Lecture Hopping: Sex Hum

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Sara Maria Hasbun reports on a lecture that’s very…stimulating.

dsfAbout 75 years ago, Alfred Kinsey got tired of gall wasps and moved on to the mating habits of humans. To the horror and disgust of the American public (who simultaneously snatched his books from shelves, although they’d never admit it), he essentially created the academic discipline of sexology.

These days, Dr. Erick Janssen, director of education and research training at the Kinsey Institute at the Indiana University, continues that research with a far less secretive fan base. Today, during an afternoon colloquium hosted by the Barnard Psychology department, Janssen and his sexy subject matter packed the Sulzberger North Tower conference room with undergraduates, graduate students, and psychology faculty alike. His talk, “In the heat of the moment: The effects of mood and sexual excitation/inhibition on sexual interest, arousal, and risk taking”, gave an overview of the Kinsey Institute, plugged the film “Kinsey”, (in which you can not only watch sexual behavior in action, but see how you stack up with a sexual behavior survey!) along with his own research.

Janssen and the Kinsey Institute have put together what they call a “dual control model” which they use to analyze behavior based on the hypothesis that sexual arousal and sexual behaviors depend on competing traits (or states) of inhibition and arousal. By measuring how individuals score on questionnaires that measure propensity for inhibition and arousal, Janssen has been able to investigate how these traits lead to individual differences in risky sexual behavior (instead of just risky behavior, which is more commonly studied).

Most recently, Janssen conducted a study in which he showed movies designed to elicit certain emotions — “The Natural” for a feel-good time, “Silence of the Lambs” for anxiety, and “Sophie’s Choice” for depression. Then he showed the participants information on a new (fake) drug, supposedly designed to enhance the sexual experience, but with a few possible side effects (“body rashes, etc”). Subjects took the drug at varying dosages — the higher the dose, the better the trip, and the worse the risk of side effects. Surprisingly enough, Janssen found that the group of men who had reported low inhibition and were shown the depressing film were significantly more likely to jump for the high-payoff, high-risk option — significantly more than the other low-inhibitioners who had watched the other movies. (Weirder still, a high number of women who were shown “Silence of the Lambs” also opted for the better sex/ skin rash.)

He concludes: negative emotions, combined with a tendency towards low-inhibition, can lead to heat-of-the-moment risky decisions just as much as positive, high-arousal situations. So the next time you drink to your misery and stumble off in search of unsafe sex, think twice — will you really be able to blame your bar tab in the morning?



1 Comment

  1. yang  

    It puts the lotion on its skin?

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