Thermal imaging technology, which uses cameras that detect heat given off by different objects, is a relatively non-invasive way of measuring the time it takes a person to reach peak arousal.
So researchers focused the cameras on the genitals of test subjects while the subjects watched footage of pornography, travel shows and horror clips. This provided measurements of heat from both the sexually aroused and from whatever arousal or lack of it was spurred by the other programming.
"Comparing sexual arousal between men and women, we see that there is no difference in the amount of time it takes healthy young men and women to reach peak arousal," said Irv Binik, a McGill University psychology professor and founder and director of the Sex and Couple Therapy Service of Royal Victoria Hospital.
Binik and colleagues were able to detect temperature changes to within 100th of a degree. Both women and men started showing arousal within 30 seconds.
Men reached peak arousal in about 665 seconds, while it took the women 743 seconds, a difference that researchers say is statistically negligible. The researchers hope that this knowledge will help diagnose and treat sexual dysfunction in women.
The findings will be published in the January issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
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