Voluntary control of penile tumescence

R. C. Rosen, D. Shapiro, G. E. Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


This study investigated the voluntary control of penile tumescence in the absence of external erotic stimulation. Twelve experimental subjects were given analogue visual feedback and monetary rewards for increases in penile diameter as measured by a strain gauge. Twelve control subjects were given no analogue feedback and noncontingent rewards but the same instructions to maximize erections. While both groups were capable of voluntary penile tumescence, significantly improved performance was observed in the experimental group. Two distinct psychophysiological patterns of voluntary penile tumescence were observed. A 'tension' pattern was associated with marked heart rate acceleration, irregular respiration, and variable penile response. A 'relaxation' pattern was associated with stable heart rate, regular respiration, and smooth tumescence curves. In using these procedures for the treatment of sexual dysfunctions, it is suggested that feedback and reward be given for a combined pattern of sexual and autonomic responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)479-483
Number of pages5
JournalPsychosomatic medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1975

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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