From the Huffington Post and Scientific America:
Touching Men's Sexy Boxer Shorts Activates Brain's Reward System In Women, Study Suggests by Kathleen D
It is often said that women and men are more different than similar. That’s not even mostly true; women and men are pretty similar. But there are a few spheres in which there are strong gender differences. One of them is sex.
Men want sex more than women do. (While I am sure that you can think of people who don’t fit this pattern, my colleagues and I have arrived at this conclusion after reviewing hundreds of findings. It is, on average, a very robust finding.) This difference is due in part to the fact that men, compared to women, focus on the rewards of sex. Women tend to focus on its costs because having sex presents them with bigger potential downsides, from physical (the toll of bearing a child) to social (stigma).
Accordingly, the average man’s sexual system gets activated fairly easily. When it does, it trips off a whole system in the brain focused on rewards. In fact, merely seeing a bra can propel men into reward mode, seeking immediate satisfaction in their decisions.
Most of the evidence suggests that women are different, that a sexy object would not cause them to shift into reward mode. This goes back to the notion that sex is rife with potential costs for women. Yet, at a basic biological level, the sexual system is directly tied to the reward system (through pleasure-giving dopaminergic reactions). This would seem to suggest a contrasting hypothesis that perhaps women will also shift into reward mode when their sexual system is activated.
Anouk Festjens, Sabrina Bruyneel, and Siegfried Dewitte, researchers in Belgium, wanted to test this idea. But first they needed to find a way to activate women’s sex drive. Women, more than men, connect sex to emotions. Festjens and colleagues therefore used a subtle, emotional cue to initiate sexual motivation – touch. Across three experiments, Festjens and colleagues found that women who touched sexy male clothing items, compared to nonsexual clothing items, showed evidence of being in reward mode.
Read the rest here.