An Examination of the Sexual Double Standard Pertaining to Masturbation and the Impact of Assumed Motives

  • Katherine R. HausEmail author
  • Ashley E. Thompson
Original Paper


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.


Masturbation 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

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of KentuckyLexingtonUSA
  2. 2.University of Minnesota DuluthDuluthUSA

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