Western University PsychologyFaculty of Social Science

Psychology 4990F-001

Psychology 4990F-001

Special Topics in Psychology: The Psychology of Sexual Behavior

If there is a discrepancy between the outline posted below and the outline posted on the OWL course website, the latter shall prevail.


Selected topics of current interest in social psychology.

Prerequisite:  Psychology 2820E, or both Psychology 2800E and 2810, plus registration in third or fourth year Honours Specialization in Psychology or Honours Specialization in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience

Unless you have either the requisites for this course or written special permission from your Dean to enroll in it, you may be removed from this course and it will be deleted from your record.  This decision may not be appealed.  You will receive no adjustment to your fees in the event that you are dropped from a course for failing to have the necessary prerequisites.

Antirequisites: Psychology 4990F if taken in 2014-15 or 2015-16, Psychology 4791F if taken in 2012/13  

Antirequisites are courses that overlap sufficiently in content that only one can be taken for credit.  If you take a course that is an antirequisite to a course previously taken, you will lose credit for the earlier course, regardless of the grade achieved in the most recent course.

Other Psychology students and Special Students who receive 75% in the prerequisite courses may enroll in this course.

3 seminar hours, 0.5 course



    Professor William A. Fisher
    Department of Psychology
    Social Science Centre 7428
    661-2111, extension 84665
    Email: fisher@uwo.ca

    Time and Location of Lectures:   Monday 3:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. Alumni Hall 101.

If you or someone you know is experiencing distress, there are several resources here at Western to assist you.  Please visit:  http://www.uwo.ca/uwocom/mentalhealth/ for more information on these resources and on mental health.

Please contact the course instructor if you require material in an alternate format or if you require any other arrangements to make this course more accessible to you. You may also wish to contact Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) at 519-661-2111 ext 82147 for any specific question regarding an accommodation.


There is no textbook for this seminar. Assigned readings, listed below, are to be completed as specified before each class meeting, according to the schedule that follows.


Psychologists are committed to the scientific study of sexual behaviour for both theoretical and practical reasons. From a theoretical perspective, generalizable psychological theory may be developed and tested in research concerning sexual behaviour. From a practical perspective, psychological knowledge may be applied to ameliorate problematic aspects of sexual behaviour and accentuate positive aspects of such behaviour. In accord with these theoretical and practical concerns, psychologists have worked to develop conceptual models of factors that influence human sexual behaviour and to apply psychological knowledge to reduce sex-related problems and increase sex-related positive outcomes.

This seminar on the psychology of human sexual behaviour will involve lectures, readings, class discussions, and student presentations focusing on history, ethics, methodology, theory, and selected content areas that are significant in this field of study. Each class will involve a didactic content-focused lecture and a class discussion of assigned primary source readings. Acquisition of foundational knowledge in selected areas of the psychology of sexual behaviour is a primary objective of this course.

Please note that the subject matter of this seminar is human sexual behaviour. The course will involve explicit discussion and imagery of a variety of aspects of sexual behaviour.




Evaluation is based on class participation  (25%),  readings linked questions for class discussion turned in at the end of each class (15%), class presentation of student seminar papers (20%), and student seminar papers (40%) that will consist of 10-12 page reviews of the literature in an area of the psychology of sexual behaviour of student interest as agreed upon with the instructor.

Although the Psychology Department does not require instructors to adjust their course grades to conform to specific targets, the expectation is that course marks will be distributed around the following averages:

70%     1000-level and 2000-level courses
72%     2190-2990 level courses
75%     3000-level courses
80%     4000-level courses

Note:  Because this is an essay course, as per Senate Regulations (http://www.westerncalendar.uwo.ca/2017/pg108.html), you must pass the essay component to pass the course. That is, the average mark for your written assignments must be at least 50%.
The Psychology Department follows the University of Western Ontario grading guidelines, which are as follows (see http://www.uwo.ca/univsec/pdf/academic_policies/general/grades_undergrad.pdf ):

A+  90-100      One could scarcely expect better from a student at this level
A    80-89        Superior work that is clearly above average
B    70-79        Good work, meeting all requirements, and eminently satisfactory
C    60-69        Competent work, meeting requirements
D    50-59        Fair work, minimally acceptable
F    below 50    Fail


There are no examinations in this course. Class participation (20% of final mark) will be continuously evaluated; four brief unannounced essay-format quizzes on assigned readings will take place (20% of final mark); class presentation of student seminar papers (20% of final mark) will take place on November 23, November 30 and December 7, 2015  and student seminar papers (40% of final mark) that will consist of 10-12 page reviews of the literature in an area of the psychology of sexual behavior of student interest as agreed upon with the instructor are due December 9, 2017.



Readings listed in the “Class Readings” sections following are required readings for all students. Each student is required to submit to OWL, for circulation by the instructor to the seminar, two questions or issues for discussion that emerge from assigned class readings each week, for class discussion. These are to be prepared in advance and submitted to OWL by the Sunday evening at 8 pm, before the seminar meeting on Monday, for circulation to the seminar, and will be evaluated under the “class participation” evaluation criterion.

Each seminar will consist of a didactic lecture concerning the topic of the week, following by active, evaluated seminar discussion of assigned readings involving the questions for discussion that students have prepared.

One student will be assigned, the preceding week, o kick off class discussion of the assigned readings with a no longer than 5 minute thumbnail introduction to the assigned class readings.

September 14:  Class Introduction and Orientation

Online Slide Set Only—No Class Meeting

September 21: Introduction and History of the Scientific Study of Sexual Behavior


Class Readings:

Jones, J.R. (1997). Annals of sexology. Dr. Yes. New Yorker, August, September, pages 99-113.

(Available on Google Scholar)          

Fisher, W.A. (1997). Sex psych prof takes heat: Fear and loathing on the research trail.

In G. Brannigan, E.R. Allgeier, & A.R. Allgeier (Eds.), The Sex Scientists. New York: Longmans. (Class website)


September 28:  Ethical and Methodological Issues in Sexual Science

Ethical Issues: Sex Researchers are Perverts

Class Readings:


Rind, B., Tromovich, P., & Bauserman, R. (1998) A meta-analytic examination of assumed properties of child sexual abuse using college samples. Psychological Bulletin, 124, 22-53.

Rind, B., Tromovich, P., & Bauserman, R. (2000) Science versus orthodoxy:  Anatomy of the congressional condemnation of a scientific article and reflections on remedies for future ideological attacks. Applied and Preventive Psychology, 9, 4, 211-225.

Tape: William Master's Reminisces (to be played in class)

Further reading for those interested:

Abramson, P.R. (1977) Ethical requirements for research on human sexual behavior: From the perspective of the participating subject. Journal of Social Issues, 33, 184-192.

Bullough, V.L. (1988) Problems of research on a delicate topic: A personal view Journal of Sex Research, 21:4, 375-386.

Fisher, W.A. (1997). Do no harm: On the ethics of testosterone replacement therapy for HIV-positive persons, and reactions to commentary. Journal of Sex Research, 34, 35-38. (Read responses by Teifer and Wagner et al. on pages 37-38 as well)

Mustanski, B. (2011) Ethical and regulatory issues with conducting sexuality research with LGBT adolescents: A call to action for a scientifically informed approach. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40:673–686

Troiden, R.R. (1987) Walking the line: The personal and professional risks of sex education and research. Teaching Sociology, 15: 241-249.

Wagner, G., Rabkin, J., & Rabkin, R. (1997). Testosterone replacement therapy on sexual interest, function, and behavior in HIV+ men. Journal of Sex Research, 34, 27-33

October 5: Ethical and Methodological Issues in Sexual Science

Methodological Issues: Sex Researchers are Idiots

Class Readings:

Chivers, M.L Et al (2010) Agreement of self-reported and genital measures of sexual arousal in men andwomen: A Meta-Analysis. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39: 5-56.

Kukkonen, T. et al. (2010) An evaluation of the validity of thermography as a physiological measure ofsexual arousal in a non-university adult sample. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 4:861 -873.

Saunders, D.M., Fisher, W.A., Hewitt, E.C., & Clayton, J.P. (1985). A method for empirically assessingvolunteer selection effects: Recruitment procedures and responses to erotica. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49, 1703-1712.

Fisher, W. A., Dervaitis, K. L., Bryan, A. D., Silcox, J., & Kohn, H. (2000).  Sexual health, reproductivehealth, sexual coercion, and partner abuse indicators in a Canadian obstetrics and gynaecology outpatient population. Journal of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, 22, 714-722.

Further reading for those interested

Laumann, E.O., Gagnon, J.H., Michael, ER. T., & Michaels, S. (1994). The social organization ofsexuality. Sexual practices in the United States. (Chapter 2, Study Design, 35-73). Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press.

Kinsey, A.C., Pomeroy, W.B., & Martin, C.E. (1948). Sexual behavior in the human male. Philadelphia:Saunders. (pps. 120-153: Research Methodology).

Kinsey, A.C., Pomeroy, W.B., Martin, C.E., & Gebhard, P. (1953). Sexual behavior in  the human female. Philadelphia: Saunders. (pps. 66-83: Reliability of the Data).

Mustanski, B. (2001). Getting wired: Exploiting the Internet for the collection of valid sexuality data. Journal of Sex Research, 38, 292-301.

Seal, D.W. (1997). Interpartner concordance of self-reported sexual behavior among college dating couples. Journal of Sex Research, 34, 39-55.

October 12: Thanksgiving Holiday

October 19: Theories of Human Sexual Behavior

Class Readings:

Fisher, W.A. (1986). A psychological approach to human sexuality: The Sexual  Behavior Sequence. In Byrne & K. Kelley (Eds.), Alternative approaches to the study of sexual behavior. Erlbaum: Hillsdale, N.J.

Gallup, G. (1986). Unique features of human sexuality in the context of evolution.  In D. Byrne & K. Kelley (Eds.), Alternative approaches to the study of sexual behavior. Erlbaum: Hillsdale, N.J.

Baumeister, R. (2000). Gender differences in erotic plasticity: The female sex drive as socially flexible and responsive. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 347-374.

 Further reading for those interested:

Albarracín, D., Johnson, B. T., Fishbein, M., & Muellerleile, P. A. (2001). Theories of Reasoned Action and Planned Behavior as models of condom use: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 127, 142-161.

Buss, D. (1994) The evolution of desire. Strategies of human mating. New York: Basic Books.

Hyde, J.S. (2005) The gender similarities hypothesis. American Psychologist, 60, 6:581-592.

Miller, G. et al. (2007). Ovulatory cycle effects on tip earnings by lap dancers: Economic evidence for human estrus? Evolution and Human Behavior, 28, 375–381.

Oliver, M.B., & Hyde, J.S. (1993) Gender differences in sexuality: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 114: 29-51

October 26:  Sexual Function and Sexual Dysfunction

Class Readings:

Hyde, J. S., DeLamater, J. D., & Byers, E. S. (2015). Understanding human sexuality.  (Sixth Canadian Edition). Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson. Chapter 18: Sexual Dysfunction.

Fisher, W. A., Rosen, R. C., Mollen, M., Brock, G. et al. (2005). Improving the sexual quality of life of couples affected by erectile dysfunction:  A double-blind, randomized, placebo controlled trial of vardenafil.  Journal of Sexual Medicine, 5, 699-708.

Salisbury and Fisher (2014) “Did you come?” A qualitative exploration of gender differences in beliefs, experiences, and concerns regarding female orgasm occurrence during heterosexual sexual interactions. Journal of Sex Research, 51, 6: 616-631.

Further reading for those interested:

Fisher, W. A., & Holzapfel, S. (2014). Suppose they gave an epidemic and sex therapy didn’t attend?

Sexually transmitted infection concerns in the sex therapy context. In I. Binik (Ed.), Principles and practice of sex therapy. Fifth Edition. New York: Guilford.

Hyde, J. S., DeLamater, J. D., & Byers, E. S. (2015). Understanding human sexuality.  (Sixth Canadian Edition). Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson. Chapter 9: Sexual Response.

Sand, M., & Fisher, W. A. (2007).  Women’s endorsement of models off female sexual response: The Nurses Sexuality Study.  Journal of Sexual Medicine, 4, 709-720.

Shifren JL, et al. (2008) Sexual problems and distress in United States women: Prevalence and correlates. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 112: 970-978.

November 2: Erotica, Pornography, and Behaviour

Exposure to Erotic Stimuli Causes Antiwoman Attitudes and Antiwoman Acts

Class Readings:

Donnerstein, E.,  & Berkowitz, L. (1981). Victim reactions in aggressive erotic films as a factor in violence against women. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 41, 710-724.

Malamuth, N.M., Addison, T., & Koss, M. (2000) Pornography and sexual aggression: Are there reliable effects and can we understand them?  Annual Review of Sex Research, 11:26-87.

Further reading for those interested:

Check, J.V.P., & Guloien, T.H. (1989). Reported proclivity for coercive sex following repeated exposure to sexually violent pornography, nonviolent dehumanizing pornography, and erotica. In D. Zillmann & J. Bryant  (Eds.),Pornography: Research Advances and Policy Considerations. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum.

Malamuth, N.M., & Check, J.V.P. (1981). The effects of mass media exposure on the Acceptance of violence against women: A field experiment. Journal of Research in Personality, 15, 436-446.

Zillmann D, Bryant J. Effects of massive exposure to pornography. In: Malamuth NM, Donnerstein, E, editors. Pornography and sexual aggression. New York: Academic Press; 1984. p. 115-138.

November 9: Erotica, Pornography, and Behaviour (continued)

Exposure to Erotic Stimuli Does Not Cause Antiwoman Attitudes or Antiwoman Acts

Class Readings


Fisher, W.A., & Barak, A. (1991). Erotica, pornography, and behavior: More questions than answers. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 14, 65-84. 

Fisher, W.A., & Grenier, G. (1994). Violent pornography, antiwoman attitudes, and antiwoman acts: In search of reliable effects. Journal of Sex Research, 31, 23-.

Baer, J., Kohut, T., & Fisher, W.A. (2015) Is pornography use associated with antiwoman sexual aggression? Re-examining the confluence model with third variable considerations, Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality.

Further reading for those interested:

Barak, A., Fisher, W. A., Belfry, S., & Lashambe D. R. (1999).  Sex, guys, and cyberspace:  Effects of internet pornography and individual differences on men’s attitudes toward women.  Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality, 11, 63-92.

Fisher, W.A., Kohut, T., Lisha, A., DiGioacchino, A., & Federoff, P. (2013) Pornography, sex crime, and paraphilia. Current Psychiatry Reports, 15:362-370.

Kohut, T., & Fisher, W. A. (2012).  Pornography, effects on attitudes and behaviors (pp. 132-139). In V.S.Ramachandran (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human behavior. (2nd ed.). Academic Press.

Kutchinsky, B. (1991). Pornography and rape: Theory and practice? International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 14, 47-64.

Malamuth, N.M., & Ceniti, J. (1986). Repeated exposure to violent and nonviolent pornography: Likelihood of raping ratings and laboratory aggression against women. Aggressive Behavior, 12, 129-137.

November 16: Understanding and Promoting Reproductive Health

Class Readings

Kirby, D. (2007) Abstinence, sex, and STD/HIV education programs for teens: Their  impact on sexual behavior, pregnancy, and sexually transmitted disease. In Annual Review of Sex Research, Vol XVIII (143-177), D.L Rowland & C. Davis (Eds).  Mason City, Iowa: Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality.

Fisher, W.A., Singh, S.S., Shuper, P.A., Carey, M., Otchet, F., MacLean-Birne, D., DelBello,  D., & Gunter, J. (2005). Characteristics of women undergoing repeat therapeutic abortion. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 172, 637-641.

Fisher, W.A., Bryan, A., Dervaitis, K.L., Silcox, J. & Kohn, H. (2002).  It ain't necessarily so:  Most women do not strongly prefer female obstetrician- gynaecologists. Canadian Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology 24(11) 1-4.

Further Reading for Those Interested

Fisher, W.A., & Fisher, J.D.  (1999). Understanding and promoting sexual and reproductive health behavior.  In R. Rosen, C. Davis, & H. Ruppel (Eds.), Annual Review of Sex Research, Volume IX (pp. 39-76);  Mason City, IA:  Society for the Scientific Study of Sex.

Fisher, W.A., & Steben, M. (2014). Sexually transmitted infections. At the junction of biology and behavior. (pps. 184-213) In C. Pukall (Ed.), Human sexuality. A contemporary  introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.    

November 23:  HIV Risk and HIV Prevention

Class Readings

Fisher, WA, Fisher, JD, & Shuper, P. (2014) Social psychology and the fight against AIDS: An Information—Motivation—Behavioral Skills model for the prediction and promotion of health behavior change. In J. Olson and M. Zanna (Eds.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology. Elsevier.

Fisher, W. A., Fisher, J. D., & Kohut, T.  (2009)  AIDS exceptionalism?  The social psychology of HIV prevention research.  Social Issues and Policy Review, 3, 45-77.

Further reading for those interested:

Fisher, J. D., & Fisher, W. A.  (1992). Changing AIDS risk behavior.  Psychological Bulletin, 111, 455-474.

Fisher, J. D ., Fisher, W. A., Misovich, S. J., & Bryan, A. D. (2002). Information-Motivation-Behavioral Skills Model-based HIV risk behavior change intervention for inner-city high school youth.  Health Psychology, 21(2) 177-186.

Fisher, J.D., Fisher, W.A., Cornman, D.H., Amico, R.K., Bryan, A., & Friedland, G.H. (2006) Clinician-delivered intervention during routine clinical care reduces unprotected sexual behavior among HIV-infected patients. Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, 41(1), 44-52.

Fisher, JD, Cornman, DH, Shuper, PA, Christie, S., Pillay, S., MacDonald, S., Ngcobo, N., Amico,

R., Lalloo, U., & Fisher, W.A. (2014)  HIV prevention counseling intervention delivered during routine clinical care reduces HIV transmission risk behavior in HIV-infected South Africans receiving antiretroviral therapy: The Izindlela Zokuphila/Options for Health randomized trial. Journal of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndromes.

Misovich, S.J., Fisher, J.D., & Fisher, W.A. (1997). Close relationships and elevated HIV risk behavior. Evidence and possible underlying psychological processes. Review of General Psychology, 1, 72-107.

HIV Prevention Intervention Materials Presented in Class                      

"Just Like Me"

"Stakes are High"

November 30 Seminar Presentations

Six students will present 15 minute clear and compelling talks concerning their seminar paper topic literature review.

December 7:   Seminar Presentations

Six students will present 15 minute clear and compelling talks concerning their seminar paper topic literature review.

December  9    Seminar Papers Due


Students are responsible for understanding the nature and avoiding the occurrence of plagiarism and other scholastic offenses. Plagiarism and cheating are considered very serious offenses because they undermine the integrity of research and education. Actions constituting a scholastic offense are described at the following link:  http://www.uwo.ca/univsec/pdf/academic_policies/appeals/scholastic_discipline_undergrad.pdf

As of Sept. 1, 2009, the Department of Psychology will take the following steps to detect scholastic offenses. All multiple-choice tests and exams will be checked for similarities in the pattern of responses using reliable software, and records will be made of student seating locations in all tests and exams. All written assignments will be submitted to TurnItIn, a service designed to detect and deter plagiarism by comparing written material to over 5 billion pages of content located on the Internet or in TurnItIn’s databases. All papers submitted for such checking will be included as source documents in the reference database for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of papers subsequently submitted to the system. Use of the service is subject to the licensing agreement, currently between Western and Turnitin.com http://www.turnitin.com

Possible penalties for a scholastic offense include failure of the assignment, failure of the course, suspension from the University, and expulsion from the University.


Western’s policy on Accommodation for Medical Illness can be found at:

Students must see the Academic Counsellor and submit all required documentation in order to be approved for certain accommodation:


Office of the Registrar web site:  http://registrar.uwo.ca

Student Development Services web site: http://www.sdc.uwo.ca

Please see the Psychology Undergraduate web site for information on the following:


- Policy on Cheating and Academic Misconduct
- Procedures for Appealing Academic Evaluations
- Policy on Attendance
- Policy Regarding Makeup Exams and Extensions of Deadlines
- Policy for Assignments
- Short Absences
- Extended Absences
- Documentation
- Academic Concerns
- 2017 Calendar References

No electronic devices, including cell phones and smart watches, will be allowed during exams.

Additional Information Concerning Sex Research for Those Interested



       Journal of Sex Research

       Journal of Sexual Medicine

       Archives of Sexual Behavior

       Annual Review of Sex Research

       Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality

       Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada

       International Journal of Sexual Health



       Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada


       Public Health Agency of Canada:  www.phac-aspc.gc.ca

       Centers for Disease Control: www.cdc.gov/hiv

       UN AIDS: http://data.unaids.org


Advanced Textbook

Pukall, C.F. (Ed.) (2014) Human sexuality. A contemporary introduction : Oxford University Press. Don Mills, CA.

Sexual Harassment and Sexual Trauma Resources

Sexual Harassment

       UWO Sexual Harassment (Office of Equity and Human Rights) 519-661-3334

Sexual Assault     

       London Police 911

       UWO Student Health Services (Medical Care, Counselling) 519-661-3030 

       UWO Student Development Centre (Crisis Counselling, Psychological Services) 519-661-3031

       Sexual Assault Centre London—St. Joseph’ (24 Hour Crisis and Support Line) 519.438-2272

       Regional Sexual Assault Program, St. Joseph’s Hospital (medical care, examination, counselling)

       519 646-6100 ext. 64224