Women may have lower sex drives than men because they experience feelings of guilt for being sexually aroused, a new study suggests.
While most men feel physically and mentally aroused at the same time, women’s minds are less likely to reflect bodily arousal, researchers found.
Researchers found that some women did not realise they were aroused, even though their physical reactions clearly betrayed that they were.
Feelings of guilt and shame around sex could explain this, the research team believes.
“Some women show (physical) responses without reporting any experience of sexual arousal,” according to the findings.
“Self-reported sexual arousal is subject to impression management – as in the greater reluctance among women high in sex guilt to report feeling sexually aroused."
The problem “may be the norm for many women” and can lead to a less satisfying sex life, they warn.
For men, however, there is an evolutionary advantage to having their brains in sync with their physical desires.
The researchers believe that this correlation between the two would make men more highly sexed, and thus more likely to reproduce and to pass on their genes to the next generation.
The research looked at 132 studies, carried out over the course of almost 40 years, which measured the physical and mental responses of more than 4,000 men and women.
Their reactions were tested after they were exposed to a series of erotic stimuli, including being asked to think of a fantasy or being shown images or pornographic films.
The volunteers were asked to describe how aroused they felt during the experiments.
A variety of machines that measure blood flow around the body were also used to record their physical sexual responses to check whether they reflected the participants’ perceptions.
The findings, reported in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour journal, show that men’s brains and bodies were almost always aligned, while women were much more likely to have an inconsistency between the two.
Meredith Chivers, from Queen's University in Kingston, Canada, said: "We wanted to discover how closely people's subjective experience of sexual arousal mirrors their physiological genital response – and whether this differs between men and women.
"Our results have implications for the assessment of sexual arousal, the nature of gender differences in sexual arousal, and models of sexual response."
Most studies of sexuality tended to take the word of volunteers when they said they were aroused or not, she added.