monday morning survey: the sexuality scale

Sexuality is an important part of our lives. Unfortunately, many individuals are uncomfortable engaging in sexual experiences, discussions, and even thoughts. Whether you're worried about the pleasure (or lack of pleasure) you experience during sex, your own abilities as a sexual partner, the amount of time (big or small) that you spend thinking or fantasizing about sex, or your body image, many of us have concerns about some aspect of our sexualities at different times in our lives. Take this survey below to learn more about your attitudes towards human sexuality.

The Sexuality Scale
(Snell & Papini, 1989)

Get out a piece of paper. Number that piece of paper from 1 to 30. Rate each of the following statements based on the degree to which you agree or disagree with it, using the following scale:

1 = disagree
2 = slightly disagree
3 = neither agree nor disagree
4 = slightly agree
5 = agree

1. I am a good sexual partner.
2. I am depressed about the sexual aspects of my life.
3. I think about sex all of the time.
4. I would rate my sexual skill quite highly.
5. I feel good about my sexuality.
6. I think about sex more than anything else.
7. I am better at sex than most other people.
8. I am disappointed about the quality of my sex life.
9. I don't daydream about sexual situations.
10. I sometimes have doubts about my sexual competence.
11. Thinking about sex makes me happy.
12. I tend to be preoccupied with sex.
13. I am not very confident in sexual encounters.
14. I derive pleasure and enjoyment from sex.
15. I'm constantly thinking about having sex.
16. I think of myself as a very good sexual partner.
17. I feel down about my sex life.
18. I think about sex a great deal of the time.
19. I would rate myself low as a sexual partner.
20. I feel unhappy about my sexual relationships.
21. I seldom think about sex.
22. I am confident about myself as a sexual partner.
23. I feel pleased with my sex life.
24. I hardly ever fantasize about having sex.
25. I am not very confident about my sexual skill.
26. I feel sad when I think about my sexual experiences.
27. I probably think about sex less often than most people.
28. I sometimes doubt my sexual competence.
29. I am not discouraged about sex.
30. I don't think about sex very often.

MORE INSTRUCTIONS: There are two main steps to figuring out your score.

Step One: "Reverse code" thirteen of the thirty items. Basically, this means that if you put 1, make it a 5, and if you put a 5, make it a 1, and so on.
  • 1 = 5 & 5 = 1
  • 2 = 4 & 4 = 2
  • 3 = 3
Do this "reverse-coding" for item #s 5, 9, 10, 13, 19, 21, 23, 24, 25, 27, 28, 29, & 30.

Step Two: The Sexuality Scale is comprised of three subscales including, sexual esteem, sexual depression, and sexual preoccupation. Add up the numbers you put (using the reverse-coded numbers) for each item in each subscale. Higher scores in a subscale indicate higher levels of the quality in question.
  • Sexual Esteem: #s 1, 4, 7, 10, 13, 16, 19, 22, 25, & 28
  • Sexual Depression: #s 2, 5, 8, 17, 20, 23, 26, & 29
  • Sexual Preoccupation: #s 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, 24, 27, & 30

What do each of these subscales mean?
First, Sexual Esteem refers to positive feelings about one's ability to relate sexually to another person. Second, Sexual Depression involves feelings of sadness and discouragement about one's difficulties in relating sexually to another person (basically the opposite of Sexual Esteem). Lastly, the Sexual Preoccupation scale is pretty self-explanatory. It refers to how much an individual is distracted by thinking and/ or fantasizing about sexual experiences.

Sexual Esteem tends to be highly associated with amount of sexual experience, with men usually reporting higher Sexual Esteem than women (Snell & Papini, 1989). People with high Sexual Esteem (a score of 40 or above is in the 70th percentile and a score of 45 or above is in the 85th percentile*) have what Snell and Papini call a "communal approach to sex." Basically, this means that people high in Sexual Esteem tend to openly approach sex with a sense of honesty. In addition, these people view sex as something that should be pleasurable for both people involved and that achieving this goal requires cooperation from both people. On the other hand, people low in sexual esteem (a score of 32 or below is in the 30th percentile and a score of 28 or below is in the 15th percentile*) are more likely to have either an exchange view of sex (i.e., "you do this for me, and I'll do that for you") or believe that it is necessary to manipulate and sometimes even deceive a partner to get what one wants.

*See my post about your relationship's romantic potential for an explanation of percentiles.*

When it comes to the Sexual Depression subscale, individuals with high scores (a score of 25 or higher is in the 85th percentile) are likely to be very anxious about sex and may even feel some guilt towards sex. In addition, these individuals are less likely to be involved in romantic and/ or sexual relationships, which is likely due to the insecurities and doubts they have about relationships. Individuals with low scores on this dimension tend to feel more secure in their sexual relationships and sexual abilities.

Men tend to have higher Sexual Preoccupation scores than women. In fact, Snell and Panini (1989) found that the average score for men on this dimension was 2 times as much as the average score for women. Individuals who score high on this scale (a score of 34 or higher for women or a score of 39 or higher for men are in the 85th percentile) tend to be more sensitive to their sexual emotions and feelings and are less likely to be involved in a long-term relationship than those who score lower on this scale (a score of 18 or lower for women or a score of 25 or lower for men are in the 15th percentile).

If you find that you scored lower than the 15th percentile for Sexual Esteem, higher than the 85th percentile for Sexual Depression, or lower than the 15th percentile for Sexual Preoccupation, you may want to reevaluate your feelings towards sexuality. One way to begin this process is to understand your sexual self. Once you become more aware of your own sexuality, you may begin to approach sexual encounters more positively. As Sue Johanson (a fav person of mine) has said, "Sex is perfectly natural, but not naturally perfect."

  • Janda, L. (1996). Love and sex tests: 24 revealing love, sex, ad relationship tests developed by psychologists. Holbrook, MA: Adams Media Corporation.
  • Snell, W. E., & Papini, D. R. (1989). The sexuality scale: An instrument to measure sexual-esteem, sexual-depression, and sexual-preoccupation. The Journal of Sex Research, 26, 256- 263.

For more information about sexuality, see the following resources:

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