Gender And Porn: Where Men And Women Look First
    By News Staff | April 12th 2007 02:00 AM | 16 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    A study funded by the Atlanta-based Center for Behavioral Neuroscience (CBN) analyzed the viewing patterns of men and women looking at sexual photographs, and the result was not what one typically might expect. 

    Researchers hypothesized women would look at faces and men at genitals, but, surprisingly, they found men are more likely than women to first look at a woman's face before other parts of the body, and women focused longer on photographs of men performing sexual acts with women than did the males. These types of results could play a key role in helping researchers to understand human sexual desires and its ultimate effect on public health.

    The finding, reported in Hormones and Behavior, confirmed the hypothesis of a previous study (Stephen Hamann and Kim Wallen, et al., 2004) that reported men and women showed different patterns of brain activity when viewing sexual stimuli. The present study examined sex differences in attention by employing eye-tracking technology that pinpoints individual attention to different elements of each picture such as the face or body parts.

    "Men looked at the female face much more than women, and both looked at the genitals comparably," said lead author Heather Rupp, Ph.D., a fellow at The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction at Indiana University, who conducted the study in partnership with Kim Wallen, Ph.D., a Dobbs Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Neuroendocrinology at Emory University and the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. 

    "The eye-tracking data suggested what women paid most attention to was dependent upon their hormonal state. Women using hormonal contraceptives looked more at the genitals, while women who were not using hormonal contraceptives paid more attention to contextual elements of the photographs," Rupp said. Although it is commonly assumed males have more interest in visual sexual stimuli, researchers are working to figure out what characteristics are important to men and women in their evaluations of sexual stimuli.

    The answer may lie within a small section of the brain called the amygdala, which is important in the processing of emotional information. In Dr. Hamann and Wallen's previous fMRI study, men showed more activation in the amygdala in response to sexual vs. neutral stimuli than did women. From the fMRI study alone, the cause of the increased activity was unclear, but Rupp and Wallen's study suggests the possibility that higher amygdala activation in men may be related to their increased attention to faces in sexual photographs.

    Citation: Heather A. Rupp and Kim Wallen, 'Sex differences in viewing sexual stimuli: An eye-tracking study in men and women', Hormones and Behavior, Volume 51, Issue 4, April 2007, Pages 524-533 doi:10.1016/j.yhbeh.2007.01.008


    I guess we deserve a little more credit now, don't we?

    Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll be watching "Masterpiece Theater" and listening to Haydn while I look at this Victoria's Secret catalog.

    I think I'm turning Japanese, I really think so.

    I'll be having a drink at cat and fiddle, while discussing Wittgenstein over a game of backgammon.

    Is it possible that the men looked at faces more, because they're interested in knowing 1. whether or not they can figure out if she's 'faking' the orgasm, 2. if the act being performed is pleasing to the woman? I think men they tend to have more social pressure to perform, and this may explain this response, whereas women look at the act and the genitals in an effort to determine 1. if he's doing something that would work for her in bed.
    Could this be the rationale behind the outcome of your investigation?

    As a female, I might venture to suggest that we don't tend to focus as much on men's faces because frankly, there often isn't that much to look at. Women put a huge amount of effort into their faces, cosmetics, hair removal, etc- and are also likelier to be self conscious enough to try and hold their faces on somewhat straight instead of the ridiculous gurning often seen in men when they're experiencing pleasure. Perhaps if you guys would pluck your eyebrows once in a while? (yes, my tongue is firmly planted in my cheek).

    Ok, this is somewhat interesting. Just after I made this (intended as vaguely humorous) post, I surfed over to New Scientist where I found an article called "How your looks betray your personality". The New Scientist face experiment concludes;

    "So, for example, the composite face from the women who had rated themselves as extremely lucky was paired with the composite from those who had rated themselves as very unlucky. More than 6500 visitors to the site attempted to identify the lucky, humorous, religious and trustworthy faces.

    From this it seems that women's faces give away far more than men. An impressive 70 per cent of people were able to correctly identify the lucky face, and 73 per cent correctly identified the religious one. In line with past research, the female composite associated with trustworthiness was also accurately identified, with a statistically significant 54 per cent success rate. Only one of the female composites was not correctly identified - the one from the women who assessed themselves as humorous.

    The results for the male composites were very different. Here, our respondents failed to identify any of the composites correctly. The images identified with being humorous, trustworthy and religious all came in around chance, whilst the lucky composite was only correctly identified 22 per cent of the time. This suggests that our perception of lucky-looking male faces is at odds with reality.

    Why should these big sex differences have emerged? Perhaps female faces are simply more informative than male ones."

    So, perhaps I wasn't so off the mark after all when I say that women don't pay attention to the male face because there's less to see- you guys are just more inscrutable!

    So, perhaps I wasn't so off the mark after all when I say that women don't pay attention to the male face because there's less to see- you guys are just more inscrutable!
    And don't you forget it!
    Sorry, Hank. We can read you as an open on your avatar of the day(s). :-)
    Bente Lilja Bye is the author of Lilja - A bouquet of stories about the Earth
    ... i absolutely love your reading teddy bear, btw.

    oh! thanks for the site, and the info! that was amazing. I think men just don't think about much while that's happening. I've also heard that men have radial thought processes, so they incorporate a lot more information into their decision making - hence it takes longer - and men have linear thought processes, and so make faster decisions, but often excluding critical information. Have you heard anything about that? Can't source it online.

    lol. Hank needs to give up the battle. :)

    I wonder how such an experiment would work on Male to Female Transsexual women.   We put the same, and possibly more effort into our faces.  We get told in not so nice ways that we are too expressive, which could make us suppress our expressions.  That would actually be a interesting experiment to perform. 
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Good point! :) I really hadn't thought of that.

    Gerhard Adam
    ... and here I thought the answer was "the internet".
    Mundus vult decipi
    lol. really. I wouldn't have guessed "the Internet". :)

    Fossil Huntress
    "Perhaps female faces are simply more informative than male ones."

    And, too much information can be a bad thing. We avoid eye contact as it can push you to finish the deal at a critical moment ~ earlier than expected. I think most would prefer eye contact and facial check-in post coitus.
    I read a similar study about Porn Videos - apparently women are more likely to be the ones to suggest to their husbands to watch together porn video. It is really weird because you would think women are innocent and naive but actually... they are quite devilish on the inside apparently... :P Men as well as women enjoy porn... just that men are the only one to freely admit it.