Who is the “Self” in Self Reports of Sexual Satisfaction? Research and Policy Implications
Federal policies that guide clinical trial design exert an often unseen influence in people’s lives. Taking a closer look at the US Food and Drug Administration’s guidance in the field of female sexual dysfunction, this paper examines how sexual satisfaction is increasingly used to guide clinical interventions; however, questions remain about the social psychological qualities of this appraisal. The current mixed methods study pairs interview data with close-ended measures of sexual satisfaction in order to examine the cognitive and interpersonal strategies individuals used when they were asked to assess their own sexual satisfaction (N = 41). While researchers often assume that responses in self-report measures are reflections of an intra-individual reflective process, findings demonstrated that women and sexual minority men often reported on their partner’s sexual satisfaction instead of their own. Taking up the question of who is the “self” in self-reports of sexual satisfaction, this study explores the clinical, research, and policy implications of relying on sexual satisfaction as a meaningful indicator of change or well-being in an individual’s life.