Sexual Inhibition/Sexual Excitation Scales—Short Form

Sexual Inhibition/Sexual Excitation Scales—Short Form

DEANNA L. CARPENTER,Christopher Newport University

ERICK JANSSENThe Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction

CYNTHIA A. GRAHAMWarneford Hospital, Oxford


The central assumption of the dual control model (Bancroft & Janssen, 2000) is that sexual arousal and response result from a balance between inhibitory and excitatory mecha-isms of the central nervous system. The Sexual Inhibition/ Sexual Excitation Scales (SIS/SES; Janssen, Vorst, Finn, & Bancroft, 2002) consist of 45 items and feature one sexual excitation factor (SES) and two inhibition-related factors: one relevant to the threat of performance failure (SIS1) and one relevant to the threat of performance consequences (SIS2). The SIS/SES has been found to be relevant to the prediction of various aspects of sexual response and behavior (for a review, see Bancroft, Graham, Janssen, & Sanders, 2009). Several studies have reported gender differences in SIS/SES scores. Women tend to score higher on sexual inhibition and lower on sexual excitation compared with men, and not all SIS/SES items may be equally relevant to men’s and women’s arousal (Carpenter, Janssen, Graham, Vorst, & Wicherts, 2008). The SIS/SES—Short Form (SIS/ SES-SF) was designed by selecting items that represent the three-factor structure equally well for women and men.


Data were provided by 2,045 Indiana University under- graduates (1,067 women and 978 men; mean age = 19.8) who completed the 45-item SIS/SES. A series of factor analyses using LISREL revealed a three-factor solution with equal factor loadings for men and women, involving 19 SIS/SES items. Several SIS/SES items showed differences in measurement characteristics between females and males, as evidenced by differences in item intercepts and residual variances. Therefore, only items that were fully “measurement invariant” for men and women were selected. This procedure yielded a 14-item solution that highlights SIS/SES themes of shared relevance to men and women. Shared SES themes included sexual arousal stemming from social interactions (vs. less relational activities like sexual fantasy or erotica). SIS1 themes for both women and men included distraction, focus on sexual performance, and past problems with arousal. SIS1 themes of greater relevance to men (excluded from the SIS/SES-SF) included concerns about pleasing partners sexually. For both men and women, SIS2 themes included risk of getting caught or contracting an STD. In contrast, concerns about pregnancy/ pain were more relevant to women and are not represented on the SIS/SES-SF. Men scored higher on SES (= 17.1, SD = 2.8), lower on SIS1 (= 8.2, SD = 1.9), and lower on SIS2 (= 10.5, SD = 2.1) than women (= 15.0, SD = 2.8; M = 8.7, SD = 1.8; = 12.0, SD = 2.3, respectively; for all, < .001). Correlations between the 45-item SIS/SES and the 14-item Short Form were identical for men and women for SES (=.90), SIS1 (= .80) and SIS2 (= .80).

Response Mode and Timing

The SIS/SES-SF consists of 14 items rated on a 4-point scale (1 = Strongly Agree to 4 = Strongly Disagree). Completion of the questionnaire takes approximately 5 minutes. General instructions are provided (see Exhibit).


To score the SIS/SES-SF: first, recode all items so that 1 = Strongly Disagree, 2 = Disagree, 3 = Agree, and 4 = Strongly Agree (i.e., 1 = 4, 2 = 3, 3 = 2, 4 = 1). Then, add responses to Items 1, 3, 8, 10, 11, and 14 for SES; add responses to Items 4, 9, 12, and 13 for SIS1; and add responses to Items 2, 5, 6, and 7 for SIS2. This scheme will result in scores ranging from 6 to 24 for SES, and 4 to 16 for SIS1 and SIS2. Missing data can be handled by substituting the mean score for remaining items from that subscale, but discarding incomplete data is preferable.


A subset of our participants (50 men and 51 women) completed the SIS/SES on two occasions, at an average interim of 32 days for women and 48 days for men. After removal of three outliers, for women the test-retest reliability of the SIS/SES-SF was = .61 for SES, = .61 for SIS1, and = .63 for SIS2. For men, test-retest reliability of the Short Form was = .75 for SES, = .66 for SIS1, and = .65 for SIS2.


A subset of participants (141 women and 532 men) completed Neuroticism and Extraversion/Introversion Scales of the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (Eysenck & Eysenck, 1975), the Harm Avoidance Scale of the Minnesota Personality Questionnaire (Tellegen & Waller, 1994), the Social Desirability Scale (Hays, Hayashi, & Stewart, 1989), the Behavioral Inhibition/Behavioral Activation Scales (Carver & White, 1994), the Sexual Opinion Survey (Fisher, Byrne, White, & Kelley, 1988), and the Sociosexual Orientation Inventory (Simpson & Gangestad, 1991). These data suggest that convergent and discriminant validity of the SIS/SES-SF resembles that of the 45-item measure (see Table 1).


Correlations of SES, SIS1, and SIS2 With Other Measures Women Men Women Men Women Men

Social Desirability Scale

(SDSR-5) –.23 .05 –.08 –.06 –.04 .10

Behavioral Inhibition/ Activation Scales

























Other Information

In addition to the SIS/SES-SF, two measures assessing dual control model processes have been reported, including the original SIS/SES (validated in men by Janssen et al., 2002, and in women by Carpenter et al., 2008) and the SESII-W (validated in women by Graham, Sanders, & Milhausen, 2006). Although gender differences exist in factors that influence sexual excitation and inhibition, many central themes are clearly shared. The SIS/SES-SF focuses on items with similar psychometric properties in women and men. When a measure of broader scope may be preferred, the 45-item version of the SIS/SES and the 36-item SESII- W remain good alternatives.

Instructions: In this questionnaire you will find statements about how you might react to various sexual situations, activities, or behaviors. Obviously, how you react will often depend on the circumstances, but we are interested in what would be the most likely reaction for you. Please read each statement carefully and decide how you would be most likely to react. Then circle the number that corresponds with your answer. Please try to respond to every statement. Sometimes you may feel that none of the responses seems completely accurate. Sometimes you may read a statement that you feel is “not applicable.” In these cases, please circle the response you would choose if it were applicable to you. In many statements you will find words describing reactions such as “sexually aroused,” or sometimes just “aroused.” With these words we mean to describe “feelings of sexual excitement,” feeling “sexually stimulated,” “horny,” “hot,” or “turned on.” Don’t think too long before answering. Please give your first reaction. Try to not skip any questions. Try to be as honest as possible.

1. When a sexually attractive stranger accidentally touches me, I easily become aroused.

2. If I am having sex in a secluded, outdoor place and I think that someone is nearby, I am not likely to get very aroused.

3. When I talk to someone on the telephone who has a sexy voice, I become sexually aroused.

4. I cannot get aroused unless I focus exclusively on sexual stimulation.

5. If I am masturbating on my own and I realize that someone is likely to come into the room at any moment, I will lose my erection/my sexual arousal.

6. If I realize there is a risk of catching a sexually transmitted disease, I am unlikely to stay sexually aroused.

7. If I can be seen by others while having sex, I am unlikely to stay sexually aroused.

8. When I think of a very attractive person, I easily become sexually aroused.

9. Once I have an erection, I want to start intercourse right away before I lose my erection/Once I am sexually aroused, I want to start intercourse right away before I lose my arousal.

10. When I start fantasizing about sex, I quickly become sexually aroused.‌‌‌

11. When I see others engaged in sexual activities, I feel like having sex myself.

12. When I have a distracting thought, I easily lose my erection/my arousal.

13. If I am distracted by hearing music, television, or a conversation, I am unlikely to stay aroused.

14. When an attractive person flirts with me, I easily become sexually aroused. A B C D

Note. When different item versions are used for men and women, both versions are given (male/female).


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