How Women's Brains React to Pornography

When women watch pornography, their brains play down the role of the visual cortex, focusing instead on physical arousal. This contrasts how the brain reacts to most other visual stimuli.

What's the Latest Development?


In an attempt to understand how female biology reacts to watching pornography, researchers at a Dutch university scanned a group of women's brains while they were shown two sexually neutral videos followed by a sexually explicit one. When women watched the third video, researchers "found that blood flow to the visual cortex was reduced in all of the volunteers indicating that the brain had decided that focusing on arousal was more important than fixating on exactly what was occurring on the screen in front of them." The women were aged 18 and 47 and none had yet reached menopause. 

What's the Big Idea?

The PET scans used in the experiment work by measuring blood flow to the brain, so when more blood appears in a particular area, scientists believe the brain is delegating a task to that particular region. Blood flow to the visual cortex is associated with higher anxiety levels since we react on a nearly constant basis to visual stimuli. Thus researchers suggest that "their findings help explain why women who exhibit symptoms of anxiety often report sexual problems. ... They point out that for people in general, the brain cannot be both anxious and aroused, it generally has to be one or the other, or neither."

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com


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