New Directions in the Psychology of Human Sexuality:
Research and Theory

Chapter 15:
The Multidimensional Sexual Perfectionism Questionnaire:
Preliminary Evidence for Reliability and Validity

William E. Snell, Jr.  
Southeast Missouri State University

Kathy L. Rigdon
Southeast Missouri State University
     

Abstract

          Previous research has indicated that people sometimes apply highly rigid and perfectionistic standards of personal conduct to themselves.  In Chapter 1 5 a new multidimensional self-report instrument, the Multidimensional Sexual Perfectionism Questionnaire (MSPQ), was developed to measure 5 distinct psychological tendencies associated with people's standards of sexual conduct:  (1) self-oriented sexual perfectionism, (2) perceived socially-prescribed sexual perfectionism, (3) partner-directed sexual perfectionism, (4) partner's self-oriented sexual perfectionism, (5) perceived self-directed sexual perfectionism from one's partner.  The results provided preliminary evidence (a) that the MSPQ subscales have acceptable levels of reliability, (b) that college-age students' sexual perfectionism tendencies were associated with their romantic attachment styles; (c) that gender differences emerged for some MSPQ subscales; and (d) that sexual perfectionism tendencies were associated with distinct sexual awareness tendencies.  The discussion focuses on future research with the MSPQ.  

         

        Acknowledgments.  Portions of these data were presented at the 1995 annual meeting of the Southwestern Psychological Association, San Antonio, TX. .  The material in this chapter was originally published in the xxxxx; gratitude is extended to the XXX-Editor (xxx) and two anonymous reviewers for their peer-review commentary on an earlier draft of this material.

        Proper citation:  Snell, W. E., Jr., & Rigdon, K. L.  (2001).  Chapter 15:  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 Girardeau, MO: Snell Publications. WEB: http://cstl-cla.semo.edu/snell/books/sexuality/sexuality.htm.

Chapter 15:
The Multidimensional Sexual Perfectionism Questionnaire:
Preliminary Evidence for Reliability and Validity


        
Frost, Marten, Lahart, and Rosenblate (1990) defined perfectionism as the setting of excessively high standards for personal performance accompanied by overly critical self-evaluations (Frost, Heimberg, Holt, Mattia, & Neubauer, 1993).  Hewitt and Flett (1990, 1991) have conducted one of the most extensive attempts to measure perfectionism; they argue that perfectionism consists of several distinct components known as self-oriented perfectionism, other-oriented perfectionism, and socially-prescribed perfectionism.  Self-oriented perfectionism involves high self-standards and excessive motivation to attain perfection.  Other-oriented perfectionism involves unrealistic expectations for significant others, and socially-prescribed perfectionism involves the belief that others are imposing perfectionistic standards and expectations on the self (Hewitt & Flett, 1993).

         The purpose of the present research was (1) to extend the early perfectionism research by developing an objective self-report instrument, the Multidimensional Sexual Perfectionism Questionnaire (MSPQ), designed to assess several types of sexual perfectionism; (2) to examine the relationship between sexual perfectionism and sexual awareness (Snell, Fisher, & Miller, 1991); and (3) to examine whether peoples' sexual perfectionism tendencies would be associated with their romantic attachment tendencies.

Sexual Awareness

         The Sexual Awareness Questionnaire (SAQ; Snell, Fisher, & Miller, 1991) was designed to measure four personality tendencies associated with sexual awareness and sexual assertiveness:  sexual-consciousness (attention to internal private sexual cues), sexual-monitoring (sensitivity to others' evaluations of one's sexuality), sexual-assertiveness (self-reliance in sexual decision making), and sexiness-consciousness (awareness of one's own public sexiness).  Factor and reliability analyses by Snell et al. (1991) confirmed the factorial validity and reliability of the subscales on the Sexual Awareness Questionnaire.  Other results provided evidence that all four SAQ subscales tended to be negatively related to measures of sex-anxiety and sex-guilt for both males and females, and sexual-consciousness was directly related to erotophilic feelings (i.e., to positive feelings about sexuality).

         Other findings indicated that men's and women's responses to the four SAQ subscales were related to their sexual attitudes, dispositions, and behaviors.  More specifically, Snell et al. (1991) found that sexual-consciousness and sexual-assertiveness were associated with a more general positive orientation to human sexuality (e.g., greater sexual-esteem, erotophilia, sexual satisfaction) and a less negative approach to sexual relations (e.g., less sexual-depression).  These two subscales were also associated with specific attitudes toward sex.  Individuals with greater sexual-consciousness and sexual-assertiveness expressed the personal beliefs that sex should be approached from an interpersonal perspective where sexual accountability and responsibility should prevail.  Not surprisingly, these same individuals indicated that they engaged in a number of communal behaviors associated with sexual relations and that they were quite satisfied with their sexual relations.

         By contrast, Snell et al. (1991) found that the pattern of results for the measure of sexual-monitoring suggested that the dispositional tendency to be attentive to others' evaluation of one's own sexuality may result in a more complicated and negative view of sex.  Although both males and females who were higher in sexual-monitoring did report lower sexual-anxiety, they also scored higher on measures of sexual-depression and sexual-preoccupation.  In addition, they approached their sexual relations from both a communal and an exchange orientation.  Moreover, although they expressed the attitudes that sex ought to be communal in nature, but safely and responsibly practiced, they were also more likely to report engaging in charm-related behaviors to actually discuss such topics as AIDS with a sexual partner.  Lastly, Snell et al. (1991) found that women with greater sexual-monitoring reported less sexual-satisfaction, while men with greater sexual-monitoring reported less close relationship-satisfaction.  An ancillary purpose of the present research was to explore the relationship between the sexual tendencies measured by the Sexual Awareness Questionnaire (SAQ) and men's and women's sexual perfectionism, as measured by the Multidimensional Sexual Perfectionism Questionnaire (MSPQ).

Attachment

         An additional goal of the present research was to examine the relationship between sexual perfectionism and people's attachment styles.  Attachment theory was originally developed to explain many forms of emotional distress and personality disturbance, including anxiety, anger, depression, and emotional detachment (Bowlby, 1977).  Ainsworth (1989) identified three patterns of childhood attachment:  (a) secure attachment, (b) anxious-resistant attachment, and (c) avoidant attachment.  The securely attached child welcomes the return of the caretaker and is readily comforted.  The anxious-resistant child shows ambivalent behavior and an inability to be comforted upon reunion with a caretaker.  The avoidant child tends to express less distress during separation episodes with a conspicuous avoidance of proximity or interaction with the caretaker upon reunion.

         In more recent years Hazan and Shaver (1987) have used attachment theory (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, & Wall, 1978; Bowlby, 1982, 1973, 1980) as the basis for examining adult romantic relationships.  More recently, Bartholomew has argued for 4 prototypic attachment patterns, which include secure, fearful, preoccupied, and dismissing (Scharfe & Bartholomew, in press).  Secure attachment is the sense of worthiness (lovability) plus an expectation that other people are generally accepting and responsive.  Fearful attachment is the sense of unworthiness (unlovability) combined with an expectation that others will be negatively disposed (rejecting and untrustworthy).  By avoiding close involvement with others, this style enables people to protect themselves against anticipated rejection by others.  Preoccupied attachment is the sense of unworthiness (unlovability) combined with a positive evaluation of others.  People who strive for self-acceptance value acceptance by others.  Dismissing attachment is the sense of love-worthiness combined with a negative disposition toward other people.  This attachment style protects the self against disappointment by avoiding close relationships and maintaining a sense of independence and invulnerability.  One purpose of the present research was to examine the relationship between sexual perfectionism and people's attachment tendencies.

Summary

         To summarize, university male and female students were asked in the present investigation to complete several sexuality-related instruments, including the Multidimensional Sexual Perfectionism Questionnaire (MSPQ).  This provided us with the opportunity to address several research questions.  First, how adequate are the psychometric properties of the subscales assessing the 5 types of sexual perfectionism, and in what ways are the various MSPQ subscales intercorrelated?  To examine these aspects of the MSPQ, Cronbach alphas (i.e., inter-item consistency coefficients) were computed for each of the 5 MSPQ subscales, and then subscale intercorrelations were conducted.  Second, do males and females approach their sexual involvements with different types of sexual perfectionism?  Research by Hewitt, Flett, Turnbull-Donovan, and Mikail (1991) indicates that males had higher other-oriented perfectionism than did women, but that women had higher socially prescribed perfectionism.  Given these previous findings, it was predicted, similarly, that males males would have higher other-oriented sexual perfectionism than did women, but that women would report greater socially prescribed sexual perfectionism.  Third, do individuals with different types of sexual perfectionism think about their sexuality in different ways?  To address this issue, the relationship between the types of sexual perfectionism measured by the MSPQ and the types of sexual awareness measured by the Sexual Awareness Scale (SAQ; Snell et al., 1991) were examined.  It seemed reasonable to expect that individuals who applied excessively high, rigid and perfectionistic sexual standards of sexual conduct to themselves would be likely to develop a strong tendency to be concerned with how others perceive the sexual aspects of themselves (i.e., greater sexual-monitoring).  Finally, another research question concerned the relationship between the MSPQ and people's romantic attachment tendencies.  To address this question in the present study, the MSPQ was correlated with the Relationship Scales Questionnaire (RSQ; Scharfe & Bartholomew, 1994), an instrument designed to measure 4 romantic attachment styles (i.e., secure, preoccupied, fearful, and dismissing attachment).  It seemed reasonable to expect that young adults characterized by a secure types of attachment would be less likely to take a perfectionistic approach to the sexual aspects of their lives.

Method

Participants

         A sample of 218 participants (156 females; 54 males, and 8 gender unspecified person) were asked to volunteer to participate in research as one way to fulfill a course requirement.  Approximately 66% were freshmen and sophomores, and the remainder were upper-level students.  Most of the participants (86%) were between 16 and 25 years of age, and the others were older.  Caucasian-Americans constituted the majority of the participants (83%); others were either African-American, Hispanic-American, Oriental/Asian, or other ethnicities.  The majority (about 84%) of the participants were single; approximately 84% of the sample did not have children.  About 24% of the students earned less than $15,000 per year, and nearly 25% reported they (or their family) earned over $50,000 per year.  Approximately 29% were protestants, 31% were Catholics, 7% were atheists, and 28% had other religious orientations.

Measures

         Multidimensional Sexual Perfectionism Questionnaire (MSPQ).  The Multidimensional Sexual Perfectionism Questionnaire (MSPQ; Snell, 1994) was designed to measure several tendencies associated with people's perfectionism about the sexual aspects of their lives.  The MSPQ contains 5 subscales:  (1) self-oriented sexual perfectionism (6 items, 3 reversed-worded), designed to measure excessively high, rigid, and perfectionistic sexual standards that are applied to oneself; (2) socially-prescribed sexual perfectionism (6 items, 3 reversed-worded), which involves the belief that society and "generalized" others are imposing perfectionistic sexual standards and expectations for oneself; (3) partner-directed sexual perfectionism (6 items, 3 reversed-worded), which involves the application of perfectionistic sexual standards to one's partner; (4) partner's self-oriented sexual perfectionism (6 items, 3 reversed-worded), designed to measure people's perception that their partners impose rigid and perfectionistic sexual standards to themselves (i.e., to the partners themselves); and (5) self-directed sexual perfectionism from one's partner (4 items, 1 reversed-worded), which involves people's belief that their partners are applying excessively rigid and perfectionistic sexual standards to themselves (i.e., to the subjects themselves).  In developing the items for the MSPQ, work by Hewitt, Flett, and their colleagues was consulted.

         In responding to the Multidimensional Sexual Perfectionism Questionnaire (MSPQ), the subjects were asked to indicate how characteristic each statement was of them.  A 5-point Likert scale was used to collect data on the subjects' responses, with each item being scored from 0 to 4:  not at all characteristic of me (0), slightly characteristic of me (1), somewhat characteristic of me (2), moderately characteristic of me (3), and very characteristic of me (4).   In order to create subscale scores, the items on each subscale were averaged (after reverse scoring the 3 reverse-worded items).  Higher scores thus corresponded to greater amounts of each type of sexual perfectionism.

         Sexual Awareness Questionnaire.  The Sexual Awareness Questionnaire (SAQ; Snell et al., 1991) was designed to assess the following psychological aspects of human sexuality:  attention to internal private bodily sensations associated with sexual arousal and motivation (referred to as sexual-consciousness); external public concern with other's impressions about one's sexuality (referred to as sexual-monitoring); and individual alertness to others' perception that one is sexy (referred to as sex-appeal-consciousness).  In addition, the SAQ includes a subscale designed to measure sexual-assertiveness, the dispositional tendency to act and behave in an independent, self-reliant fashion concerning one's own sexuality.  Snell et al. (1991) reported alphas ranging from .79 to .92 for the SAQ subscales.  Higher scores on the SAQ subscales corresponded to greater amount of each of the respective tendencies.

         Relationship Scales Questionnaire (RSQ).  The 30-item Relationship Scales Questionnaire (Griffin & Bartholomew, 1994) was designed to measure four attachment styles:  (1) secure attachment, defined as being comfortable with becoming intimate with someone while maintaining an internalized sense of self-worth; (2) preoccupied attachment, defined as having a need for excessive intimacy and reassurance from others because of a deep-seated sense of unworthiness; (3) fearful attachment, defined as avoidance of intimacy because of anxiety due to a fear of rejection; and (4) dismissing attachment, defined as having high independence and high self-esteem in intimate relationships coupled with a negative view of others, resulting in emotional distance in the relationship.

         Respondents were asked to read the 30 RSQ statements (slightly reworded to address sexual attachment) and to rate the items on a 5-point Likert scale, with responses scored from 0 to 4:  (0) not at all like me, (2) somewhat like me, and (4) very much like me.   Subjects received four scores, one for each of the four attachment styles.  In order to create subscale scores, the items on each subscale were summed.  Scharfe and Bartholomew (in press) report that for females the reliabilities averaged about .53 (Range =.45 to .58).  Higher scores on each subscale corresponded to a greater degree of each respective attachment style.

Procedure

         When subjects arrived at the testing room, the purpose of the study was described to them and they were asked to read and sign an informed consent sheet.  They were guaranteed complete anonymity and were assured that their responses would be kept in complete confidentiality.  All subjects who entered the experiment agreed to participate.  Each subject then received a questionnaire booklet containing the various measures.  Females and males responded to the survey in separate sessions.  Following the completion of the measures, the subjects received a written debriefing form that explained the purpose of the study.  The completion of the questionnaire booklet required approximately 50-55 minutes.  The study consisted of numerous sessions composed of an average of 15 participants per session.

Results

         The results are presented in the following sections:  (1) psychometric results for the Multidimensional Sexual Perfectionism Questionnaire (MSPQ), (2) correlations between the MSPQ and the Sexual Awareness Questionnaire (SAQ), and (3) correlations between the MSPQ and the attachment measure.

Psychometric Results

         Our first research question focused on an examination of some of the psychometric properties of the Multidimensional Sexual Perfectionism Questionnaire.  Toward this end, reliability and correlational coefficients were computed (discussed below).

         MSPQ Reliability.  In order to provide preliminary evidence for the reliability (i.e., internal consistency) of the MSPQ, Cronbach alphas were computed for each of the 6 MSPQ subscales (see Table 1).  These results revealed the following alphas for each MSPQ subscales:  (1) self-oriented sexual perfectionism (alpha = .71); (2) socially-prescribed sexual perfectionism (alpha = .37); (3) partner-directed sexual perfectionism (alpha = .67); (4) partner's self-oriented sexual perfectionism (alpha = .67); and (5) self-directed sexual perfectionism from one's partner (alpha = .75).  Except for MSPQ subscale 2 (socially-prescribed sexual perfectionism; alpha of .51 for the 3 non-reversed worded items and .40 for the reverse-coded items), these reliability indexes were sufficiently high to justify their use in the latter analyses.

         MSPQ Subscale Correlations.  The correlations among the MSPQ subscales are also displayed in Table 1 for males and females.  An inspection of this table indicates that the MSPQ subscales were all positively intercorrelated among both males and females, although the magnitude of the correlations did vary from instance to instance.  Table 1, for example, shows that among both genders those who held perfectionistic and highly rigid standards of sexual conduct for their partners were also more likely to report that their partners took this same approach to them.  By comparison, those males and females who perceived strongly perfectionistic sexual standards from society in general were only moderately likely to believe that their partners were excessively perfectionistic in the sexual standards they applied to themselves.

 

Table 1

Correlational, Reliability, and Gender Results for the Multidimensional Sexual Perfectionism Questionnaire


MSPQ                                                       Multidimensional Sexual Perfectionism Questionnaire

Subscales                                                   1                  2            3              4              5


1.     Self-Oriented

        Sexual Perfectionism                 .--            .49d        .55d        .42d        .66d

 

2.     Socially-Prescribed

        Sexual Perfectionism                 .65d        .--            .31a        .57d        .43d

 

3.     Partner's Self-Oriented

        Sexual Perfectionism                 .48d        .31d        .--            .30a        .48d

 

4.     Self-Directed Sexual Perfectionism

        From One's Partner                    .42d        .56d        .35d        .--            .56d

 

5.     Partner-Directed

        Sexual Perfectionism                 .52d        .50d        .36d        .67d        .--

 

Alpha              (N=207)                         .71          .37          .67          .67          .75

 

Males             (n=53)                          2.46        1.70        2.08        1.59        1.54

                                                            (0.85)     (0.53)     (0.69)     (0.73)     (0.96)

 

Females        (n=156)                       2.17        1.55        2.33        1.36        1.18

                                                            (0.83)     (0.57)     (0.81)     (0.71)     (0.94)

 

F  (1, 208)                                           4.75a      2.74        4.09a      4.16a      5.91a

 


Note.  Multivariate-F (5, 203) = 4.40, p < .001.  Higher scores correspond to greater amounts of each respective tendency (subscale range = 0 - 4).  N for males (females) = 53 (156).  Correlations for males are above the diagonal; for females, below.

+  p < .10.      a  p < .05.       b  p < .01.        c  p < .005.       d  p < .001.

 

         Basis of the MSPQ responses.  When the subjects completed the MSPQ, they were asked to indicate the basis for their responses.  Three options were provided:  (1) a current sexual relationship (n = 141), (2) a past sexual relationship (n = 39), or (3) an imaginary sexual relationship (n = 29); 9 subjects did not respond to this item.  There were no significant main effects of response basis for any of the MSPQ sexual styles, all univariate Fs (2, 206) < 2.38, n. s.  Thus, the subjects' MSPQ responses seemed to be independent of whether they were thinking about a present, past, or imagined sexual relationship when they completed this instrument.

Gender Results

         The second research question focused on gender differences in the sexual perfectionism tendencies measured by the MSPQ.  To examine the relationship between sexual perfectionism and gender, a multivariate ANOVA was conducted, using gender as the independent variable and the 5 MSPQ subscales as dependent measures.  The multivariate effect for gender was statistically significant, multivariate-F(5, 203) = 4.40, p < .001.  The univariate ANOVAs were examined to identify the significant gender findings.  As an inspection of the means in Table 1 indicates, relative to their female counterparts, males reported (a) greater self-oriented sexual perfectionism, (b) believed that their partners also applied greater sexual perfectionism toward them (i. e., the subjects), and (c) applied greater perfectionistic standards of sexual conduct to their female partners.  Also, it was found that females reported that their male partners exerted greater self-pressure for sexual perfectionism.  Such tendencies probably contribute to considerable sexual dissatisfaction in male-female heterosexual sexual relations, if not a greater likelihood for sexual dysfunctions in both genders.

Sexual Awareness Results

         The third research question examined in the present investigation focused on the relationship between the MSPQ and people's sexual awareness tendencies.  Preliminary evidence for the validity of the MSPQ was examined by conducting a series of correlations between the Sexual Awareness Questionnaire (SAQ) and the Multidimensional Sexual Perfectionism Questionnaire.  The correlations are presented in Table 2 and are discussed in the  following 5 sections corresponding to the 5 subscales on the MSPQ.
 

Table 2

Correlations between the Multidimensional Sexual Perfectionism Questionnaire (MSPQ) and the Sexual Awareness Questionnaire


Multidimensional                                                           _________________   Sexual Awareness Questionnaire         ___________          .

Sexual                                                             Sexual-                                   Sexual-                          Sexual-                    Sexiness-

Perfectionism                                                 Consciousness                      Monitoring                     Assertiveness          Consciousnes

Questionnaire                                                        ____________                 ___________                  ___________            ___________

(MSPQ)                                                                 M                 F                   M               F                  M               F             M                  F


Self-Oriented

Sexual Perfectionism       -.06     .13+   .41d   .46d     .02     .17a  -.05  .11+

Socially-Prescribed

Sexual Perfectionism       -.04     .02     .20     .23b      .01     .07    -.09  .11+

Partner's Self-Oriented

Sexual Perfectionism       -.05     .14a   .32b   .26d     .03     .13+   .09    .03

Self-Directed Sexual

Perfectionism From          -.02     .01    -.13     .14a     -.01    .11+  -.12  .12+
One's Partner        

Partner-Directed

Sexual Perfectionism        .15     .02     .20     .13a     .22     .21c   .25a .15a


Note.  N for males (females) = 52-53 (155-156).  M = males; F = females.  Higher scores correspond to greater amounts of each respective tendency.

+ p < .10.       a p < .05.       b p < .01.       c p < .005.       d p < .001.

 

         Self-Oriented Sexual Perfectionism.  As can be seen in Table 2, people who held more highly rigid sexual standards for themselves (i.e., those with higher scores on the measure of self-oriented sexual perfectionism) were more likely to report greater sexual-monitoring (both males and females) and greater sexual-assertiveness (females only).

         Socially-Prescribed Sexual Perfectionism.  Table 2 also indicates that among males, the measure of socially-prescribed sexual perfectionism (i.e., those with a stronger belief that society in general applied highly perfectionistic sexual standards in evaluating them) was unrelated to sexual-consciousness, sexiness-consciousness, sexual-assertiveness, and sexual monitoring.  By contrast, among females, those with greater socially-prescribed sexual perfectionism reported greater sexual-monitoring.

         Partner's Self-Oriented Sexual Perfectionism.  An inspection of Table 2 also indicates that females who believed that their male partners were more likely to apply perfectionistic sexual standards to them (i.e., male partners to their own self) reported greater sexual-consciousness and sexual-monitoring.  Similarly, among males, those who were more likely to believe that their female partners applied perfectionistic sexual standards to them (i.e., to the males) reported greater sexual-monitoring.

         Self-Directed Sexual Perfectionism From One's Partner.  As Table 2 indicates, females who believed that their male partners expected excessively perfectionistic sexual standards of them were more likely to report greater sexual-monitoring.  None of the relevant correlations were significant for males.

         Partner-Directed Sexual Perfectionism.  Finally, it can be seen in Table 2 that females who were more likely to apply excessively rigid and perfectionistic sexual standards to their partners reported greater sexual-monitoring.  Also, among the females partner-directed sexual perfectionism was positively correlated with greater sexual-assertiveness and sexiness-conscious.  By contrast, among males the only statistically significant correlation was with sexiness-consciousness.  Thus, males who were very aware of others' perceptions of their own male sexiness were more likely to apply sexually perfectionistic sexual standards of conduct to their partner.

Attachment Results

         The final research question was concerned with examining the impact of attachment styles on the types of sexual perfectionism that characterize young adult males and females.  To provide additional evidence for the validity of the MSPQ, a series of correlations was thus computed between the attachment scale (i.e., the RSQ) and the Multidimensional Sexual Perfectionism Questionnaire.  The correlations are presented in Table 3.

 

Table 3

Correlations between Sexual Attachment Tendencies and the Multidimensional Sexual Perfectionism Questionnaire (MSPQ) Among Males and Females


Multidimensional                                                                                 Sexual Awareness Questionnaire                  .

Sexual                                                                         Sexual-                                    Sexual-                      Sexual-                    Sexiness-

Perfectionism                                                              Consciousness                       Monitoring                  Assertiveness        Consciousnes

Questionnaire                                                              ____________         _________         __________          ___________

(MSPQ)                                                                         M         F               M        F            M       F          M       F


Self-Oriented

Sexual Perfectionism                       -.31a      -.11         .30a   .15a       -.11   .15a .    34b   .10

Socially-Prescribed

Sexual Perfectionism                       -.34b      -.16a       .42c   .18a       -.01   .10       .26a   .02

Partner's Self-Oriented

Sexual Perfectionism                        -.11        -.01         .20     .02          .04   .02       .10     .08

Self-Directed Sexual                        -.45d     -.35d       .48d   .41d      -.07   .13       .20    .22c

Perfectionism From
One's Partner

Partner-Directed

Sexual Perfectionism                        -.38c      -.30d       .46d   .34d      -.08   .15a     .37c .25d


Note.  N for males (females) = 53 (156).  M = males; F = females.  Higher scores correspond to greater amounts of each respective tendency.

+ p < .10.       a p < .05.       b p < .01.       c p < .005.       d p < .001.

 

         Self-Oriented Sexual Perfectionism.  As can be seen in Table 3, males who held more highly rigid sexual standards for themselves (i.e., those with higher scores on the measure of self-oriented sexual perfectionism) were more likely to report having stronger fearful and dismissing types of attachment styles, respectively, but they were less likely to report having a stronger secure type of attachment style.

         By comparison, females who were more likely to apply perfectionistic sexual standards to themselves reported greater amounts of fearful and preoccupied types of attachment styles.

         Socially-Prescribed Sexual Perfectionism.  Table 3 also indicates that males with higher scores on the measure of socially-prescribed sexual perfectionism (i.e., those with a stronger belief that society in general applies highly perfectionistic sexual standards in evaluating them) were (a) less likely to report having a stronger secure attachment style but (b) more likely to report having a stronger fearful attachment style.

         Among females, a similar pattern was found (i.e., greater socially prescribed sexual perfectionism was negatively correlated with a secure attachment but positively correlated with a fearful attachment).

         Partner's Self-Oriented Sexual Perfectionism.  An inspection of Table 3 also indicates that among both males and females, the measure of  whether subjects believed that their partners were likely to apply perfectionistic sexual standards to themselves (i.e., partners to their own self)  was not significantly related to any of the 4 types of attachment styles.

         Self-Directed Sexual Perfectionism From One's Partner.  As Table 3 indicates, both males and females who believed that their partners expected excessively perfectionistic sexual standards of them were more likely to report (a) a more fearful and (b) a less secure type of romantic attachment, respectively.  In addition, these females (i.e., those who believed that their male partners expected excessively perfectionistic sexual standards of them) were more likely to report having a more dismissing type of romantic attachment.

         Partner-Directed Sexual Perfectionism.  Finally, it can be seen in Table 3 that both males and females who were more likely to apply excessively rigid and perfectionistic sexual standards to their partners reported both a more fearful and a more dismissing type of romantic attachment, respectively, and a less secure type of romantic attachment.  In addition, this table shows that among females, those who applied highly rigid and perfectionistic sexual standards to their male partners reported a more preoccupied attachment style.

Discussion

         The present research demonstrated the importance of examining men's and women's perfectionistic standards of conduct related to their sexuality.  Just as there exists a wide variety of perfectionistic standards of personal conduct, the present results provide preliminary evidence that there are also several distinct sets of perfectionistic standards that concern the sexual aspects of people's lives.  These perfectionistic standards of sexual conduct were assessed through the development of the Multidimensional Sexual Perfectionism Questionnaire (MSPQ), an instrument designed to measure (1) self-oriented sexual perfectionism, (2) socially-prescribed sexual perfectionism, (3) partner-directed sexual perfectionism, (4) partner's self-oriented sexual perfectionism, and (5) self-directed sexual perfectionism from one's partner.

Psychometric Aspects of the MSPQ

         The first empirical question of this investigation centered on the psychometric properties of the MSPQ.  The Cronbach alpha measures of internal consistency indicated that almost all of the MSPQ subscales possessed an adequate level of reliability, thereby providing an empirical justification for their use in the present investigation.  A caveat is in order, however, for one of the MSPQ subscales (i.e., for the measure of socially-prescribed sexual perfectionism), since its alpha level was modest at best.  In addition to evidence for the reliability of the 5 MSPQ subscales, the present investigation provided evidence that although some of the MSPQ subscales were highly correlated, others were only moderately associated with each other.  To the extent that the MSPQ subscales are mostly independent of one another, they are probably identifying a variety of distinct types of sexual perfectionism.  The preliminary establishment of the existence of these sexual perfectionism components extends the previous work by Hewitt et al. (1991), and it offers new information about factors that may be found in future work to undermine people's sexual satisfaction and to foster several types of sexual dysfunctions.  The present findings also demonstrate that the Hewitt and Flett approach to perfectionism can be extended to provide additional insight and understanding into people's sexuality.  Just as individuals may apply excessively rigid and critical standards of self-definition to themselves, similarly they may also apply perfectionistic standards to the sexual aspects of their lives.  Thus, one of the contributions of the MSPQ is that this research now provides those working in the area of sexuality with a psychometrically sound instrument that can be used in future research on sexual functioning.  Use of this instrument might provide, for example, some interesting insights into the nature of people's contraceptive behavior, sexual communication, and sexual dysfunction.

Women's and Men's Sexual Perfectionism

         Another research issue examined in this investigation dealt with the nature of men's and women's sexual perfectionism.  Preliminary evidence from the Multidimensional Sexual Perfectionism Questionnaire (MSPQ) revealed that males reported greater self-oriented sexual perfectionism than did females, and that males, relative to their female counterparts, also expected greater self-directed sexual perfectionism from their sexual partners and applied similar perfectionistic standards of sexual conduct to their partners.  These gender differences of course need to be replicated, but they are somewhat different from Hewitt et al.'s (1991) finding that males had higher other-oriented perfectionism than did females.  If nothing else, the present results suggest that men's and women's perfectionistic tendencies may be specific to distinct aspects of their lives (e.g., to their self concept versus the sexual aspects of their lives).  These findings thus illustrate the importance of studying gender-related tendencies in sexual perfectionism.

Sexual Perfectionism and Sexual Awareness

         The third research question in this investigation focused on the relationship between people's sexual perfectionism and their degree of sexual awareness and sexual assertiveness, as measured by the Sexual Awareness Questionnaire (SAQ; Snell et al., 1991).  We found a strong pattern of similarity between people's sexual perfectionism and their tendency to be aware of the public image of their sexuality.  More specifically, it was found that both males and females who were characterized by higher levels of each of the components of sexual perfectionism--especially self-oriented sexual perfectionism--reported greater sexual monitoring.  That is, those with greater sexual perfectionism were more likely to be highly concerned with others' scrutiny of their sexuality.  These findings are consistent with the general notion that perfectionistic tendencies, whether or not associated with the sexual aspects of life, may largely involve people's attempt to protect and to manage their self-image from a potentially negative public evaluation from others.  In this sense, sexual perfectionism seems to be strongly associated with a strong concern with how people evaluate one's sexuality.  Future research now needs to examine perhaps whether such excessive regard for negative evaluations about one's sexuality may in fact interfere with couples' mutually satisfying sexuality, and whether concerns about negative sexual evaluations may actually mediate the impact of sexual perfectionism on individual's sexual conduct.

Sexual Perfectionism and Attachment

         A final research question involved an examination of whether people's attachment styles would be predictive of their level of sexual perfectionism.  As expected, the findings did reveal that the various types of sexual perfectionism measured by the MSPQ were related in predictable ways to the 4 attachment styles measured by the Relationship Scales Questionnaire (Scharfe & Bartholomew, 1994).  More specifically, we found that those males and females who possessed a secure attachment style (i.e., those with a positive relational view of themselves and others) were less likely to apply perfectionistic sexual standards either to themselves or to their sexual partners, and in addition they were less likely to expect that their partners would apply such perfectionistic sexual standards to either partner.  By contrast, an almost identical inverse pattern of findings was discovered for the measure of fearful attachment.  In particular, it was found that a fearful attachment style was characteristic of both males and females who applied to themselves as well as expected from their partners an excessively rigid and perfectionistic set of sexual standards of conduct.  Thus, these results strongly suggest that a secure type of romantic attachment would seem to facilitate and that a fearful type of romantic attachment would interfere with the development of a mutually satisfying sexual relationship.  Future researchers now need to directly examine this possibility.

Conclusion

         The present investigation focused on the construction and preliminary validation of the Multidimensional Sexual Perfectionism Questionnaire (MSPQ), a measure of several aspects of sexual perfectionism:  (1) self-oriented sexual perfectionism, (2) socially-prescribed sexual perfectionism, (3) partner-directed sexual perfectionism, (4) partner's self-oriented sexual perfectionism, (5) self-directed sexual perfectionism from one's partner.  In an effort to provide greater insight into the nature of people's sexual relationships, the research in this investigation was designed to examine the association between the various aspects of sexual perfectionism measured by the MSPQ and people's gender, sexual awareness, and attachment styles.  The findings suggest that additional research with the MSPQ may be beneficial by helping to increase our understanding of people's sexual behaviors.  Nevertheless, there are several limitations associated with the current research.  First, the sample size consists of mostly young adults enrolled in a university setting, and thus the results are generalizable to only college students.  Future research on sexual perfectionism clearly needs to be conducted to examine the role of sexual perfectionism among married couples.

            Other interesting lines of research are also possible with the Multidimensional Sexual Perfectionism Questionnaire (MSPQ).  One potential focus for future investigation involves a longitudinal investigation of the impact of sexual perfectionism on the development of men's and women's sexual relationships.  It seems obvious that sexual perfectionism would foster the development of not only personal sexual dysfunctions but also perhaps hasten the end of unsatisfying sexual relationships (Hurlbert, White, Powell, & Apt, 1993).  Additionally, it might be fruitful to examine some of the gender-role correlates of the different components of sexual perfectionism.  Others may also want to examine whether such individual tendencies as sexual-esteem (Snell & Papini, 1989; Snell, Fisher, & Schuh, 1992; Wiederman & Allgeier, 1993; Hurlbert & Apt, 1991; Snell, Fisher, & Walters, 1993) and sexual-disclosure (Snell, Belk, Papini, & Clark, 1989) are related to the types of sexual perfectionism measured by the Multidimensional Sexual Perfectionism Questionnaire.  The present investigation represents a preliminary step in the direction of further increasing our understanding of human sexuality and the exploration of sexuality within the context of excessively rigid and perfectionistic standards of sexual conduct.



References

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MSPQ - SURVEY

INSTRUCTIONS:  Listed below are several statements that concern the topic of sexual relationships.  Please read each item carefully and decide to what extent it is characteristic of you.  Some of the items refer to a specific sexual relationship.  Whenever possible, answer the questions with your current partner in mind.  If you are not currently dating anyone, answer the questions with your most recent partner in mind.  If you have never had a sexual relationship, answer in terms of what you think your responses would most likely be.  Then, for each statement fill in the response on the answer sheet that indicates how much it applies to you by using the following scale:

*******************************************************************************************************

                        A  =  Not at all characteristic of me.
 
                       B  =  Slightly characteristic of me.
                       
C  =  Somewhat characteristic of me.
                       
D  =  Moderately characteristic of me.
                       
E  =  Very characteristic of me.

*******************************************************************************************************

1.               I will respond to the following items based on:
                             
(A)       A current sexual relationship.
                             
(B)       A past sexual relationship.
                             
(C)      An imagined sexual relationship.

2.               I set very high standards for myself as a sexual partner.

3.               Others would consider me a good sexual partner even if I'm not responsive every time.

4.               My partner sets very high standards of excellence for her/himself as a sexual partner.

5.               My partner expects me to be a perfect sexual partner.

6.               I expect my partner to be a top-notch and competent sexual partner.

7.               I must always be successful as a sexual partner.

8.               People often expect more of me as a sexual partner than I am capable of giving.

9.               My partner is perfectionistic in that this person expects to sexually satisfy me each and every time.

10.             My partner demands nothing less than perfection of me as a sexual partner.

11.             My partner should never let me down when it comes to my sexual needs.      

12.             One of my goals is to be a "perfect" sexual partner.

13.             Most people expect me to always be an excellent sexual partner.

14.             It makes my partner uneasy for him/her to be less than a perfect sexual partner.

15.             My partner always wants me to try hard to sexually please him/her.

16.             I cannot stand for my partner to be less than a satisfying sexual partner.

17.             I seldom feel the need to be a "perfect" sexual partner.

18.             Most people would regard me as okay, even if I did not perform well sexually.

19.             My partner does not set very high goals for herself (himself) as a sexual partner.

20.             My partner seldom pressures me to be a perfect sexual partner.

21.             I do not expect perfectionism from my sexual partner.

22.             I do not have to be the best sexual partner in the world.

23.             In general, people would readily accept me even if I were not the greatest sex partner in the world.

24.             My partner never aims at being perfect as a sexual partner.

25.             My sexual partner does not have very high goals for me as a sexual partner.

26.             In general, people would readily accept me even if I were not a great sex partner.

27.             I do not have very high goals for myself as a sexual partner.

28.             Most people don't expect me to be perfectionistic when it comes to sex.

29.             My partner does not feel that she/he has to be the best sexual partner partner.

30.             My partner appreciates me even if I am not a perfect sexual lover.  (response consistency filler item)

31.             Most people don't expect me to be perfectionistic when it comes to sex.  (response consistency filler item)


CODING INSTRUCTIONS FOR ITEMS

on the Multidimensional Sexual Perfectionism Questionnaire (MSPQ)

 

INSTRUCTIONS:  Any items designated with (R) are recoded so that A = E, B = D, C = C, D = B, and E = A.  Then the items are scored so that A = 0; B = 1; C = 2; D = 3; and E = 4.  Next, they are averaged for each subscale so that higher scores correspond to greater amounts of the relevant tendency.

 

A.    Self-Oriented Sexual Perfectionism:

        (Items 2, 7, 12, 17R, 22R, & 27R)

B.     Socially-Prescribed Sexual Perfectionism:

        (Items 3, 8, 13, 18R, 23R, & 28R)

C.    Partner's Self-Oriented Sexual Perfectionism: 

        (Items 4, 9, 14, 19R, 24R, & 29R)

D.     Self-Directed Sexual Perfectionism Fron One's Partner:

        (Items 5, 10, 15, 20R, 25R, & 30R)

E.     Partner Directed Sexual Perfectionism: 

        (Items 6, 11, 16, & 21R)

 


Copyright    2002
William E. Snell, Jr., Ph.D.
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