Date of Award

1999

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Patricia J. Morokoff

Abstract

This study investigated predictors of sexual arousal to erotic, rape, and non-sexual violent videotaped stimuli in a sample of 82 undergraduate men. Questionnaire self-report measures of observed parental conflict, conflict tactics practiced in interpersonal relations, coercive sexual behavior, variety of sexual experiences, and frequency of using various forms of pornography, as well as a number of relevant demographic measures like fraternity affiliation, athletic participation, frequency of intercourse, and number of sexual partners, were assessed. These measures were used in analyses that tested relationships among these variables and determined group differences based on dichotomized classification of high and low scores.

Subsequently, in the experimental segment of the study, videotaped excerpts from commercial films were presented depicting images of erotica, rape, and non-sexual violence while participants provided a continuous lever-adjusted rating of their perceived sexual arousal and simultaneous continuous physiological measurements were recorded of their penile tumescence.

Statistical analyses confirmed the prediction of association between observed aggression and violence and practiced aggression and violence, especially at higher levels. In terms of coercive sexual behavior, one man in five admitted using such tactics to gain sexual access to reluctant partners, and, in fact, this sample included a sizeable number of admitted rapists. When the particular order of presentation of the stimuli was examined, it seemed that prior exposure to both erotic and rape videos seriously degraded the participant's arousal to the violent video that followed. Arousal was most enhanced by prior exposure to the erotic video alone, but collectively, either order of presentation that began with the violent video, without any other sexual or sexually aggressive stimulus prime, resulted in the greatest arousal.

Sexual arousal to the rape stimulus was best predicted by the single element of athletic involvement, i.e., membership in varsity teams, especially football or basketball. For non-sexual violent images, the strongest combination of predictors for sexual arousal was the combination of being a varsity athlete, having observed more frequent severe violence between parents, and being younger than the average participant.

Implications are evident not only for rape prevention and batterers' programs, but also for the design of family intervention strategies.

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