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Women’s Sexuality, Well-Being, and the Menstrual Cycle: Methodological Issues and Their Interrelationships

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Abstract

Although many studies report that women’s sexual behavior varies across their menstrual cycles, the research findings remain inconsistent. In this study, we addressed two methodological issues in research on the menstrual cycle: how ovulation is measured/inferred and whether data using menstrual cycles or participants’ scores averaged across cycles as units of analysis yield similar results. We also employed an abstinent comparison group in addition to examining how emotional well-being was related to libido and sexual behavior through factor and regression analysis. Data were obtained from 97 participants. There were no significant differences in the results of analyses performed using cycles with known LH surges to determine ovulation versus cycles based on backward counts. However, we concluded that statistical power might be compromised when the known timing of ovulation was less accurate. Likewise, we found few overall differences in the results when we analyzed data using cycles with known LH surges compared to participants’ averaged data across cycles. Women, including those in the abstinent group, reported increased sexual behavior prior to ovulation. Allosexual behavior was positively related to libido, and negatively related to positive and “premenstrual” emotional factors. Autosexual behavior was predicted by libido and an energetic/creative emotional factor. Our findings support hypotheses that women’s sexual behavior is related to both mating and pair-bond formation.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Marci Arizumi, Louona Larkspur, Ariel Marsh, Lynn Morrison, Nicola Nicolaisen, Tiffany Freitas, Michelle McNamee, Sarah Asakawa, Aizelle Boado, and Lisa Oliver in helping to recruit the participants, and in data collection, organization, and analysis. This research was supported by NIH grant #S06-GM0873-33.

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Correspondence to Susan G. Brown.

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Brown, S.G., Calibuso, M.J. & Roedl, A.L. Women’s Sexuality, Well-Being, and the Menstrual Cycle: Methodological Issues and Their Interrelationships. Arch Sex Behav 40, 755–765 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-010-9630-3

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