Original Paper

Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 99-110

Relationship Contingency and Sexual Motivation in Women: Implications for Sexual Satisfaction

  • Diana T. SanchezAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Rutgers UniversityDepartment of Psychology, Rutgers University Email author 
  • , Corinne A. Moss-RacusinAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Rutgers University
  • , Julie E. PhelanAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Rutgers University
  • , Jennifer CrockerAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Michigan

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Deriving self-worth from romantic relationships (relationship contingency) may have implications for women’s sexual motives in relationships. Because relationship contingency enhances motivation to sustain relationships to maintain positive self-worth, relationship contingent women may engage in sex to maintain and enhance their relationships (relational sex motives). Using structural equation modeling on Internet survey data from a convenience sample of 462 women in heterosexual and lesbian relationships, we found that greater relationship contingency predicted greater relational sex motives, which simultaneously predicted both sexual satisfaction and dissatisfaction via two distinct motivational states. Having sex to improve intimacy with one’s partner was associated with greater sexual satisfaction and autonomy, while having sex to earn partner’s approval was associated with sexual dissatisfaction and inhibition. While some differences exist between lesbian and heterosexual relationships, relationship contingency had sexual costs and benefits, regardless of relationship type.


Romantic relationships Sexual motivation Sexual satisfaction Lesbian relationships Contingencies of self-worth