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Communication and Gender: Attitudes Toward Sexuality
In partial fulfilment of the requirements for PSYC332
Both positive and negative sources of arousal are influenced by our attitudes toward
sexuality, and there are differences with regard to gender when it comes to arousal and
communication. One's attitude toward sexuality may positively or negatively influence
relationships when it comes to sex and other nonsexual activities. This paper will
concentrate on the sexual activities and thoughts that make up a relationship, and then
move on to the non-sexual communication that makes up a relationship.
Researchers have developed measures to assess attitudes about sexuality,
including the Sexual Opinion Survey and the Sex Guilt Scale. The Sexual Opinion
Survey (SOS) consists of 21 items, and includes phrases such as "The thought of
engaging in highly unusual sex practices is highly arousing," and "I personally find that
thinking about engaging in sexual intercourse is arousing," that survey takers rate on a
scale from 1 (Strongly Agree) to 7 (Strongly Disagree) (Sexual Opinion Survey). The
score is then computed and the tested person is put on a scale ranging from erotophilic
(positive responses, the person is comfortable about sexuality) to erotophobic (negative
responses, the person is not comfortable about sexuality).
Erotophilia-erotophobia can also be influenced by gender. In most studies,
females are more erotophobic. In a study that measured that examined the effects of
anonymity, gender and erotophilia on self-reports of sexual behaviors, it was found that
women even preferred not to respond to sensitive items and at times even terminated
the interviews. There was a perceived threat of the assessment questions by
women. Women may tend to be more erotophobic than males because of the operant
conditioning they receive as children. Women are more exposed to negative messages
about sexuality while growing up, and may receive punishments if it is discovered
that they are masturbating, keeping a diary about sex and sexual feelings, or sharing
their feelings on sexuality with others. This is due to having erotophobic parents, who
shun the topic of sex and do not give their children any information having to do with
The Sex Guilt Scale, which measures the expectancy for self-punishment for
violating internalized standards of proper sexual self-conduct. In one study involving
college students, it was found that there was an inverse correlation between sexual guilt
and sexual behavior. Meaning, the more erotophilic the person was, the less guilt the
Females. such as "Masturbation" is either "wrong and will ruin you" or "helps you feel eased and relaxed" (Allgeier. Institutions such as education. however. is also an area where there are differences between males and females. There are most likely different cultural expectations that affect why males and females respond to sexually-toned material differently. as a way to avoid emotional expression. respectively. When these boys and girls grow up and start heterosexual relationships with each other. there may be behavioral differences when it comes to resolving difficult issues in a relationship. for the most part. language is used for establishing a relationship. on the other hand. whereas men would conform to the cultural norm of sex being more appropriate for men by overcompensating for their interest in this material. Parents who are erotophobic may contribute to the erotophobia of a child. these differences may be highlighted when it comes to speaking of the difficulty in resolving conflicts through the communication of feelings. There is also a tendency for males to be taught that they must suppress their feelings. 2000). by being punitory when the child begins to display sexual behavior.person experienced when confronted with sexual stimuli. is on a 7 point scale and includes sexually-themed. while for men it is used to assert one's independence. This difference could be explained by women wanting to appear more sexually conservative. but are less likely to masturbate than are boys. are prompted to provide more in-depth information about their emotions. People whose sex guilt is high tend to avoid sexual experiences. Men are generally more interested sex than women. like the Sexual Opinion Survey. Experimental research. which puts negative pressure on their development of sexual morality. task-oriented and concerned with gathering information or with maintaining social status or power. Donald Mosher. As a consequence in these differences in communication style. then. The communication of sexual feelings. These behaviors are also then interpreted differently. 2000). which then develops into erotophobia as an adult. These sexual fears and anxiety are also precursors of certain moral abasement (Allgeier. 2000). and men and women feel different emotional responses to sympathy and advice. Women are typically described as more expressive. assumed that people who feel guilty about their sexual responses were those individuals who were scolded and punished in childhood for their interest in sex and sexuality. Women are . are described. Men. and more acceptable for boys than for girls to talk about their hostile feelings and sexual desires. who invented the measure of sex guilt in 1966 (Allgeier. has shown that men and women respond similarly to erotic material. Girls receive more unwanted sexual attention than do boys during childhood. complete-thesentence type questions. on the other hand. Men are more likely to give advice or remain silent. more relationship-oriented and more concerned with maintaining intimacy. In most families it is more acceptable for girls than boys to talk about their positive or depressed emotions. Behavioral and emotional responses in "troubles talk" situations have shown that men and women differ in communication style (Michaud. religion and media can also influence these sexual fears. as more instrumental. 1997). 2000). For most women. when participants are measured using the survey research method (Allgeier. Most parents tend to experience considerable anxiety when it comes to providing sexual information to their children -- this is why "the birds and the bees" talk is such a monumental event. The Sex Guilt Scale.
. & Warner. Retrieved December 6.htm . gender.R. and the ways that they communicate become more instinctive in nature. & Fishburn. Journal of Behavioral Medicine.. (1997). The Sexual Opinion Survey. (2002). Journal of Sex Research. 25. The social construction of erotophobia. and age in an adult sample. as the individual grows and develops.E. DiVasto.springerlink. Sex Roles. (1981). W. Retrieved December 6.more likely to express sympathy as a way of expressing unity. (2006). 2007 from http://people.. Sexual Interactions. 2007 from Academic Search Premier database.L. A. 293-295.com/content/ rxxp41107v486t6h/ Durant.P. sex behavior.R. Women may often feel that their feelings are being overlooked when confronted with advice (Michaud. These differences in communication style are developed early on. D. R.E. A. 439-467. M. Carey. and erotophilia on the quality of data obtained from self-reports of socially sensitive behaviors. Fifth Edition.uncw. References: Allgeier.. Pathak. & Schroder. L. A man may feel either comforted or angry at being condescended to.. 10 (2). P. as the child responds to communicative cues and interacts with his or her environment. these communicative styles become more ingrained in the person until that person becomes an adult. S. Retrieved December 6. 43. Gender differences in self-reported responses to troubles talk. (2000). Philaretou.E.R. There are many differences between men and women. Michaud. 37. The interrelationship of sex guilt. & Allgeier. and the way that they communicate is probably one of the most important.edu/ bruce/psy%20265/Fall%2005%20Materials/the%20sexual%20opinion%20survey. 2007 from Academic Search Premier database. 1997). in childhood. Retrieved December 6.V. Then. Archives of Sexual Behavior. 119-122. New York: Houghton Mifflin. 2007 from http://www. Effects of anonymity. Retrieved December 6. 2007 from Academic Search Premier database. E. K. 527-540.M.
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