An Examination of the Sexual Double Standard Pertaining to Masturbation and the Impact of Assumed Motives
Research reveals that masturbation is a highly stigmatized behavior for which people are harshly judged. Stigmatized sexual behaviors often result in discrepancies in social judgment such as the Sexual Double Standard (SDS; the tendency to judge women’s sexual behavior more harshly than men’s). However, no research has experimentally examined the SDS with respect to masturbation or the assumed motives influencing the potential SDS. Thus, in study one, a total of 496 U.S. adults (246 women, 250 men) were required to read one of four vignettes depicting a hypothetical man or woman engaged in masturbation. After reading the vignette, the endorsement of the SDS was assessed by asking participants to rate the perceived partner quality of the hypothetical masturbator. In study two, a total of 264 U.S. adults (115 women, 149 men) were again required to read vignettes, rate the target’s perceived partner quality, and report on the assumed pleasure and intimacy-focused motives of the target. The results of both studies revealed a reverse SDS, in which women were viewed as higher quality partners than men. Study two further demonstrated that women were assumed to have masturbated for both pleasure and intimacy-focused motives to a greater extent than men and that these motives helped to explain the reverse SDS. Overall, these findings highlight the need to equalize double standards in Western cultures to reduce potentially harmful effects on sexual health.
KeywordsMasturbation Sexual double standard Motives Perceived gender differences
Funding was provided by University of Minnesota, Duluth, Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Research Involving Human Participants and/or Animals
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee (University of Minnesota Human Research Protection Program; STUDY00001893) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
- Bowman, C. P. (2017). Masturbation. In L. L. Nadal (Ed.), The SAGE encyclopedia of psychology and gender (pp. 1123–1124). Thousand Oaks, C.A: SAGE Publishing Inc.Google Scholar
- Burton, N. (2017). For better for worse: Should i get married?. Exeter, Devon: Acheron Press.Google Scholar
- Carvalheira, A. A., Brotto, L. A., & Leal, I. (2010). Women’s motivations for sex: Exploring the diagnostic and statistical manual, fourth edition, text revision criteria for hypoactive sexual desire and female sexual arousal disorders. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 7, 1454–1463. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1743-6109.2009.01693.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Chowdhury, M. R. H. K., Chowdhury, M. R. K., Nipa, N. S., Kabir, R., Moni, M. A., & Kordowicz, M. (2019). Masturbation experience: A case study of undergraduate students in Bangladesh. Journal of Population and Social Studies, 27, 359–372. https://doi.org/10.25133/JPSSv27n4.024.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Cornog, M. (2003). The BIG book of masturbation: From Angst to Zeal. San Francisco: Down There Press.Google Scholar
- Frank, E. (2016). Masturbation. In N. A. Naples (Ed.), The Wiley Blackwell encyclopedia of gender and sexuality studies (pp. 1638–1640). Walden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
- Gagnon, J. H., & Simon, W. (1973). Sexual conduct: The social sources of human sexuality. Chicago, IL: Aldine Publishing Company.Google Scholar
- Harvey, C. A., Harvey, T. A., & Thompson, A. E. (2019). The “sextual” double standard: An experimental examination of variations in judgments of men and women who engage in computer-mediated sexual communication. Sexuality and Culture. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12119-019-09658-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Hatfield, E., Luckhurst, C., & Rapson, R. (2011). Sexual motives: The impact of gender, personality, and social context on sexual motives and sexual behavior—Especially risky sexual behavior. Interpersona: An International Journal on Personal Relationships, 5, 95–133. https://doi.org/10.5964/ijpr.v5i2.60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Hayes, A. F. (2013). Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis: A regression-based approach. New York, NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Herbenick, D., Bowling, J., Fu, T. C. J., Dodge, B., Guerra-Reyes, L., & Sanders, S. (2017). Sexual diversity in the United States: Results from a nationally representative probability sample of adult women and men. PLoS ONE, 12, 1–23. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0181198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Herbenick, D., Fu, T. C., Arter, J., Sanders, S. A., & Dodge, B. (2018). Women’s experiences with genital touching, sexual pleasure, and orgasm: Results from a US probability sample of women ages 18–94. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 44, 201–212. https://doi.org/10.1080/0092623X.2017.1346530.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Herbenick, D., Reece, M., Sanders, S., Dodge, B., Ghassemi, A., & Fortenberry, J. D. (2009). Prevalence and characteristics of vibrator use by women in the United States: Results from a nationally representative study. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 6, 1857–1866. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1743-6109.2009.01318.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Herbenick, D., Reece, M., Schick, V., Sanders, S. A., Dodge, B., & Fortenberry, J. D. (2010). Sexual behavior in the United States: Results from a National Probability Sample of Men and Women Ages 14–94. International Society for Sexual Medicine, 7, 255–265. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1743-6109.2010.02012.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Herdt, G. (2005). The Sambia: Ritual, sexuality, and change in Papua New Guinea. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.Google Scholar
- Mark, K. P., & Haus, K. R. (2019). Culture and sexuality. In N. Gambescia, G. Weeks, & K. M. Hertlein (Eds.), Systemic sex therapy (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Meiller, C., & Hargons, C. N. (2019). “It’s happiness and relief and release”: Exploring masturbation among bisexual and queer women. Journal of Counseling Sexology & Sexual Wellness: Research, Practice, and Education, 1, 1–12.Google Scholar
- Sanchez, D. T., Phelan, J. E., Moss-Racusin, C. A., & Good, J. J. (2012). The gender role motivation model of women’s sexually submissive behavior and satisfaction in heterosexual couples. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38, 528–539. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167211430088.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Schneider, I. K., Veenstra, L., van Harreveld, F., Schwarz, N., & Koole, S. L. (2016). Let’s not be indifferent about neutrality: Neutral ratings in the International Affective Picture System (IAPS) mask mixed affective responses. Emotion, 16, 426. https://doi.org/10.1037/emo0000164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Tabachnick, B. G., & Fidell, L. S. (2013). Using multivariate statistics (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.Google Scholar
- Tackett, J. L., Lilienfeld, S. O., Patrick, C. J., Johnsom, S. L., Krueger, R. F., Miller, J. D., et al. (2017). It’s time to broaden the replicability conversation: Thoughts for and from clinical psychological science. Perspectives on Psycholological Science, 12, 742–756. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691617690042.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Young, C. D., & Muehlenhard, C. L. (2011). Attitudes toward masturbation scale. In T. D. Fisher, C. C. M. Davis, W. L. Yarber, & S. L. Davis (Eds.), Handbook of sexuality-related measures (3rd ed., pp. 491–494). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J., Chipuer, H. M., Hanisch, M., Creed, P. A., & McGregor, L. (2006). Relationships at school and stage-environment fit as resources for adolescent engagement and achievement. Journal of Adolescence, 29, 911–933. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2006.04.008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar