The Role of Inhibitory Control Mechanisms in the Regulation of Sexual Behavior

Geraldine Rodriguez-Nieto*, Franziska Emmerling, Marieke Dewitte, Alexander T. Sack, Teresa Schuhmann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

11 Citations (Web of Science)


Sexual behavior is the open manifestation of a complex interplay between psychophysiological mechanisms that either facilitate or inhibit sexual thoughts, desires, and associated behaviors. Whereas sexual excitation has been widely studied, less is known about the impact of inhibitory control mechanisms that enable individuals to refrain from sexual cognition and behavior. The present study examined: (1) the relationship between general and sexual inhibitory mechanisms (as measured through self-reports and computer-based tasks), (2) the relation between sexual inhibitory processes at cognitive and motor-motivational levels and with sexual inhibition as an individual trait, and (3) the predictive value of these parameters on sexual thoughts (cognition) and behavior. We demonstrate that general inhibitory control (i.e., the ability to suppress any preponderant response) and the specific inhibition of sexual responses represent distinct processes that require at least partly different control mechanisms. Similarly, the ability to inhibit sexual visual input and the ability to suppress sexually driven responses seem to be two independent processes. The different inhibitory processes distinctively predicted the frequency of sexual thoughts and sexual behavior. We propose that these different inhibitory mechanisms are at play during different phases of sexual regulation (before and after the generation and unfolding of sexual arousal) and that a specific deficit in one of these processes may underlie the distinctive symptomatology and comorbidity of sexual disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)481-494
Number of pages14
JournalArchives of Sexual Behavior
Issue number2
Early online date22 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019


  • Approach-Avoidance task
  • General inhibition
  • Go
  • MEN
  • No-go task
  • Priming inhibition
  • Sexual inhibition

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