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

Chapter 23:
Sexual Awareness:
Contraception, Sexual Behaviors and Sexual Attitudes

William E. Snell, Jr. and Deborah G. Wooldridge
Southeast Missouri State University

 

Abstract

          The purpose of the study described in Chapter 23 was to provide additional evidence for the validity of the Sexual Awareness Questionnaire (SAQ), 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).  The results revealed that  sexual-assertiveness in both males and females was predictive of greater contraceptive use, but only among males was sexual-consciousness and sexual-monitoring found to predict more favorable attitudes toward condom use.  In addition, for both females and males, sexual-consciousness, sexual-monitoring, and sexual-assertiveness were positively associated with a greater variety and a more extensive history of sexual experiences.  Research and clinical applications are discussed. 

         

        Acknowledgments.  Portions of these data were submitted for presentation at the 63th annual meeting of the Southwestern Psychological Association, Tulsa, OK, U.S.A., April 1994.  The material in this chapter was originally published in the xxxx; gratitude is extended to the ASR-Editor (xxx) and two anonymous reviewers for their peer-review commentary on an earlier draft of this material.

        Proper citation:  Snell, W. E., Jr., & Wooldridge, D. G.  (2001).  Chapter 23:  Sexual awareness: Contraception, sexual behaviors, and sexual attitudes.  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 23:
Sexual Awareness:
Contraception, Sexual Behaviors and Sexual Attitudes

                   Some people are relatively unaware of the sexual aspects of themselves; they tend to be relatively thoughtless about their own sexual urges, feelings, and cognitions.  By contrast, other individuals are quite self-reflective about and aware of the sexual aspects of themselves; they spend time thinking about and are aware of their sexuality.  This psychological disposition is labeled sexual-consciousness (Snell, Fisher, & Miller, 1991).  Another attentional tendency associated with human sexuality has been labeled sexual-monitoring, the dispositional tendency to be concerned with the public impression created by the sexual aspects of oneself (e.g., oneís sexual history, sexual partners).  Snell et al. (1991) have also developed a measure of sexual-assertiveness, defined as the tendency to be self-reliant and independent in making decisions about oneís sexuality.  Research on these sexual dispositions provided ample preliminary evidence for the validity of the Sexual Awareness Questionnaire.  In particular, they 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.  Males and females 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.

            The purpose of the present investigation was to examine the influence of sexual-consciousness, self-monitoring, and sexual-assertiveness on menís and womenís contraceptive behaviors, their attitudes toward condom use, and their variety of sexual experiences.  To accomplish this, undergraduates of varying ages were asked to complete several sexual-related instruments, including the Sexual Awareness Questionnaire (Snell et al., 1991), the Contraceptive Behavior Scale (Adler & Hendrick, 1991), the Attitudes Toward Condoms Scale (Brown, 1984), the Human Sexuality Questionnaire (Zuckerman , 1973), and several questions concerning their sexual history.  This provided us with the opportunity to address several research questions.  First, are sexual-consciousness and sexual-assertiveness associated with people's contraceptive effectiveness?  Second, to what extent are people's condom-related attitudes associated with the sexual tendencies measured by the Sexual Awareness Questionnaire?  Finally, are people's amounts and varieties of sexual experiences related to their sexual-consciousness and sexual-assertiveness?

Method

Participants

         The participants for this study were 253 students enrolled in courses in Human Environmental Studies (47 males, 204 females, 3 gender unspecified) at a small Midwestern university.  About 93% of the sample were between 16 and 25 years of age, and 87.4% had never been married. The students received course extra credit for participation.  After participating in the project, all students were completely debriefed.

Materials

                      The participants were asked to complete the Sexual Awareness Questionnaire (Snell et al., 1991), the Attitudes Toward Condoms Scale (Brown, 1984), the Contraceptive Behavior Scale (Adler & Hendrick, 1991), and the Zuckerman Human Sexuality Questionnaire (ZHSQ; Zuckerman, 1988).  All of these instruments (described below) have been previously established as having reliability and validity.

         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, it 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.

         Contraceptive Behavior Scale.  The Contraceptive Behavior Scale (CBS) was designed to measure how reliable contraceptive use.  This scale was based on the Adler and Hendrick (1991) refinement of previous research by Visher (1986).  To assess contraceptive reliability, the variables measured included the following:  whether or not birth control was used at the time of first intercourse, frequency of birth control use, contraceptive use during the last act of intercourse, and the amount of time between the first act of intercourse and initiation of contraceptive use.  The CBS consisted of these five items.  Each item received equal weight, was first standardized as a z-score, and all were then summed to form the Contraceptive Behavior Scale.  Internal reliability (i.e., Cronbach's alpha) for this scale as reported by Adler and Hendrick (1991) was .83.  Higher scores in the current research corresponded to greater contraceptive effectiveness.

         Attitudes Toward Condoms Scale (ATC).  The ATC was developed by Brown (1984) and consists of 40 Likert-type items.  Sample items include "Condoms ruin the sex act," "Condoms are pleasant to use," and "The thought of using a condom is disgusting."  The ATC has a 5-point response format, ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree.  A total score was obtained by summing each of the individual item scores (scoring for the negative items was reversed);  scores range from 40 (a more negative attitude toward condoms) to 200 (a more positive attitude toward condoms).  Brown (1984) found Cronbach's alpha for internal consistency to be .93 for the scale.

         Human Sexuality Questionnaire.  The Zuckerman Human Sexuality Questionnaire (ZHSQ; Zuckerman, 1988) is a 14 item scale designed to measure cumulative heterosexual (and homosexual) experience.  The sexual experience items for the heterosexual version of the ZHSQ (used in the present investigation) ranged from kissing to coitus in various positions.  Higher scores on the ZHSQ corresponded to a more extensive history of heterosexual experience.  Reproducibility coefficients for males and females are .93 and .94, respectively.  Test-retest reliability over a 15-week period has been reported as .94 for males and .95 for females (Zuckerman, 1988).

         Demographic questionnaire.  Included in this questionnaire were questions concerning personal demographic data and sexual history.  Each item was scored on an individual basis.

Procedure

         When the participants 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 form.  They were guaranteed complete anonymity and were assured that their responses would be kept in complete confidentiality.  All subjects who volunteered for the experiment agreed to participate.  Each subject then received a questionnaire booklet containing the instruments described below.  Following the completion of the measures (approximately 30-35 minutes), the subjects were debriefed.  Small groups of up to approximately 35 subjects were tested during each session.

Results

                  The results provided evidence that the sexual dispositions measured by the Sexual Awareness Questionnaire were significantly correlated with womenís and menís sexual behavior and attitudes.  In particular, the results showed that, among women, contraceptive use was positively associated with greater sexual-consciousness and sexual-assertiveness; attitudes toward condom use were unrelated to the SAQ subscales; and greater sexual-experience was positively correlated with sexual-consciousness, sexual-assertiveness, and less strongly with sexual-monitoring.   Among males, by comparison, it was found that contraceptive use was directly correlated with sexual-assertiveness; more favorable attitudes toward condoms were associated with menís self-monitoring tendencies; and greater sexual experience among males was positively associated with sexual-consciousness, sexual-monitoring, and sexual-assertiveness.  

Table 1

Correlations Between the Sexual Awareness Questionnaire (SAQ) and the Contraceptive Behavior Scale, the Attitudes Toward Condoms Scale, and the Zuckerman Sexual Behavior Questionnaire


Contraceptive

Sexual Awareness  Questionnaire

Behaviors,


Attitudes Toward

Sexual-

Sexual-

Sexual-

Sexiness-

Condoms,

Consciousness

Monitoring

Assertiveness

Consciousness

and





Sexual Behaviors

M

F

M

F

M

F

M

 F


Contraceptive Behavior Scale              

 

.08

.33d

.06

.09

.30a

 .31d

 .29a

.32d

 Attitudes Toward Condoms Scale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.23

.11

.26a

.07

.01

 -.05

-.07

-.02

Zuckerman Sexual Behavior Questionnaire:

 

 

 

 

 

Kissing without tongue contact

.05

.19a

.05

.07

.02

 .12

-.14

.07

Kissing with tongue contact

.25a

.34d

.05

.00

.22

 .18b

.11

.18c

Male feeling covered breasts

.31a

.38d

.15

.05

.25a

 .28d

.10

.16a

Male feeling nude breasts

.41c

.42d

.24

.04

.37b

 .25d

.28a

.15a

Male on female petting

.36b

.38d

.31a

.12a

.32a

.27d

.33a

.21d

        (but no intercourse)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Male mouth contact

.38c

.39d

.23

.07

.29a

.25d

.25a

.16a

        with female breast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Female manipulation

.42c

.47d

.31a

.08

.39c

 .35d

.21

.23d

        of male penis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Male manipulation of

.43d

.44d

.27a

.05

.40c

.35d

.33a

.24d

        vaginal clitoral areas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intercourse face to

.34a

.47d

.29a

.09

.39c

 .44d

.30a

.32d

        face male on top

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Female oral contact

.29a

.46d

.38c

.12

.30a

 .34d

.26a

.24d

        with male genitalia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Male oral contact with

.37c

.41d

.46d

.02

.21

 .34d

.23

.25d

        female genitalia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intercourse face to

.34b

.48d

.35b

.13a

.30a

 .46d

.34a

.33d

        face female on top

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intercourse fact to face

.23

.43d

.22

.13a

.09

 .44d

.24

.30d

        on side

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intercourse from rear

.30a

.45d

.45d

.16a

.14

 .44d

.21

.33d


Note.  M = males (n = 46-47); F = females (n = 199-204).  Higher scores correspond to greater amounts of the respective tendencies.

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

 

Discussion

         The present investigation examined some of the sexual behaviors and attitudes associated with the following psychological dispositions:  sexual-consciousness, sexual-monitoring, and sexual-assertiveness.  The results indicated that sexual-assertiveness in both males and females was predictive of greater contraceptive use, but only among males was sexual-awareness and sexual-monitoring found to predict more favorable attitudes toward condom use.  However, for both females and males, sexual-consciousness, sexual-monitoring, and sexual-assertiveness were positively associated with a greater variety and a more extensive history of sexual experiences.

General Conclusions and Summary

         Overall, the results of this investigation offers additional evidence for the reliability and validity of the Sexual Awareness Questionnaire (Snell et al., 1991).  Our findings suggest that various types of sexual-awareness (and sexual-assertiveness) may contribute in substantial ways to women's and men's sexual feelings, thoughts, and behaviors.  Given this evidence, researchers may want to consider using the Sexual Awareness Questionnaire to examine such issues as sexual misunderstandings (Abbey, 1982; Abbey, Cozzarelli, McLaughlin, & Harnish, 1987; Abbey & Melby, 1986), the spread of STD's, contraception use (Fisher, Byrne, & White, 1983; Gerrard, 1987; Leary & Dobbins, 1983), unwanted pregnancy, and other sexual topics.  Besides research applications, the SAQ might also be useful to employ  in applied therapy settings to help assess client's level of sexual awareness (cf. Kaplan, 1974, 1979; Maddox, 1976).  The present research represents additional evidence for the validity of the SAQ sexual awareness tendencies.


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SURVEY

INSTRUCTIONS:  The items listed below refer to the sexual aspects of people's lives.  Please read each item carefully and decide to what extent it is characteristic of you.  Give each item a rating of 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.


NOTE:             Remember to respond to all items, even if you are not completely sure.

                         Also, please be honest in responding to these statements.

                         Your answers will be kept in the strictest confidence.


 

1. I am very aware of my sexual feelings.

2. I wonder whether others think I'm sexy.

3. I'm assertive about the sexual aspects of my life.

4. I'm very aware of my sexual motivations.

5. I'm concerned about the sexual appearance of my body.

6. I'm not very direct about voicing my sexual desires.

7. I'm always trying to understand my sexual feelings.

8. I know immediately when others consider me sexy.

9. I am somewhat passive about expressing my sexual desires.

10. I'm very alert to changes in my sexual desires.

11. I am quick to sense whether others think I'm sexy.

12. I do not hesitate to ask for what I want in a sexual relationship.

13. I am very aware of my sexual tendencies.

14. I usually worry about making a good sexual impression on others.

15. I'm the type of person who insists on having my sexual needs met.

16. I think about my sexual motivations more than most people do.

17. I'm concerned about what other people think of my sex appeal.

18. When it comes to sex, I usually ask for what I want.

19. I reflect about my sexual desires a lot.

20. I never seem to know when I'm turning others on.

21. If I were sexually interested in someone, I'd let that person know.

22. I'm very aware of the way my mind works when I'm sexually aroused.

23. I rarely think about my sex appeal.

24. If I were to have sex with someone, I'd tell my partner what I like.

25. I know what turns me on sexually.

26. I don't care what others think of my sexuality.

27. I don't let others tell me how to run my sex life.

28. I rarely think about the sexual aspects of my life.

29. I know when others think I'm sexy.

30. If I were to have sex with someone, I'd let my partner take the initiative.

31. I don't think about my sexuality very much.

32. Other people's opinions of my sexuality don't matter very much to me.

33. I would ask about sexually-transmitted diseases before having sex with someone.

34. I don't consider myself a very sexual person.

35. When I'm with others, I want to look sexy.

36. If I wanted to practice "safe sex" with someone, I would insist on doing so.
 


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