Sexual Excitation and Sexual Inhibition in the Context of Sexual Risk-Taking

J Sex Res. 2021 May-Jun;58(5):671-680. doi: 10.1080/00224499.2020.1776820. Epub 2020 Jun 30.


The current study examined the roles of sexual excitation and sexual inhibition in the context of sexual risk-taking among heterosexual women and men to better understand the link between sexual arousal and sexual risk-taking. We set out to determine which factors in the Sexual Excitation and Sexual Inhibition Inventory for women and men (SESII-W/M) were most predictive of sexual response and sexual risk-taking behavior. Participants (N = 266, women = 166) completed the SESII-W/M instrument and responded to items assessing their sexual risk-taking intentions and their risk-taking indicators. A sub-sample (n = 133, women = 83) also completed a sexual arousal manipulation. Sexual excitation was linked with higher levels of self-reported sexual arousal (among women and men) and greater risk-taking intentions (among women only). However, controlling for gender, sexual inhibition was a better predictor of sexual risk-taking intentions, compared to sexual excitation. The Dual Control Model offers unique insights into conceptualizations of sexual response to erotic stimuli and behavioral risk-taking. These findings can inform more effective interventions to promote risk reduction through sex positive approaches that capitalize on the pleasure enhancing capabilities of safer sex strategies.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychometrics
  • Risk-Taking
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires