Research

Below are summaries of some of our ongoing and previous research studies. Visit our Study Participation Information page for details on becoming a participant in our research. Thank you for your interest!

Ongoing Research

The In Touch Study

Over the past ten years, there has been a dramatic increase in research examining the interpersonal and relational predictors of sexual satisfaction, with findings illuminating the primacy of relationships for sexual well-being. Despite an increasingly dyadic research approach within the field, nothing is yet known about the role of interpersonal autonomic responding between partners during sexual activity. This gap is notable, as there is a robust body of research suggesting that physiological synchrony—or, dynamic, reciprocal exchanges across biological systems resulting in interpersonal psychophysiological covariation—is strongly implicated in relational satisfaction and distress. Moreover, emerging research has extended these findings to sexual relationships, finding that sexual satisfaction moderates the magnitude of physiological synchrony observed between heterosexual partners in a non-sexual, laboratory-based context. Taken together, there is theoretical and empirical evidence to suggest that psychophysiological attunement between partners may be relevant for their sexual relationship. Building upon these data, the current project seeks to examine the role of physiological synchrony in sexual satisfaction in a more ecologically valid context: at-home, during sexual activity. The aims of the current project include: (1) illuminating whether physiological synchrony manifests between partners during sexual activity, (2) examining whether the magnitude of the observed synchrony is stronger during sexual activity than during non-sexual interactions, and finally (3) interrogating the role of sexual satisfaction in the strength of physiological synchrony observed. It is my hope that these results may illuminate a candidate mechanism for variation in couple-level sexual satisfaction and, to that end, may provide rationale for future treatment development research utilizing psychophysiological attunement to optimize dyadic sexual outcomes.

Learn more about this study and participate by contacting Bridget Freihart at mestonlab@utexas.edu.

The Title IX Study

In the United States, employees of federally funded universities are mandated to report knowledge of any nonconsensual sexual experiences (NSEs) to their universities under Title IX. The few studies to date that have assessed students’ opinions or likelihood of disclosing sexual violence to someone at their university under these policies returned mixed results, with students who have never experienced an NSE saying they would be more likely to report under these policies while students with a history of NSEs report being less likely. The NSE literature also indicates that people with NSE histories are less likely to disclose sexual violence with mandatory reporting (MR) policies in place. Additionally, there are discrepancies in likelihood to disclose even without the presence of MR policy; people who do not identify their NSEs with sexual violence terms (e.g. rape) are less likely to disclose their experience than people who do use those terms. Additionally, the circumstances and the perpetrator of the NSE have also been shown to influence the survivor’s likelihood of reporting their experience.

Using descriptive vignettes, the current study aims to (1) evaluate students’ likelihood of reporting to someone at the university by introducing a manipulation of the presence of MR policies while (2) evaluating how NSE identification rather than just NSE history impacts that likelihood. Approximately 200 undergraduate students at UT Austin were randomized into two groups, one was given language indicating the presence of MR policies and the other was given language about confidential reporting. Each student was then given four gender-neutral vignettes, two describing penetrative assault and two non-penetrative assault with alternating professor and student perpetrators. Each vignette was followed by questions adapted from Newins and White (2018) asking the participant how likely they would be to tell a professor at the university if they were the student in the vignette. Students also completed the Non- Consensual Sexual Experiences Inventory to assess NSE history and identification (NSEI; Kilimnik, Boyd, Stanton, & Meston, 2018). It is hypothesized that the presence of mandatory reporting will increase disclosure likelihood in people without a history of NSE and decrease likelihood in Identifiers and Non-Identifiers respectively. It is also anticipated that reporting likelihood will be moderated by perpetrator type, with all participants being more likely to report with a professor as the perpetrator rather than a student.

Previous Research

Physiological Studies on Sexual Function

The Sympathetic Nervous System and Women’s Sexual Arousal

Heart Rate Variability and Sexual Arousal

Anxiety and Sexual Arousal 

Hysterectomy and Sexual Arousal

Nicotine and Sexual Arousal

Serotonin and Sexual Function

Dopamine, Norepinephrine, and Sexual Arousal

Testosterone and Sexual Arousal

Oxytocin and Monogamy

Psychological Studies on Sexual Function

Sexual Motivation

Self-Focused Attention and Sexual Arousal

Expectancies and Sexual Arousal

Social Desirability Influences on Self-Reported Sexuality

Depression and Sexual Functioning

Excitation Transfer and Sexual Attraction

Ethnic Influences on Sexuality

Religion and Sexuality

Sexual Impairments and Subjective Sexual Well-Being

Recreational Erectile Dysfunction Medication Use in Male Undergraduates

Studies on The Relationship Between Physiological and Psychological Sexual Arousal in Women

The Relationship Between Physiological and Psychological Sexual Arousal in Women

Treatment Outcome Studies for Sexual Dysfunction

A Treatment-Outcome Study for Sexually Dysfunctional Women with a History of Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA)

Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback for Women with Female Sexual Arousal Disorder

Exercise for Antidepressant-Induced Sexual Side Effects

L-arginine Gultamate Plus Yohimbine For Female Sexual Arousal Disorder in Post-menopausal Women

Gingko Biloba Extract for Female Sexual Arousal Disorder

The Role of Placebo in the Treatment of Female Sexual Dysfunction

Effects of Smoking Cessation on Sexual Health in Men

Studies on the Sexual Consequences of Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA)

Cognitive Studies in Women with CSA Histories

Studies on the Sexual Self-Schema of Women with CSA Histories

Studies on Sympathetic Nervous System Activation Among CSA Survivors

Research on Body Image and Esteem Among CSA Survivors

Research on Identification as an Abuse Survivor

Questionnaire Development

The Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI)

The Sexual Satisfaction Scale for Women (SSS-W)

The Sexual Satisfaction Scale for Men (SSS-M)

The Cues for Sexual Desire Scale (CSDS)

The Why Have Sex Questionnaire (YSEX?)

The Why Have Sex Short-Form Questionnaire (YSEX?-SF)

The Sexual Disgust Inventory (SDI)

The Sexual Dysfunction Attributions Scale (SDAS)

Validation of the McCoy Female Sexuality Questionnaire (MFSQ) in an Italian sample

Studies Based on Evolutionary Theory

Sexual Disgust

Exploitability

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