The valence of sex: Automatic affective associations in erotophilia and erotophobia

Kathryn R. Macapagal*, Erick Janssen

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    17 Scopus citations


    Sexual stimuli may elicit positive and negative emotions that can impact sexual thoughts, responses, and behavior. To date, most research on affect and sexuality has focused on conscious processes and affective states. Less is known about how automatic and trait-level affective processes influence our reactions to sexual stimuli. This study used a priming task with backward masking and a trait measure of erotophobia-erotophilia - the tendency to respond to sex on a negative-to-positive continuum - to improve our understanding of the role of automatic and affective processes in response to sexual stimuli. Erotophilic individuals demonstrated automatic associations between sexual primes and positively-valenced targets, whereas erotophobic individuals classified negatively-valenced targets faster regardless of whether primes were sexual or neutral. The findings suggest that the valence of sexual stimuli can be processed automatically and is associated with trait-level affective responses to sex. Implications for research on risky sexual behavior and sexual dysfunction are discussed.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)699-703
    Number of pages5
    JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
    Issue number6
    StatePublished - Oct 1 2011


    • Affect
    • Automatic processes
    • Backward and forward masking
    • Erotophobia-erotophilia
    • Priming
    • Sexual stimuli

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Psychology(all)

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