143-165). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.