Skip to main content

Sexual Self-Efficacy and Entitlement to Pleasure: The Association of the Female Sexual Subjectivity Inventory with Sexual Risk Taking and Experience of Orgasm

Abstract

Young women’s understanding of their own sexuality has increasingly been acknowledged as an important component of their sexual health. The Female Sexual Subjectivity Inventory (FSSI) was developed to measure five distinct factors of young women’s experiences of sexual pleasure and empowerment. No studies have explicitly evaluated the association between FSSI scores and clinical sexual health outcomes. We conducted a cross-sectional survey of women to assess the association between FSSI factors and the occurrence of three clinical sexual health outcomes in the prior 12 months: acquisition of an STI, unwanted pregnancy, or taking emergency contraception (Plan B). We also assessed the association between FSSI scores and self-reported orgasm frequency during partnered sexual activity. We used multivariate logistic regression models to estimate associations. Finally, we used the FSSI scale in a novel way to identify a population of women who are discordant on their levels of entitlement to pleasure from a partner and self-efficacy in achieving sexual pleasure. We did not find any statistically significant associations between mean score on any of the FSSI factors and clinical sexual health outcomes of interest in the prior year. We found that all FSSI factors except Sexual Self-Reflection were positively associated with increased orgasm frequency. Our study underscores the validity of the FSSI as a measure to assess psychosocial constructs relevant to young women’s ability to experience sexual pleasure with a partner and introduces a novel way to use the scale to assess the development of women’s sexual subjectivity.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Armstrong, E. A., England, P., & Fogarty, A. C. (2012). Accounting for women’s orgasm and sexual enjoyment in college hookups and relationships. American Sociological Review,77, 435–462.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Centers for Disease Control. (2017). STDs in adolescents and young adults—2016 STD surveillance report [Internet]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/std/stats16/adolescents.htm.

  • Curtin, N., Ward, L. M., Merriwether, A., & Caruthers, A. (2011). Femininity ideology and sexual health in young women: A focus on sexual knowledge, embodiment, and agency. International Journal of Sexual Health,23, 48–62.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Doyle Zeanah, P., & Schwarz, J. C. (1996). Reliability and validity of the Sexual Self-Esteem Inventory for Women. Assessment,3, 1–15.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fine, M. (1988). Sexuality, schooling, and adolescent females: The missing discourse of desire. Harvard Educational Review,58, 29–54.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Finer, L. B., & Zolna, M. R. (2016). Declines in unintended pregnancy in the United States, 2008–2011. New England Journal of Medicine,374, 843–852.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Horne, S., & Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J. (2006). The Female Sexual Subjectivity Inventory: Development and validation of a multidimensional inventory for late adolescents and emerging adults. Psychology of Women Quarterly,30, 125–138.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lavie-Ajayi, M. (2005). “Because all real women do”: The construction and deconstruction of “female orgasmic disorder”. Sexualities, Evolution & Gender,7, 57–72.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lehan Mackin, M., Clark, M. K., McCarthy, A. M., & Farris, K. (2015). Knowledge and use of emergency contraception in college women. Western Journal of Nursing Research,37(4), 462–480.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mastro, S., & Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J. (2015). Let’s talk openly about sex: Sexual communication, self-esteem and efficacy as correlates of sexual well-being. European Journal of Developmental Psychology,12, 579–598.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Morokoff, P. J., Quina, K., Harlow, L. L., Whitmire, L., Grimley, D. M., Gibson, P. R., & Burkholder, G. J. (1997). Sexual Assertiveness Scale (SAS) for women: Development and validation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,73, 790.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • O’Sullivan, L. F., Byers, E. S., Brotto, L. A., Majerovich, J. A., & Fletcher, J. (2016). A longitudinal study of problems in sexual functioning and related sexual distress among middle to late adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health,59, 318–324.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • O’Sullivan, L. F., Meyer-Bahlburg, H. F. L., & McKeague, I. W. (2006). The development of the Sexual Self-Concept Inventory for early adolescent girls. Psychology of Women Quarterly,30, 139–149.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rostosky, S. S., Dekhtyar, O., Cupp, P. K., & Anderman, E. M. (2008). Sexual self-concept and sexual self-efficacy in adolescents: A possible clue to promoting sexual health? Journal of Sex Research,45, 277–286.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sanchez, D. T., Kiefer, A. K., & Ybarra, O. (2006). Sexual submissiveness in women: Costs for sexual autonomy and arousal. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,32, 512–524.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Satinsky, S., & Jozkowski, K. N. (2015). Female sexual subjectivity and verbal consent to receiving oral sex. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy,41, 413–426.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Teitcher, J. E., Bockting, W. O., Bauermeister, J. A., Hoefer, C. J., Miner, M. H., & Klitzman, R. L. (2015). Detecting, preventing, and responding to “fraudsters” in internet research: Ethics and tradeoffs. Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics,43, 116–133.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tolman, D. L. (2009). Dilemmas of desire: Teenage girls talk about sexuality. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Tolman, D. L. (2012). Female adolescents, sexual empowerment and desire: A missing discourse of gender inequity. Sex Roles,66, 746–757.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tolman, D. L., & McClelland, S. I. (2011). Normative sexuality development in adolescence: A decade in review, 2000–2009. Journal of Research on Adolescence,21, 242–255.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Waltermaurer, E., Doleyres, H. M., Bednarczyk, R. A., & McNutt, L. A. (2013). Emergency contraception considerations and use among college women. Journal of Women’s Health,22(2), 141–146.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • World Health Organization. (2006). Defining sexual health [Internet]. Available from: https://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/sexual_health/sh_definitions/en.

  • Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J. (2013). Young females’ sexual self-efficacy: Associations with personal autonomy and the couple relationship. Sexual Health,10, 204–210.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J., Ducat, W. H., & Boislard-Pepin, M. A. (2011). A prospective study of young females’ sexual subjectivity: Associations with age, sexual behavior, and dating. Archives of Sexual Behavior,40, 927.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J., & French, J. (2016). Associations of sexual subjectivity with global and sexual well-being: A new measure for young males and comparison to females. Archives of Sexual Behavior,45, 315–327.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J., & Helfand, M. (2008). Ten years of longitudinal research on U.S. adolescent sexual behavior: Developmental correlates of sexual intercourse, and the importance of age, gender and ethnic background. Developmental Review,28, 153–224. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dr.2007.06.001.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to acknowledge Amelia Jarvinen and Amanda Mancenido, MPH, for their valuable contributions to survey recruitment efforts.

Funding

This work was funded in part by a Thesis Stipend Award provided by the Maternal and Child Health Department at the University of Washington (supported by the US Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau [Title V, Social Security Act], Grant #T76MC00011).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Julia C. Bond.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

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

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Bond, J.C., Morrison, D.M. & Hawes, S.E. Sexual Self-Efficacy and Entitlement to Pleasure: The Association of the Female Sexual Subjectivity Inventory with Sexual Risk Taking and Experience of Orgasm. Arch Sex Behav 49, 1029–1038 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-019-01563-3

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-019-01563-3

Keywords

  • Sexual subjectivity
  • Orgasm
  • Women
  • Sexual health
  • Female Sexual Subjectivity Inventory
  • Sexual risk-taking