Archives of Sexual Behavior

October 1995, Volume 24, Issue 5, pp 517–541

Ellen Laan, Walter Everaerd,

DOI: 10.1007/BF01541832

Laan, E. & Everaerd, W. Arch Sex Behav (1995) 24: 517. doi:10.1007/BF01541832


The habituation of genital and subjective sexual arousal in women was assessed. In a first experiment 32 women were randomly assigned to either a constant stimulus condition in which subjects were exposed to the same erotic slide on repeated trials within one session, or to a varied stimuli condition in which subjects were exposed to various erotic slides. A second experiment assessed habituation of sexual responses of 42 women to erotic film excerpts. In both experiments repeated erotic stimulation was followed by a novel erotic stimulus to study the effect of novel simulation to a sequence of uniform stimulation. In the first experiment a floor effect was found in response to the first three trials that prevented a valid interpretation of responding on subsequent trials.

We conclude that slides yield too little sexual arousal in female subjects. In the second experiment only a slight decline in genital responding was observed. Women sustained considerable levels of genital arousal even after 21 trials of uniform stimulation. Facial EMG was used as a physiological marker of emotional experience. Zygomatic activity decreased over trials, suggesting decreasing positive affect as a result of uniform stimulation. Results are discussed in the context of selective attention, characteristics of the habituation stimulus, and novelty.