Affective and Perceptual Responses

Part: 
Four
Chapter: 
3

Wishnoff (1978) exposed sexually inexperienced undergraduate females to explicit erotic films. He found that sexual anxiety decreased while expectations about engaging in intercourse in the near future increased significantly.

Along the same lines, Byrne (1977) and Byrne and Byrne (1977) suggested that initially, exposure to sexually explicit materials may offend and disturb some, or produce apprehension in others. These authors then hypothesized that frequent exposure reduces negative reactions and negative appraisals of these reactions. Once tolerance increases, the stimuli leads to greater pleasurable sexual fantasies and greater enjoyment, a hypothesis generally supported by their data.

Perceptual judgments have also been demonstrably affected by exposure, particularly in the areas of comparative judgments and estimations of reality. Kenrick and Gutierres (1980) found subjects' judgments of the attractiveness of an average female were lowered by exposure to media females. Proposing that such effects could be more significant in the realm of sexually explicit materials, Gutierres, et. al., (1985) did a follow-up recently in which subjects were asked to assess characteristics of others after exposure to slides of Playboy and Penthouse models. In four successive experiments, target persons rated were a stranger and the subject's spouse or long-term live-in partner. Both types of target persons were more negatively rated only by male subjects. Similar results were obtained after males were exposed to "beautiful females in sexually enticing activities" (sexually provocative poses or precoital and coital activities) in contrast to males exposed to less attractive females (Weaver, Masland, and Zillman, 1984).

This perceptual contrasting of aesthetic appraisals is contingent on whether the rated target and the comparison target are associated (Melamed and Moss, 1975; Griffitt, 1971). For example, when an individual is presented in the context of attractive friends, that individual tends to be rated as more "attractive." In the case of comparing media models with a significant other, on the other hand (where presumably there is no association between the target and the comparison), the comparison stimulus, or the media model in this case, "provides an anchor or contrast point for the evaluation of the target stimulus." (Melamed and Moss, 1975, p. 129).

Hatfield and Sprecher (1983) exposed males to "a Playboy-type article-a romantic seduction scene designed to be arousing." They predicted that a sexually aroused male would exaggerate a woman's sexual desirability as well as her sexual receptivity. Male subjects were then shown a photograph of "a potential date." Both predictions were confirmed. Aroused men, according to the authors, were more likely to agree that their potential date was "amorous," "immoral," "promiscuous," "willing," "unwholesome," and "uninhibited."

Different results were obtained by Dermer and Pyszcynski (1978) in an investigation of the effects of erotica on males' responses to women they loved. They were particularly interested in whether erotica would enhance "loving" or "liking" responses. Males who read an erotic story (an explicit account of sexual behaviors and fantasies of a college female) reported greater romantic involvement than those in a control condition. That is, they were more apt to report expressing "loving" than "liking" statements to their loved ones when sexually aroused than when not sexually aroused.

In looking at the above studies as a whole, it is quite possible that with "loved ones," could accentuate perceptual judgments while stimuli that primarily enhance arousal reactions (as in the Hatfield and Sprecher, 1983 and Dermer and Pysczynski, 1978 studies which used textual material) enhance more "loveoriented" responses for loved ones and "lustoriented" responses in a dating situation.