Effects of alcohol intoxication and instructional set on women's sexual arousal vary based on sexual abuse history

Rebecca L. Schacht, William H. George, Julia R. Heiman, Kelly Cue Davis, Jeanette Norris, Susan A. Stoner, Kelly F. Kajumulo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The influence of alcohol intoxication and arousal instructional set on psychophysiological measures of sexual responding was examined in a non-clinical sample of sexually abused (SA) and non-sexually abused (NSA) women. Participants (n=42) were randomly assigned to consume alcoholic (target blood alcohol level = .08%) or non-alcoholic drinks and to receive instructions to maximize or suppress their sexual response to erotic films. Measures included vaginal pulse amplitude (VPA), self-reported sexual arousal, and mood. SA classification interacted with instruction condition such that NSA women's VPA scores were higher under maximize than suppress instructions, but this did not occur for SA women. SA classification interacted with alcohol such that, compared to their sober counterparts, intoxicated NSA women reported less sexual arousal, whereas intoxicated SA women reported more sexual arousal than their sober counterparts. Moreover, positive mood ratings were highest among intoxicated SA women. Findings indicate that alcohol may affect women differently based on SA history and imply that SA history may be associated with differences in response to subsequent sexual situations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)655-665
Number of pages11
JournalArchives of Sexual Behavior
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Alcohol intoxication
  • Instructional set
  • Sexual abuse
  • Vaginal pulse amplitude
  • Women's sexual arousal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)


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