The Impact of Sexual Arousal and Emotion Regulation on Men's Sexual Aggression Proclivity

J Interpers Violence. 2022 Jan;37(1-2):NP264-NP280. doi: 10.1177/0886260520915544. Epub 2020 Apr 29.


Extant literature supports a relationship between sexual arousal and increased likelihood of sexually coercive behavior in men. The present study investigated the impact of sexual arousal on sexual coercion proclivity and the degree to which emotion regulation moderated this relationship in the context of two separate affect inductions. We predicted that sexual arousal would more strongly predict sexual coercion likelihood for men scoring lower on emotion regulation ability compared with men with above average emotion regulation abilities. Male participants with (n = 38) and without (n = 40) self-reported histories of sexual coercion were recruited from urban sexually transmitted infection testing clinics. Participants completed a measure of emotion regulation, underwent a positive and negative affect induction, viewed an erotic video, and reported on their level of sexual arousal immediately prior to completing a hypothetical sexual coercion likelihood laboratory task. Relationships between emotion regulation, sexual arousal, and sexual coercion likelihood were examined using moderation analyses. Sexual arousal was associated with greater reported sexual coercion likelihood. For men with poorer emotion regulation, sexual arousal significantly and positively predicted sexual coercion likelihood in the positive affect condition. Sexual arousal did not significantly predict sexual coercion for men with above average emotion regulation. Findings may have implications for the assessment of individual risk for coercive sexual behavior as well as primary prevention efforts.

Keywords: coercion; decision-making; emotion regulation; sexual aggression; sexual arousal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aggression
  • Coercion
  • Emotional Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Men
  • Sexual Arousal
  • Sexual Behavior