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International Academy of Sex Research Presentations

Gender Similarities in Dual Control Model Processes: A Short Version of the Sexual Inhibition and Excitation Scales (SIS/SES-Short Form)

Carpenter, D.(1), Janssen, E. (2), Graham, C. A. (3,1),, Vorst, H. (4), & Wicherts, J. (4) (1) Department of Psychology, Christopher Newport University, Newport News, Virginia 23606 USA (email: deanna.carpenter@cnu.edu); (2) The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, Morrison Hall 313, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405 USA; (3) Oxford Doctoral Course in Clinical Psychology, Isis Education Centre, Warneford Hospital, Headington, Oxford, England OX3 7JX; (4) University of Amsterdam, Department of Psychology, Psychological Methodology, Roetersstraat 15, 1018wb Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The Sexual Inhibition/Sexual Excitation Scales (SIS/SES) consist of 45 items that assess individual propensities to become sexually aroused and to inhibit arousal. Prior research suggests that men’s and women’s data (Carpenter, Janssen, Graham, Vorst & Wicherts, under review) share a similar factor structure featuring one excitation factor (SES) and two inhibitory factors (SIS1/Threat of Performance Failure, and SIS2/Threat of Performance Consequences.) However, women tended to score higher on sexual inhibition and lower on sexual excitation compared with men, and individual SIS/SES items showed differential relevance to men’s and women’s arousal. To examine gender similarities in arousal themes, a series of confirmatory factor analyses (CFAs) were used to identify items that represented the three-factor structure equally well for women (N = 1067) and men (N = 978). Using a process of elimination, CFAs specifying equal factor loadings, residual variances, and item intercepts yielded a subset of 14 SIS/SES items with similar psychometric properties in men and women.

Correlations between the original and short form versions were equal for men and women for SES (r = +.90), SIS1 (r = +.80) and SIS2 (r = +.80), and scores on the two forms exhibited similar test-retest reliability and convergent/discriminant validity. For both men and women, SES and SIS2 showed the strongest associations with other sexuality-related measures, whereas men’s SES scores tended to show more pronounced relationships with general behavioral measures.

Themes of sexual inhibition represented on the short form SIS/SES include distraction, focus on sexual performance, and losing arousal easily (SIS1/Threat of Performance Failure), as well as the risk of getting caught during sexual activity or contracting an STD (SIS2/Threat of PerformanceConsequences.) Thematic differences were apparent in the items that were dropped when restrictions of gender invariance were applied. Inhibition items that were eliminated assessed concerns about pregnancy, pain, and pleasing a partner sexually. Most SES items retained on the shorter measure described arousal stemming from social interactions (e.g., “when an attractive person flirts with me, I easily become sexually aroused”), while items reflecting less relational activities (such as arousal in response to fantasy or sexually-explicit materials) were dropped.

Our analyses reveal themes of relevance to both men and women, but also suggest that some arousal themes may be less shared. The primary advantage of the 14-item SIS/SES is that it highlights shared themes in sexual inhibition and sexual excitation, which necessarily confers a limitation (e.g., it eliminates potentially important differences between men and women.) The short form SIS/SES is well-suited for research on gender similarities in sexuality. Depending on the project at hand, the longer 45-item measure may be preferred, particularly when participants are only male or only female.

It is unclear at this point whether modifying the format of the SIS/SES would result in a solution that explains sexual excitation and inhibition in men and women both fully and equally. More research is needed on the validity of the SIS/SES (both versions) versus other measures, such as the Sexual Excitation/Sexual Inhibition Inventory for Women (SESII-W) reported by Graham, Sanders & Milhausen, 2006. Factor analyses on combined data might reveal (sub)scales that are more relevant to women, scales that are more relevant to men, and scales that are equally relevant to men and women.

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