Patients' Conceptions of Terms Related to Sexual Interest, Desire, and Arousal.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

BACKGROUND: Measurement of sexual function typically uses self-report, which, to work as intended, must use language that is understood consistently by diverse respondents. Commonly used measures employ multiple terms, primarily (sexual) interest, desire, and arousal, that might not be understood in the same way by laypeople and professionals. AIM: To inform self-reported measurement efforts for research and clinical settings by examining how US men and women recruited from a health care setting understand and interpret different terms. METHODS: We conducted 10 focus groups in Durham, NC (N = 57). Discussions were audio-recorded and transcribed, and the content of the discussions was systematically analyzed in 2 phases of coding by the research team, facilitated by Nvivo qualitative analysis software (QSR International, Doncaster, VIC, Australia). OUTCOMES: Patient focus group discussions about the meanings and connotations of multiple terms related to sexual function, especially interest, desire, and arousal. RESULTS: 5 groups included male participants and 5 included female participants. Participants characterized (sexual) interest as a cognitive phenomenon and a situational response to a specific person. Similarly, they characterized (sexual) desire as a situational person-specific experience with some support for it as a cognitive phenomenon but more support for it as a physical phenomenon. In contrast, participants characterized sexual arousal as a physical phenomenon occurring in response to physical or visual stimulation and not related to a specific person. CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: These results can help us understand how laypeople are using and responding to these terms when they are used in clinical and research settings. STRENGTHS AND LIMITATIONS: Patient participants in these groups were diverse in age, gender, sexual orientation, and health, with the potential to voice diverse perspectives on sexual functioning; however, the sample was limited to a single city in the southeastern United States. CONCLUSION: The meanings of interest, desire, and arousal were defined, compared, and contrasted in the context of patient focus groups. Qualitative coding showed that interest was considered the most "cognitive," arousal the most "physical," and desire somewhere in between. DeLamater JD, Weinfurt KP, Flynn KE. Patients' Conceptions of Terms Related to Sexual Interest, Desire, and Arousal. J Sex Med 2017;14:1327-1335.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • DeLamater, JD; Weinfurt, KP; Flynn, KE

Published Date

  • November 2017

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 14 / 11

Start / End Page

  • 1327 - 1335

PubMed ID

  • 29017897

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC5675768

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1743-6109

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.jsxm.2017.09.009


  • eng

Conference Location

  • Netherlands