Fast Facts About Plethysmographs
Fact 1: Penile plethysmographs are used to measure sexual arousal in males.
Penile plethysmographs measure the changes in circumference of a penis caused by blood flow when a male is exposed to a variety of visual and auditory imagery.
Fact 2: Penile plethysmography may be used as part of an assessment process.
When someone who has committed a sexual offense is being evaluated for treatment needs, treatment progress, and risk to reoffend, a penile plethysmograph may be one of the methods a treatment professional uses. Penile plethysmographs also are used by researchers seeking to learn more about the factors that cause some individuals to sexually abuse others.
Fact 3: ATSA recommends against using penile plethysmographs on juvenile offenders.
Plethysmographs are physiological measurements designed for use with adults. They are not regularly used outside the United States. They have not been shown to improve treatment outcomes, reduce recidivism, or enhance community safety. Ethical concerns about their use on juveniles include exposing adolescents to developmentally inappropriate sexual material and engendering fear, shame, and other negative emotions in teens.
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The following citations reflect research, publications, and presentations by current ATSA members.
- Genital responses to rape vignettes among young men: The influence of mood and directed attention: Lalumiere, Fairweather, Harris, Suschinsky, & Seto (2017)
- Inhibiting sexual arousal to children: Correlates and its influence on the validity of penile plethysmography: Babchishin, Curry, Fedoroff, Bradford, & Seto (2017)
- Measurement of male sexual arousal and interest using penile plethysmography and viewing time: Wilson & Miner (2016)
- THe use of phallometric testing in the diagnosis, treatment, and risk management of male adults who have sexually offended: Wilson (2016)
- Standardization of penile plethysmography testing in assessment of problematic sexual interests: Murphy, Ranger, Fedoroff, Stewart, Dwyer, & Burke (2015)
- Changes in sexual arousal as measured by penile plethysmography in men with pedophilic sexual interest: Muller, Curry, Ranger, Briken, Bradford, & Federoff (2014)
- Explaining the erectile responses of rapists to rape stories; The contributions of sexual activity, non-consent, and violence with injury: Harris, Lalumiere, Seto, Rice & Chapin (2012)
- Should we use phallometric testing for risk assessment?: Brouillette-Alarie, Longpre, & Proulx (2012)
- Agreement of self-reported and genital measures of sexual arousal in men and women: A meta-analysis: Chivers, Seto, Lalumiere, Laan, & Grimbos (2010)
- Sexual arousal among rapist subtypes: Looman, Dickie, & Maillet (2008)
- Sexual arousal in rapists: Looman & Marshall (2005)
- A comparison of objective measures of sexual arousal and interest: Visual reaction time and penile plethysmography: Letourneau (2002)
- Phallometric assessments designed to detect arousal to children: The responses of rapists and child molesters: Looman & Marshall (2001)
- Sexual arousal in rapists and child molesters: Looman (2001)
- The value of phallometry in the assessment of male sex offenders: Seto (2001)
- Sexual arousal in rapists as measured by two stimulus tests: Looman (2000)
- The discriminative validity of a phallometric test for pedophilic interests among adolescent sex offenders against children: Seto, Lalumiere, & Blanchard (2000)
- The measurement of sexual preference: A preliminary comparison of phallometry and the Abel Assessment: Johnson & Listiak (1999)
- Phallometric nonresponding in sexual offenders: Looman, Abracen, Maillet, & DiFazio (1998)
- Psychophysiological signs of faking in the phallometric test: Wilson (1998)
- Criterion-related validity of a phallometric test for paraphilic rape and sadism: Seto & Kuban (1996)
- Erection response characteristics of adolescent sex offenders: Becker, Stein, Kaplan, & Cunningham-Rathner (1992)
- Test-retest reliability of audio-taped phallometric stimuli with adolescent sexual offenders: Becker, Hunter, Goodwin, Kaplan, & Martinez (1992)
- The psychometric properties of the penile tumescence assessment of child molesters: O’Donohue & Letourneau (1992)
Additional resources will be listed soon.