An experiment was conducted to explore the role of sexual portrayals in viewers’ responses to graphic horror. Subjects rated a 10-minute video of a horror film that varied the gender of victim and the sexuality in the portrayal. Sexual portrayals increased viewers’ enjoyment, and particularly so among male subjects and subjects who scored higher on measures of sexual permissiveness. Sexual portrayals also increased physiological arousal during the sexual scenes themselves and during subsequently occurring suspenseful scenes (though not during subsequent portrayals of death). For male subjects, sexual portrayals also increased perceptions that the film was frightening.
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