Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 45, Issue 8, pp 2015–2027 | Cite as

Sexual Perfectionism in Women: Not as Simple as Adaptive or Maladaptive

  • Annette S. KluckEmail author
  • Kseniya Zhuzha
  • Kelly Hughes
Original Paper


According to research and theory, the construct of perfectionism may apply to specific life domains, including being a perfect sexual partner. We extended the research on sexual perfectionism (SP) by examining the relationships between its various dimensions (i.e., self-directed, partner-directed, socially prescribed, partner-prescribed) and communication about sex, sexual functioning, and appearance self-consciousness during sex. Women (N = 208) of ages 19–50 were recruited online to respond to the Multidimensional Sexual Perfectionism Questionnaire and measures of communication about sex, sexual functioning, and physical appearance self-consciousness during sex. Dimensions of SP demonstrated a mixed pattern of relationships with measures of adaptive functioning. Partner-prescribed SP was related to greater appearance self-consciousness during sex, indicating an unfavorable role of this dimension of SP. An indirect effect of socially prescribed and partner-prescribed SP on sexual functioning through poor dyadic communication about sex and greater appearance self-consciousness was also found. Self-directed SP was less clearly problematic and uniquely related to better dyadic communication, whereas partner-directed SP was uniquely related to fewer concerns about the body appearance during sex. In conclusion, with respect to personal functioning, higher standards directed towards sexual partners may be less problematic but perceptions that romantic partners expect one to be a perfect sexual partner may have deleterious effects. Overall, SP may relate to sexual experiences of women beyond the college-age group with some aspects of SP being more problematic than others.


Sexual perfectionism Sexual functioning Sex-related communication Women 


  1. Alvarez, C., & Villarruel, A. (2015). Association of gender norms, relationship and intrapersonal variables, and acculturation with sexual communication among young adult Latinos. Research in Nursing & Health, 38, 121–132. doi: 10.1002/nur.21645.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Boone, L., Soenens, B., Vansteenkiste, M., & Braet, C. (2012). Is there a perfectionist in each of us? An experimental study on perfectionism and eating disorder symptoms. Appetite, 59, 531–540. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2012.06.015.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Brotto, L. A., & Heiman, J. R. (2007). Mindfulness in sex therapy: Applications for women with sexual difficulties following gynecologic cancer. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 22, 3–11. doi: 10.1080/14681990601153298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cash, T. F., Maikkula, C. L., & Yamamiya, Y. (2004). Baring the body in the bedroom: Body image, sexual self-schemas, and sexual functioning among college women and men. Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, 7, 1–9. Retrieved from
  5. Catania, J. A. (1998). Dyadic Sexual Communication Scale. In C. M. Davis, W. L. Yarber, R. Bauserman, G. Schreer, & S. L. Davis (Eds.), Handbook of sexuality-related measures (2nd ed., pp. 129–131). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  6. Cox, B. J., Enns, M. W., & Clara, I. P. (2002). The multidimensional structure of perfectionism in clinically distressed college student samples. Psychological Assessment, 14, 365–373. doi: 10.1037/1040-3590.14.3.365.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. DiBartolo, P. M., & Barlow, D. H. (1996). Perfectionism, marital satisfaction, and contributing factors to sexual dysfunction in men with erectile disorder and their spouses. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 25, 581–588. doi: 10.1007/BF02437840.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Dove, N. L., & Wiederman, M. W. (2000). Cognitive distraction and women’s sexual functioning. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 26, 67–78. doi: 10.1080/009262300278650.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Dunkley, D. M., Blankstein, K. R., Zuroff, D. C., Lecce, S., & Hui, D. (2006). Self-critical and personal standards factors of perfectionism located within the five-factor model of personality. Personality and Individual Differences, 40, 409–420. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2005.07.020.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dunning, D., Heath, C., & Suls, J. M. (2004). Flawed self-assessment: Implications for health, education, and the workplace. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 5, 69–106. doi: 10.1111/j.1529-1006.2004.00018.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Flett, G. L., Blankstein, K. R., Hewitt, P. L., & Koledin, S. (1992). Components of perfectionism and procrastination in college students. Social Behavior & Personality, 20, 85–94. doi: 10.2444/sbp.1992.20.2.85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Flett, G. L., Hewitt, P. L., Blankstein, K., & O’Brien, S. (1991). Perfectionism and learned resourcefulness in depression and self-esteem. Personality and Individual Differences, 12, 61–68. doi: 10.1016/0191-8869(91)90132-U.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Flett, G. L., Hewitt, P. L., & De Rosa, T. (1996). Dimensions of perfectionisms, psychosocial adjustment, and social skills. Personality and Individual Differences, 20, 143–150. doi: 10.1016/0191-8869(95)00170-0.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Flett, G. L., Hewitt, P. L., & Heisel, M. J. (2014). The destructiveness of perfectionism revisited: Implications for the assessment of suicide risk and the prevention of suicide. Review of General Psychyology, 18, 156–172. doi: 10.1037/gpr0000011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Flett, G. L., Hewitt, P. L., Shapiro, B., & Rayman, J. (2001). Perfectionism, beliefs, and adjustment in dating relationships. Current Psychology, 20, 289–311. doi: 10.1007/s12144-001-1013-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Frost, R. O., Heimberg, R. G., Holt, C. S., Mattia, J. I., & Neubauer, A. L. (1993). A comparison of two measures of perfectionism. Personality and Individual Differences, 14, 119–126. doi: 10.1016/0191-8869(93)90181-s.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Habke, A. M., Hewitt, P. L., & Flett, G. L. (1999). Perfectionism and sexual satisfaction in intimate relationships. Journal of Psychopathology & Behavioral Assessment, 21, 307–322. doi: 10.1023/A:1022168715349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Haring, M., Hewitt, P. L., & Flett, G. L. (2003). Perfectionism, coping, and quality of intimate relationships. Journal of Marriage & Family Therapy, 65, 143–158. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2003.00143.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hayes, A. F. (2013). Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis: A regression-based approach. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  20. Hewitt, P. L., & Flett, G. L. (1991). Perfectionism in the self and social contexts: Conceptualization, assessment, and association with psychopathology. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 456–470. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.60.3.456.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Hewitt, P. L., Flett, G. L., & Ediger, E. (1996). Perfectionism and depression: Longitudinal assessment of a specific vulnerability hypothesis. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 105, 276–280. doi: 10.1037/0021-843X.105.2.276.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Hewitt, P. L., Flett, G. L., & Weber, C. (1994). Dimensions of perfectionism and suicide ideation. Cognitive Therapy & Research, 18, 439–460. doi: 10.1007/BF02357753.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hurlbert, D. F. (1991). The role of assertiveness in female sexuality: A comparative study between sexually assertive and sexually nonassertive women. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 17, 183–190. doi: 10.1080/00926239108404342.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Kaestle, C. E., & Halpern, C. T. (2007). What’s love got to do with it? Sexual behaviors of opposite-sex couples through emerging adulthood. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 39, 134–140. doi: 10.1363/3913407.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Lear, D. (1995). Sexual communication in the age of AIDS: The construction of risk and trust among young adults. Social Science and Medicine, 41, 1311–1323. doi: 10.1016/0277-9536(95)00010-5.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. MacNeil, S., & Byers, E. S. (2005). Dyadic assessment of sexual self-disclosure and sexual satisfaction in heterosexual dating couples. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 22, 169–181. doi: 10.1177/0265407505050942.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Masters, W. H., & Johnson, V. E. (1970). Human sexual inadequacy. Boston: Little, Brown.Google Scholar
  28. Mayland, K. A. (2005). The impact of practicing mindfulness meditation on women’s sexual lives (Doctoral dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Full Text (305346162). Retrieved from
  29. Meston, C. (2003). Validation of the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI) in women with female orgasmic disorder and in women with hypoactive sexual desire disorder. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 29, 39–46. doi: 10.1080/713847100.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  30. Methikalam, B., Wang, K. T., Slaney, R. B., & Yeung, J. G. (2015). Asian values, personal and family perfectionism, and mental health among Asian Indians in the United States. Asian American Journal of Psychology, 6, 223–232. doi: 10.1037/aap0000023.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Meyer-Bahlburg, H. F. L., & Dolezal, C. (2007). The Female Sexual Function Index: A methodological critique and suggestions for improvement. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 33, 217–224. doi: 10.1080/00926230701267852.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Moller, A. T., & Van Zyl, P. D. (1991). Relationship beliefs, interpersonal perception, and marital adjustment. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 47, 28–33. doi: 10.1002/1097-4679(199101)47:1<28:AID-JCLP2270470105>3.0.CO;2-K.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Montesi, J. L., Conner, B. T., Gordon, E. A., Fauber, R. L., Kim, K. H., & Heimberg, R. G. (2013). On the relationship among social anxiety, intimacy, sexual communication, and sexual satisfaction in young couples. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 42, 81–91. doi: 10.1007/s10508-012-9929-3.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Oattes, M. K., & Offman, A. (2007). Global self-esteem and sexual self-esteem as predictors of sexual communication in intimate relationships. Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 16, 89–100.Google Scholar
  35. Parazzini, F., Negri, E., & LaVecchia, C. (1992). Reproductive and general lifestyle determinants of age at menopause. Maturitas, 15, 141–149. doi: 10.1016/0378-5122(92)90248-3.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Pazmany, E., Bergeron, S., Verhaeghe, J., Van Oudenhove, L., & Enzlin, P. (2014). Sexual communication, dyadic adjustment, and psychosexual well-being in premenopausal women with self-reported dyspareunia and their partners: A controlled study. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 11, 1786–1797. doi: 10.1111/jsm.12518.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Perera, M. J., & Chang, E. C. (2015). Ethnic variations between Asian and European Americans in interpersonal sources of socially prescribed perfectionism: It’s not just about parents! Asian American Journal of Psychology, 6, 31–37. doi: 10.1037/a0036175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Quadland, M. C. (1980). Private self-consciousness, attribution of responsibility, and perfectionistic thinking in secondary erectile dysfunction. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 6, 47–55. doi: 10.1080/00926238008404245.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Rehman, U. S., Rellini, A. H., & Fallis, E. (2011). The importance of sexual self-disclosure to sexual satisfaction and functioning in committed relationships. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 8, 3108–3115. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2011.02439.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Rice, K. G., Lopez, F. G., & Richardson, C. M. (2013). Perfectionism and performance among STEM students. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 82, 124–134. doi: 10.1016/j.jvb.2012.12.002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rosen, R., Brown, C., Heiman, J., Leiblum, S., Meston, C., Shabsigh, R., & D’Agostino, R. (2000). The Female Sexual Functioning Index (FSFI): A multidimensional self-report instrument for the assessment of female sexual function. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 26, 191–208. doi: 10.1080/009262300278597.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Sherry, S. B., Hewitt, P. L., Flett, G. L., & Harvey, M. (2003). Perfectionism dimensions, perfectionistic attitudes, dependent attitudes, and depression in psychiatric patients and university students. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 50, 373–386. doi: 10.1037/0022-0167.50.3.373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Shimotsu, S., & Mottet, T. P. (2009). The relationships among perfectionism, communication apprehension, and temperament. Communication Research Reports, 26, 188–197. doi: 10.1080/08824090903074381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Snell, W. E., Jr. (1997). The Multidimensional Sexual Perfectionism Questionnaire (MSPQ), Section I. Retrieved from
  45. Snell, W. E., Jr. (2001). Sexual perfectionism among single sexually experienced females. In W. E. Snell, Jr. (Ed.), New directions in the psychology of human sexuality: Research and theory. Cape Giradeau, MO: Snell Publications.Google Scholar
  46. Snell, W. E., Jr., & Rigdon, K. L. (2001). The Multidimensional Sexual Perfectionism Questionnaire: Preliminary evidence for reliability and validity. In W. E. Snell, Jr. (Ed.), New directions in the psychology of human sexuality: Research and theory. Cape Giradeau, MO: Snell Publications.Google Scholar
  47. Sprecher, S. (2006). Sexuality in close relationships. In P. Noller & J. A. Feeney (Eds.), Close relationships: Functions, forms, and processes (pp. 267–284). New York: Routledge. doi: 10.4324/9780203782972.
  48. Steer, A., & Tiggemann, M. (2008). The role of self-objectification in women’s sexual functioning. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 27, 205–225. doi: 10.1521/jscp.2008.27.3.205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Stoeber, J. (2012). Dyadic perfectionism in romantic relationships: Predicting relationship satisfaction and longterm commitment. Personality and Individual Differences, 53, 300–305. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2012.04.002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Stoeber, J. (2014). How other-oriented perfectionism differs from self-oriented and socially prescribed perfectionism. Journal of Psychopathology & Behavioral Assessment, 36, 329–338. doi: 10.1007/s10862-013-9397-7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Stoeber, J., & Childs, J. H. (2010). The assessment of self-oriented and socially prescribed perfectionism: Subscales make a difference. Journal of Personality Assessment, 92, 577–585. doi: 10.1080/00223891.2010.513306.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Stoeber, J., Harvey, L. N., Almeida, I., & Lyons, E. (2013). Multidimensional sexual perfectionism. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 42, 1593–1604. doi: 10.1007/s10508-013-0135-8.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  53. Tang, N., Bensman, L., & Hatfield, E. (2013). Culture and sexual self-disclosure in intimate relationships. Interpersona: An International Journal on Personal Relationships, 7, 227–245. doi: 10.5964/ijpr.v7i2.141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Vencill, J. A., Tebbe, E. A., & Garos, S. (2015). It’s not the size of the boat or the motion of the ocean: The role of self-objectification, appearance anxiety, and depression in female sexual functioning. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 39, 471–483. doi: 10.1177/0361684315587703.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Wiederman, M. W. (2000). Women’s body image self-consciousness during physical intimacy with a partner. Journal of Sex Research, 37, 60–68. doi: 10.1080/00224490009552021.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wiederman, M. W. (2001). “Don’t look now”: The role of self-focus in sexual dysfunction. The Family Journal, 9, 210–214. doi: 10.1177/1066480701092020.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Wiegel, M., Meston, C., & Rosen, R. (2005). The Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI): Cross-validation and development of clinical cutoff scores. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 31, 1–20. doi: 10.1080/00926230590475206.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  58. Wincze, J. P., & Carey, M. P. (1991). Sexual dysfunction: A guide for assessment and treatment. New York: Guilford Press. doi: 10.1176/ps.44.9.894.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Annette S. Kluck
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kseniya Zhuzha
    • 1
  • Kelly Hughes
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Special Education, Rehabilitation and CounselingAuburn UniversityAuburnUSA

Personalised recommendations