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What women want A week in which women raised their voices, and the government covered its ears. Image via Twitter. Here we are at the end of another week of women outlining what they want, and the male-dominated Morrison government failing to listen, offering platitudes and tone-deaf comments instead of the concrete action women are asking for. In the past 24 hours, several women have tried to make things even clearer, with new suggestions and calls.


Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. Anxiety has long been associated with diminished performance within a of domains involving evaluative interpersonal interactions, including Sex, Sport, and Stage.

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Here, we pose three Women want sex Broadbent 1 how do these disparate fields approach and understand anxiety and performance; 2 how does the understanding of the issue within one field offer insight to another field; and 3 how could each field benefit from the ideas and strategies used by the others. This discussion is followed by a synthesis that identifies elements specific to and common across the various domains, with the latter captured in a model of essential characteristics. Concluding remarks note the potential value of promoting increased cross-disciplinary conversation and research, with each domain likely benefiting from the conceptualizations and expert knowledge of the others.

Anxiety has long been associated with performance problems in a variety of fields Masters and Johnson, ; Kleine, ; McCabe, ; Kenny, ; Oudejans et al. Furthermore, evaluation often entails ificant consequences for an individual, which may further intensify the anxiety Bancroft, 1.

In sports, players are often under scrutiny not just by teammates but also by fans, and the consequences for failed or diminished athletic performance can be both personal embarrassment, loss of confidence, etc. Stage performance shares similar characteristics. Whether the situation is musical, theatrical, or simply public speaking, each consists of evaluation by the audience and criticscoupled with personal and professional consequences Biasutti and Concina, Such anxiety undoubtedly occurs in other activities e.

They are known to provoke anxiety which in turn may affect performance and may eventually lead to avoidance. Not surprisingly, he gets the thumbs down from the audience!

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However, while anxieties related to Sex, Sport, and Stage share the common elements of evaluation and consequence, they also differ in substantive ways. Second, Sport and Stage are carried out in highly competitive environments, from tryouts and auditions—where competition for coveted positions is intense—to public performances in either solo or team formats. Sex is less competitive, usually an intimate performance involving two people. The nature of the evaluation may also vary. Beyond self-evaluation—generally common to all three—evaluation in Sport and Stage typically involves larger groups.

The consequences, too, may be quite different, more personal and intra-relational for sexual failure, more public and professional for stage and sports failures. In all three situations, however, embarrassment and shame are likely to follow failure, and such failure may present an obstacle to attaining an important life goal sexual partner, job, wealth, respect.

While all three fields—Sex, Sport, and Stage—deal with performance problems related to anxiety, with general reviews written within each field e. In transcending disciplinary isolation, mutual benefit might be realized by all three fields, with each gaining understanding and insight from the other.

Herein, we explore three questions: 1 how do these disparate fields approach and understand anxiety and performance?

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In addition, we pose a fourth question: whether the anxiety-performance dimension in each of these three disparate domains might be subsumed under a single model, such that common language and interpretation might ensure optimal benefit in both conceptualization and practice across fields. Then for each domain Sex, Sport, and StageWomen want sex Broadbent explore the issues: definitions, prevalence, models, underlying physiological processes, and precipitating and mitigating conditions in a narrative review.

And, finally, we integrate the fields by identifying points of intersection and differentiation and ask whether a unifying model might stimulate hypothesis testing and further research across these fields. We realize that by first discussing the literature separately for each domain Sex, Sport, and Stagewe at times repeat theoretical positions on anxiety and performance that occur across domains.

Furthermore, as we progress from one domain to the next, we increasingly cross-reference concepts in ly discussed domains to highlight parallel developments occurring within each of the fields. That is, while core conceptualizations may share common elements across domains, the accoutrements and trappings surrounding each construct are frequently very different across Sport, Stage, and Sex. We trust that, in the final synthesis, the parallel concepts across domains will be sufficiently familiar to make the cross-disciplinary connections easy to understand.

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A dominant model of the relationship between anxiety, arousal, and performance was published as early as and became known as the Yerkes-Dodson Law YDL; Yerkes and Dodson, see reviews of Broadhurst, ; Broadbent, ; Teigen, ; Landers, Yerkes and Dodson postulated that, as stimulus strength rises, habit formation improves, but only up to a certain maximum, when it begins to deteriorate as stimulus strength continues to increase, generating an inverted U-shape function.

Task difficulty moderates this relation: the optimal anxiety-provoking stimulus strength is higher for easier than difficult tasks. However, it has also encountered criticisms, including its overly general applicability to situations and performance types to which it has been applied see Neiss,p.

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The phylogenetically older component is the impulsive system, an intuitive modus operandi with operands formed by accumulated experience. The impulsive system is permanently active and operates automatically as it processes incoming information from the entire perceptual field, requiring minimal cognitive resources Evans, Most of its operations occur outside awareness, although some may become part of the conscious experience. The other component is the reflective system, the system involved in abstract, conditional, and hypothetical reasoning. As this system requires holding several bits of information in working memory, it can handle only small amounts of information and is highly dependent on the availability of processing capacity in working memory Baddeley and Hitch, ; Evans, A common example of dual processing is expert car driving.


A driver effortlessly performs all necessary adjustments while processing information from both the traffic situation and the car systems and yet may be simultaneously deeply immersed in a conversation with a passenger. However, when traffic information als danger, the driver interrupts the conversation to refocus attentional resources to respond to the traffic situation.

The reflective system interrupts or overrides reflexive processing and thus can exert inhibitory control Evans and Stanovich, ; but see Newell and Shanks,for a critical review. If for some reason processing capacity is reduced, the omnipresent reflexive system will assume priority in the control of behavioral output Hofmann et al. Although terminologies vary, and the reference point in the anxiety-performance relationship may shift, in each case, poor performance is typically associated with excessive anxiety related to fear of failure in an evaluative context.

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We also set the following parameters: Keywords found in any part of the text; search or after; English language; Scholarly Articles with and without peer review. Sexual performance anxiety refers to the fear that an individual will not measure up to some preconceived expectation within the context of sexual interaction.

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Although the extent to which sex-related performance anxiety is a concern within the general population is unclear, sexual situations automatically represent demands on sexual performance Barlow,suggesting a fairly pervasive phenomenon.

Fairly recent data Laumann et al. The estimated prevalence for erectile dysfunction EDfor example, varies widely and differs according to the type of sex, age group, the specific problem e.

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What can be stated with reasonable confidence is that sexual performance-related anxiety and subsequent dysfunctional response occur in a ificant portion of men and women at some point in their lives McCabe, ; Lewis et al. For example, a high level of anxiety and stress may interfere with the normal erectile process: anxiety typically prompts elevated sympathetic nervous system response flight or fightwhereas the process of erection demands a predominantly parasympathetic response. As men progress through the sexual response cycle, dominance typically shifts from parasympathetic to sympathetic control necessary for ejaculation.

Evidence suggests that some men show a too-rapid shift from parasympathetic to sympathetic dominance, resulting in a premature ejaculation before the man feels ready Rowland, ; Rowland and Crawford, In women, the relationship between anxiety and sexual response is less clear.

Inducing an anxiety state may in some instances increase sexual arousal Meston and Bradford, ; Meana,but most often, anxiety interferes with all phases of sexual response—desire, arousal including lubricationand orgasm McCabe, —perhaps Women want sex Broadbent a manner consistent with the YDL. Unlike in men, in women, the understanding of the effect of anxiety on autonomically controlled aspects of sexual response is not well delineated.

However, to the extent that anxiety may serve as a distractor from erotic cues, it may negatively affect all aspects of sexual response in both men and women Geer and Fuhr, ; Farkas et al. Several models, two general and one focused on the role of performance anxiety, have attempted to understand sexual response and dysfunction. Inhibition-excitation models focus on the opposing effects of excitatory and inhibitory factors rather than on performance demand per se Bancroft and Janssen, ; Perelman, In these models, excitatory factors may be individual, relational, and contextual—they include both neurobiological and psycho-socio-cultural factors.

In such models, performance anxiety assumes a role as one of any of inhibiting factors on sexual response. More directly focused on anxiety performance related to male erectile response and to a lesser extent female arousal inhibition, Barlow proposed a cognitive-affective model that distinguished sexually functional men from dysfunctional men through feedback loops. According to this widely referenced model, sexually functional men progress through stages that lead to stepwise increases in autonomic arousal, subsequent functional performance, and future approach toward similar situations.

This descriptive model generated a quest to verify differences between dysfunctional and functional men along a of dimensions; however, the model did not address either how the dysfunctional response developed in the first place, or why some men develop performance anxiety and others do not. And, if one failure follows another, the level of anticipatory performance anxiety is likely to increase, which then further interferes with sexual response. Such compounding failures impart both emotional and cognitive effects—the individual may become obsessed with negative thoughts related to failure, embarrassment, and shame Bruce and Barlow, ; Rowland et al.

For both men and women, the relationships between anxiety and performance are neither simple nor straightforward. For example, men and women having no sexual problems sometimes experience enhanced arousal under conditions of anxiety, but for those already having sexual difficulties, anxiety tends to compound the problem—they exhibit even stronger susceptibility to the effects of performance demand Barlow et al.

Some evidence for a curvilinear relationship between sympathetic activation and sexual arousal, similar to the YDL, has been indicated Lorenz Women want sex Broadbent al. Not surprisingly, given the anxiety surrounding performance, men and women with sexual problems report higher levels of negative affect in anticipation of and in response to sexual experiences than functional men Rowland et al.

A of factors are likely to cause, result from, or exacerbate such anxiety.

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Both men and women with performance anxiety tend to focus heavily on themselves rather than on the erotic cues provided by the partner. A curvilinear relationship, similar to the YDL, has also been suggested between self-focus level and sexual arousal van Lankveld et al.

One consequence of self-focus is that it distracts from the erotic cues at hand. Although self-focus and distraction often occur concomitantly—resulting in diminished performance—the parameters may not be the same for the two sexes.

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While sexually dysfunctional men tend to self-focus on their erection, how aroused they are, or how incompetent they are, sexually dysfunctional women tend to self-focus on their body appearance and, surprisingly, non-sexual residuals from the day, although thoughts about incompetency also play a role Nobre and Pinto-Gouveia, Men and women with sexual problems tend to underestimate or at least underreport their level of subjective arousal and genital response Heiman and Rowland, ; Barlow, Two cognitive processes might explain this.

Individuals with high self-efficacy rehearse situations with positive performance strategies and visualize success even when having to overcome ificant problems, whereas those with low self-efficacy dwell on the negatives of the situation and envision failed scenarios Bandura, Men and women who have recurring sexual failures begin to view sexual situations differently—no longer as an opportunity for pleasure and intimacy but as a situation that le to failure, shame, and embarrassment Rowland et al. Their self-narrative thoughts during sex becomes negative, with the inevitability of failure as the anticipated outcome of any encounter.

Concomitantly, anxiety levels overwhelm any potential for positive affect, thereby engendering counterproductive behaviors—including avoidance of intimacy altogether—that are aimed at reducing the negative affect but which often only sustain or intensify the problem Fichten et al. Psychologists have long sought a link between various personality characteristics and a propensity toward psychogenic sexual problems to better understand why some individuals seem more vulnerable than others.

Several personality traits have a fairly straightforward relationship to sexual arousal, pleasure, and dysfunction Quinta-Gomes and Nobre, Whether Women want sex Broadbent anxiety is specific to the sexual situation or represents a broader personality tendency, the experience of anxiety surrounding sexual activity may shape sexual attitudes and expectations, which exacerbate existing or developing sexual difficulties. Although such traits may add to either sexual enjoyment or sexual problems, they represent only one of many factors impinging on sexual response for a given individual with a given partner.

That is, personality characteristics interact with various relational and situational factors, resulting in specific vulnerabilities or strengths in situations of sexual intimacy.

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As such, they probably play a secondary role—perhaps exacerbating or intensifying—in sexual response and enjoyment. Negative trait affectivity is characterized by an undue focus on negative emotions e.

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What women want A week in which women raised their voices, and the government covered its ears.


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