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.
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To examine potential racial/cultural differences in U.S. men and women’s judgments, an additional 2 (gender of target) × 4 (race of participant) between-subjects ANOVA was conducted. For this analysis, the race of the participant was collapsed into four categories (due to small cell sizes for certain groups): black/African American, Caucasian, Asian, and other/mixed race. The results revealed that the main effect of the self-identified race of the participant did not influence partner quality judgments of the hypothetical target, F(3, 485) = 1.15, p = .33, ηp2 = 0.01. In addition, the interaction between the gender of the target and the race of the participant also failed to produce significance, F(3, 485) = 2.00, p = .11, ηp2 = 0.01. These results indicate that one’s race does not impact judgments of men and women who engage in masturbation.
To provide additional support that perceived motives mediated the relationship between gender and perceptions of partner quality and not the reverse (perceived partner quality mediated the relationship between gender and perceived motives), two inverse mediational analyses were conducted. In these analyses, the gender of target was still entered as the predictor variable (X), but scores on the PQS were entered as the mediating variable (M), and perceived motives were entered as outcome variables (Y). The results revealed that although the first two requirements to determine mediation were met, the reduction from c to c1 was not significant (p > .05). Thus, despite the cross-sectional design employed in study two, these analyses provide additional support that perceived motives do (in fact) partially explain the relationship between the gender of the target and perceptions of partner quality.
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Haus, K.R., Thompson, A.E. An Examination of the Sexual Double Standard Pertaining to Masturbation and the Impact of Assumed Motives. Sexuality & Culture 24, 809–834 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12119-019-09666-8
- Sexual double standard
- Perceived gender differences