Turn-ons, turn-offs, desire varies widely among men

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Men aren’t all from Mars when it comes to their sexuality, a new study from Kinsey Institute researchers shows.

Model Karolina Kurkova at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show in Hollywood, November 2007. Men aren't all from Mars when it comes to their sexuality, a new study from Kinsey Institute researchers shows. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Among the revelations from their focus groups in which men talked about what influenced their sexual desire and arousal: one man’s turn-on is often another’s turn-off; an erection doesn’t always signal arousal; and not every guy wants to jump into bed at the drop of a hat.

“We’re probably from a whole bunch of different planets,” Dr. Erick Janssen, an associate scientist at the Bloomington, Indiana-based institute and one of the study’s authors, told Reuters Health.

“We don’t tend to -- from a research perspective -- sit down a lot with men or groups of men and talk about such intimate topics, such as what influences...sexual desire and arousal and the topic or the question of where in all of this the penis comes in,” he added. “This is one of the studies that attempted to do that.”

Janssen and his team set up six focus groups in which 50 men between the ages of 18 and 70, most of whom were white and heterosexual, talked about what aroused them sexually and what enhanced or inhibited their arousal. The findings are published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

Men reported getting erections without necessarily being aroused, while some men, especially older men, said they might become aroused without having an erection. Some used masturbation as a way to “fix” it “when something just feels off,” or as a “great way” to get out of a funk.

Many men said feeling confident and good about themselves often led to feeling sexually aroused (while “feeling scruffy” had the opposite effect). And for many men, a self-confident partner was also more desirable than one who didn’t feel good about herself. In addition to a nice body and a pretty face, many men found intelligence “really attractive” and “a big turn on.”

Mood and feeling emotionally connected also influenced arousal for men, while a woman’s scent was key for some men, but not others. However, an “overwhelming majority” said that being outdoors, for example on a camping trip or having a picnic, boosted their sexual desire and arousal.

Taken together, the findings provide a much more nuanced picture of men’s sexuality than is promoted by men’s magazines, Janssen pointed out. “There’s huge variability among men in how easily they’re turned on or turned off, how easily they experience sexual desire and arousal,” he explained. “The differences among men and the differences among women are much larger than the average difference between the sexes in almost anything sexual.”

In fact, the researcher added, as many as 30 percent of women may be more easily sexually aroused than most men. “This study’s challenging the idea that men are simple,” he said.

SOURCE: Archives of Sexual Behavior, April 2008.