Hypersexuality does not appear to be associated with sexual responsivity and does not appear to be influenced by mood, according to a new study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
The World Health Organization lists compulsive sexual behavior disorder, a related concept, as an impulse control problem that is “characterized by a persistent pattern of failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges resulting in repetitive sexual behavior.” But the new findings raise questions about the nature of hypersexuality.
“Men who are hypersexual have been described as using sexual behaviors to manage their negative emotions. If true, then we expected men who have ‘hypersexual disorder’ would respond with more sexual arousal, measured as erectile responses in the laboratory, when in a negative mood,” explained study authors Nicole Prause of Liberos Research and Erick Janssen of the University of Leuven.
The researchers recruited 211 men, and 81 participants were determined to fit the criteria for hypersexuality following clinical interviews. The participants watched neutral, sexual, anxiety-inducing, and sadness-inducing video clips from documentaries and commercial movies as their genital responses were objectively measured using penile strain gauges. Following each clip, the participants reported their mood and subjective sexual arousal.
But the researchers observed no significant difference between hypersexual and non-hypersexual men when it came to their genital response or subjective sexual arousal. In other words, hypersexual men were not more likely to become erect than the control group. Mood also appeared to play no role.
“Men who were diagnosed as hypersexual did not respond with more sexual arousal to sexual films when in a negative mood than men not diagnosed as hypersexual. They also didn’t become more sexually aroused in general,” the researchers told PsyPost.
“Also, the amount of pornography that the men viewed was not related to their sexual arousal in response to the sexual films. This does not mean that these men are not struggling or deserving of help, but the nature of their problem might be very different than proposed diagnoses like ‘sexual compulsivity’ suggest.”
The main predictor of genital responses was how the participants responded on a sexual inhibition/excitation questionnaire, which asked how much they agreed or disagreed with statements such as “When an attractive person flirts with me, I easily become sexually aroused.”
“Men who had higher scores on sexual excitation had a stronger erectile response to the sexual films than men with lower scores. So, sexual excitability was a better predictor of sexual arousal in the laboratory than the diagnosis of hypersexuality or porn use,” Prause and Janssen explained.
The findings are in line with a previous study that found neural reactivity to sexual images was not related to hypersexuality but was instead associated with levels of sexual desire.
But the new study — like all research — includes some limitations. It could be, for instance, that hypersexual men respond differently outside of a laboratory setting.
“It may be that hypersexual men would respond with more sexual arousal to different types of sexual films, or that they would only show greater sexual arousal when they are with an actual sexual partner,” Prause and Janssen said.
The study, “Sexual Responsivity and the Effects of Negative Mood on Sexual Arousal in Hypersexual Men Who Have Sex With Men (MSM)“, was authored by Erick Janssen, Nicole Prause, Rebecca Swinburne Romine, Nancy Raymond, Angus MacDonald III, Eli Coleman, and Michael H. Miner.