Is assessment of sexual arousal in rapists worthwhile? A critique of current methods and the development of a response compatibility approach

Joseph C. Blader, William L. Marshall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

49 Scopus citations

Abstract

Assessment procedures currently in use with sexual offenders which measure their patterns of sexual arousal are reviewed, and their application to rapists found to be of questionable validity. These techniques primarily emphasize features of the laboratory stimuli used to elicit sexual arousal in males; that is, these methods compare sexual arousal elicited by consensual versus forceful sexual depictions. These procedures assume that greater erectile responses to depictions of sexual assault relative to consensual sex bear an important relationship to sexually aggressive behavior. This review suggests that such a relation is tenuous because arousal to the stimuli employed is not usually a functional antecedent or aspect of sexual assault. Furthermore, arousal patterns do not reliably distinguish rapists from non-rapists, and suppression of arousal to aggressive stimuli is unproved as a useful treatment target for rapists. It is concluded that this form of assessment had limited usefulness for determinations of dangerousness, prognosis, or treatment needs. This paper outlines an alternative model in which sexual assaults against adults are based upon the compatibility of the responses of sexual arousal and coercion, rather than upon arousal to deviant stimulus configurations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)569-587
Number of pages19
JournalClinical Psychology Review
Volume9
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - 1989
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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