Creating Sexual Deviance: A Controlled Laboratory Experiment

EE Schippers

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractAcademic


The Incentive Motivational Model (IMM; Smid & Wever, 2018) describes sexual arousal as an emotional reaction to a competent stimulus, comparable to other emotions. The interaction between this sexual emotion and other emotions may, consciously or automatically, serve as a means of emotional or sexual self-regulation. In one direction, sex may be used to influence other emotional states (i.e. sexual coping). In the other direction, other emotions may be used to influence sexual arousal. According to the model, deviant sexual interests may arise from the need to enhance sexual arousal by means of other emotional stimuli, a process referred to as “excitation transfer” (Barlow, 1983; Zillmann, 1996). This proposed mechanism of excitation transfer was researched in a feasibility- and a pilot study. In the feasibility study, we explored which settings are optimal to induce genital and emotional responses in healthy subjects in a laboratory setting. Subsequently, in the pilot study, we assessed whether it is possible to enhance low-level genital sexual arousal in men by simultaneously inducing other emotions. The sample consisted of healthy male volunteers (age 18-40): 10 participated in the feasibility study and (currently) 10 have participated in the pilot study1. Subjects viewed neutral film clips and film clips inducing four different emotions: aggression/dominance, fear, disgust and endearment. Genital arousal was induced by erotic film clips and vibro-stimulation and was assessed by penile circumference as well as by subjective ratings. The feasibility study served to approximate the optimal experimental settings. Difference scores will be calculated between participants’ baseline penile circumference and penile response to the stimuli. These difference scores will be compared across blocks (neutral, fear, disgust, aggression, endearment). Preliminary results indicate that enhanced reactions can be measured when watching emotional film clips as opposed to watching a neutral film fragment. If the pilot study further supports these findings, this will pave the way for a larger scale investigation of excitation transfer as a meaningful mechanism in the etiology of deviant sexual interests. References Barlow, D. H., Sakheim, D. K., & Beck, J. G. (1983). Anxiety increases sexual arousal. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 92(1), 49–54. Smid, W. J., & Wever, E. C. (2018). Mixed emotions: an incentive motivational model of sexual deviance. Sexual Abuse. Advance online publication. doi: 1079063218775972.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 6 Nov 2019
EventAnnual Research And Treatment Conference sponsored by the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers - Hyatt Regency Atlanta, Atlanta, United States
Duration: 6 Nov 20199 Nov 2019
Conference number: 38


ConferenceAnnual Research And Treatment Conference sponsored by the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers
Abbreviated titleATSA Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address

Cite this