• Masters and Johnson studied a biased sample of people. The sample included only people who were both willing and able to perform sexual acts in a laboratory setting.
  • Masters and Johnson didn’t pay attention to individual differences. In reality, people’s sexual responses vary according to factors such as age, amount of sexual experience, and cultural background.

Psychological Factors in Sexual Motivation

Hormones alone cannot cause sexual arousal. Psychological factors are also highly influential.

  • Erotic stimuli: Both men and women can become sexually aroused by external and internal erotic stimuli. External erotic stimuli include sexually exciting material that is read, heard, or seen. Internal erotic stimuli include thoughts, fantasies, and memories of past sexual experiences. What is considered erotic varies according to the individual, historical period, and cultural context.
  • Desires: People have an infinite number of desires that influence the motivation for sex, including to procreate, to express love, to have physical enjoyment, to cope with difficult situations and emotions, to validate one’s desirability, and to do what peers do.
  • Cultural context: Having a strong influence on sexual behavior, cultures inform people about sexual scripts, or implicit rules that allow a person to judge the appropriate sexual behavior for a given situation. For example, people follow sexual scripts when deciding whether they should initiate sexual activity or wait to receive a partner’s advances.

A culture’s social and economic structure determines the gender roles that men and women adopt. These gender roles in turn determine people’s attitude toward sexual activity. In some cultures, for instance, women need marriage to get access to status and wealth. In such cultures, a woman is less likely to be interested in sex for its own sake, since casual sex can damage her reputation and reduce her chances of marriage.

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