Sexual vs. Nonsexual Currently Most Upsetting Trauma: A Fresh Look at Attenuation of Sexual Response, Alcohol Intoxication, and Post-Traumatic Stress

Elizabeth R. Bird, Martin Seehuus, Julia R. Heiman, Kelly Davis, Jeanette Norris, William H. George

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations


This study examined the dependence of sexual response (vaginal pulse amplitude [VPA] and subjective sexual arousal) on alcohol intoxication (.10% breath alcohol concentration [BrAC] versus no alcohol) and the nature of a woman’s currently most upsetting traumatic event (C-MUTE), whether it was sexual (e.g., rape) or nonsexual (e.g., combat). Self-reported sexual outcomes were also compared by C-MUTE type. A total of 117 women completed background measures and either drank alcoholic or nonalcoholic beverages. They were shown erotic films and their VPA was assessed. A two (sexual versus nonsexual C-MUTE) by two (.10% BrAC versus no alcohol) analysis of variance (ANOVA) showed that, controlling for post-traumatic stress (PTS) symptoms, women with a sexual C-MUTE showed lower percent VPA change than women with a nonsexual C-MUTE. No significant effects were found for subjective sexual arousal. A multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) showed that women with a sexual C-MUTE reported more frequent anxiety and inhibition during partnered sex and more frequent lack of vaginal lubrication versus women with a nonsexual C-MUTE. There was no significant interaction between C-MUTE and alcohol intoxication. Whether a woman is currently upset by past sexual victimization may influence current sexual difficulties. Attenuated VPA may be attributable to the sexual nature of a C-MUTE as opposed to general trauma exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)915-926
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Sex Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Sep 2 2018
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Psychology(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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