The Dual Control Model of Sexual Response

Developed by former Kinsey Institute director Dr. John Bancroft and Dr. Erick Janssen in the late 1990s, the Dual Control Model of Sexual Response is a new theoretical model of sexual response. It is the basis for the Sexual Inhibition and Sexual Excitation (SIS/SES) questionnaire and the Sexual Excitation/Sexual Inhibition Inventory (SESII-WM).

What is the Dual Control Model of Sexual Response?

The Dual Control Model of Sexual Response reflects the idea that sexual response in individuals is the product of a balance between excitatory and inhibitory processes.

An ever-growing number of studies show that these two systems operate somewhat independently of each other and that their sensitivities vary from person to person. The researchers liken it to having both a gas pedal (excitation or SES) and a brake pedal (inhibition or SIS) in a car - every person will engage one or both pedals to a differing degree in any particular sexual situation, depending on their unique sexual physiology, history, and personality.

The Dual Control Model for Sexual Response has garnered two distinguished scientific awards: The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (SSSS) awarded the Hugo G. Beigel Research Award to Erick Janssen (Vorst, H., Finn, P., Bancroft, J., co-authors) in 2002 for best article published in the Journal of Sex Research, and in 2009, the Foundation for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (FSSS) awarded the Ira and Harriet Reiss Theory Award to Deanna Carpenter (Janssen, E., Graham, C., Vorst, H., Wicherts, J., co-authors) for best publication in which theoretical explanations of human sexual attitudes and behaviors are developed.

In use by researchers around the world

Since their first release, the sexual inhibition/excitation questionnaires have been translated into a multitude of languages for other researchers to use, including Dutch, French, Danish, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Polish, German, and Finnish.

Using these questionnaires, researchers around the world are applying the Dual Control Model to better understand such complex issues as sexual difficulties, sexual compulsivity, sexual aggression, and high-risk sexual behaviors. Prior studies have found that while sexual inhibition plays an important protective role in reducing sexual responses in the face of threat or danger, individuals who have high levels of inhibition might be more vulnerable to developing sexual problems, and those with low levels of sexual inhibition may be more likely to engage in sexual behaviors that put themselves or others at risk.

The Dual Control Model has been used to help explain sexual risk-taking, infidelity, sexual aggression, sexual compulsivity, the effects of mood on sexual desire and response, and even sexual satisfaction and compatibility in couples.

Recent scientific uses of the model by researchers from various countries include the following:

  • In 2014, Belgian researchers published the findings of the first study of the Dual Control Model using a representative national sample. The results showed that variations in sexual excitation and inhibition closely follow a normal distribution and confirmed the variability from earlier studies that relied on convenience samples.
  • A project is underway to translate the Dual Control Model into several South Asian languages including Hindi, Tamil, Urdu, Panjabi, and Sinhalese.
  • The Dual Control Model was part of an Italian study on sexual functioning in women with anxiety disorders.
  • Canadian researchers, in collaboration with others, used the Dual Control Model to study sexual compulsivity in heterosexual married adults.
  • In a Portuguese study, the Dual Control Model was used to explore characteristics of male college students who reported sexual aggression against women.
  • Australian researchers examined changes in sexual excitation and inhibition during treatment of men's erectile problems with PDE5 inhibitors (such as Viagra and Cialis).
  • The Dual Control Model is also being used in pharmaceutical research: A three-part publication appeared in the Journal of Sexual Medicine last year using the Dual Control Model to propose different treatment approaches for women who may have sexual problems due to low sexual excitation or to high sexual inhibition.

Popular uses

In addition to offering researchers an important theoretical model to explore in trials and studies, the Dual Control Model has proven popular in public media and information sources, usually translated into the metaphor of the gas and brake pedals in a car.

News outlets like CNN and Psychology Today have used the Dual Control Model in articles addressing sexual dysfunctions, or factors of personality or situation that affect human desire, as well as to explain the significance of results from other sex studies. The Dual Control Model also appears in mass-media online health websites to explain a variety of sexual dysfunctions.

The Dual Control Model also plays a role in educational settings. In 2011, author Gary Kelly updated the popular human sexuality college textbook, Sexuality Today, to include the Dual Control Model of Sexual Response, bringing the theory into classroom discussions about the variability of sexual desire.

"I am particularly pleased to be able to include what is now called the Dual Control Model of sexual arousal that notes both excitatory and inhibitory mechanisms controlling sexual arousal and responsiveness. The interactions of these mechanisms provide a wonderful template for explaining differences in sexual interest and psychogenic problems in sexual functioning." 


Mark, K.P., Janssen, E., and Milhausen, R.R. (2011). Infidelity in Heterosexual Couples: Demographic, Interpersonal, and Personality-Related Predictors of Extradyadic Sex. Archives of Sexual Behavior. DOI 10.1007/s10508-011-9771-z. 

Bancroft, John, Graham, Cynthia A., Janssen, Erick, Sanders, Stephanie A. (2009). The Dual Control Model: Current Status and Future Directions. Journal of Sex Research, 46 (2 & 3): 121-142. 

Janssen, E., Vorst, H., Finn, P., & Bancroft, J. (2002a). The Sexual Inhibition (SIS) and Sexual Excitation (SES) Scales: I. Measuring sexual inhibition and excitation proneness in men. Journal of Sex Research, 39, 114-126.

Janssen, E., Vorst, H., Finn, P., & Bancroft, J. (2002b). The Sexual Inhibition (SIS) and Sexual Excitation (SES) Scales: II. Predicting psychophysiological response patterns. Journal of Sex Research, 39, 127-132

Bancroft, J & Janssen, E. (2000) The dual control model of male sexual response: a theoretical approach to centrally mediated erectile dysfunction. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Review, Vol 24, No 5, pp. 571-579. 

Bancroft, J. (1999). Central inhibition of sexual response in the male: a theoretical perspective. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 23: 763-784.

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