5 Questions With Dr. Martin Lalumiere

Dr. Martin Lalumiere is an associate professor in the Department of Psychology. He studies the etiology of sexual aggression, the development of atypical sexual preferences, the physiological assessment of sexual arousal, sex differences in genital arousal, the effect of birth order on development and the determinants of risk taking.

Prior to joining the U of L, he was a research psychologist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and associate professor of psychiatry and criminology at the University of Toronto (1997-2004).

Lalumiere teaches courses on criminal behaviour, psychopathology and evolutionary psychology and is a past Chair of the Human Subject Research Committee.

Dr. Martin Lalumiere is a foremost expert on sexual aggression and the development of atypical sexual preferences.

What first piqued your interest in your research discipline?

As an undergraduate student at the Université de Montréal, I signed up to be a research participant for a study on the Pavlovian conditioning of sexual arousal in humans (how can one not be curious about a study like that!). I had a long chat with the PhD student who was running the study, and soon thereafter I applied for a research assistant position in that laboratory. I immediately started running similar studies and discovered that the study of human sexuality was fascinating, complex and extremely rewarding.

How is your research applicable in "the real world"?

I will say that sex is pervasive, important to people and associated with important health and life satisfaction outcomes. Increasing knowledge about sex is bound to have important impacts on things like sex education, prevention of sexually transmitted infections and sexual and relationship satisfaction. In our lab we also study the link between sexual preferences and crimes, with the hope of better preventing sexual crimes.

What is the greatest honour you have received in your career?

I would say the Governor General's Academic Gold Medal, for best graduating student at Queen's University. As a graduate student I didn't even know that such a prize existed, and all I was trying to do was to learn English and become a good scientist.

How important are students to your research endeavours?

I spent the first nine years of my career working in research institutes, without much help from students. I was sufficiently productive but felt that something was missing. Since arriving at the U of L in 2004 and establishing the Human Sexual Arousal Laboratory, I discovered the joys and benefits of having undergraduate and graduate students involved in my research. They are very important to my research program. In fact, most of my recent successes are a direct result of having very qualified students in my lab. Their work has shaped the direction of my own research activities.

If you had unlimited funds, which areas of research would you invest?

Currently, my students and I are spending most of our energies attempting to discover why women's genital arousal is not quite consistent with their experience of sexual arousal. It is a great mystery that fascinates us. Is it the most important research question in the world? Probably not. Is it an important question that is likely to lead to concrete answers? Very likely. Will those answers allow us to better understand women's sexuality (a mostly neglected topic in human science)? Very likely.

Already we have received emails from women who have been the victim of rape, and who were tortured by the memory of experiencing genital arousal during the event. We are now able to provide them with a possible explanation, and they find it quite reassuring.

The most important areas of research are those where questions are answerable and can lead to improvement in human welfare.

Having said all this, I think the most important research question for human research has to do with the effects of economic and health inequalities, and the measures needed to diminish those inequalities. We have done some research on this topic and I hope that we will continue to do so.

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This story first appeared in the October 2012 issue of the Legend. To see the full issue in a flipbook format, follow this link.