Table of Contents
Attitudes Toward Masturbation Scale
CHANTAL D. YOUNG AND CHARLENE L. MUEHLENHARD,1 University of Kansas
The Attitudes Toward Masturbation Scale (ATMS) was developed to measure individuals’ complex and often conflicting thoughts and feelings about masturbating (Young & Muehlenhard, 2009). We found two existing scales for measuring attitudes about masturbation: Abramson and Mosher’s (1975) Negative Attitudes Toward Masturbation Inventory and Miller and Lief’s (1976) Masturbation Attitude Scale. Both are more than 30 years old, both yield only one global score, and both assess respondents’ attitudes about masturbation in general rather than about their own masturbation. The purpose of the ATMS is to measure respondents’ (a) reasons for wanting (or being tempted) to masturbate, (b) reasons for avoiding (or trying to avoid) masturbating, and (c) positive and negative feelings related to masturbating.
The ATMS was developed using a multistep process. First, in a pilot study, 236 undergraduate women and men wrote answers to open-ended questions about their attitudes and feelings about masturbation. Second, we compiled their responses and used them to create scale items. We also created scale items reflecting themes identified in prior studies of attitudes toward masturbation (e.g., Clifford, 1978; Elliott & Brantley, 1997). Our preliminary scale included 223 items divided into three sections reflecting reasons for wanting—or being tempted—to masturbate, reasons for avoiding—or trying to avoid—masturbation, and feelings about masturbating. Third, a new sample of 518 undergraduate women and men rated these items on a 7-point scale. We used their responses to divide the items into subscales, based on factor loadings derived from principal components analysis, Cronbach’s alphas, and conceptual considerations (Young & Muehlenhard, 2009).
The ATMS consists of 179 items, divided into 28 subscales in three categories. (a) The 13 reasons-for- wanting-to masturbate subscales assess themes such as pleasure, self-exploration and improvement, and mood improvement. Items are rated on a 7-point scale, from 0 (Not a Reason) to 6 (A Very Important Reason). (b) The 10 reasons-for-avoiding-masturbation subscales assess themes such as immorality, lack of desire or interest, and preference for partner sex. The same 7-point scale is used. (c) The 5 feelings-related-to-masturbation subscales assess satisfaction, guilt, anger, anxiety, and indifference.
Respondents rate the strength of each feeling, using a 7- point scale ranging from 0 (Not at all) to 6 (Very Strongly). The scale was developed and tested using samples of college students, but it could be used with other populations.
It is designed so that anyone can complete it, regardless of whether they masturbate.
Response Mode and Timing
The ATMS is a paper-and-pencil questionnaire. It can be completed in about 15 to 30 minutes.
Subscale scores are calculated by averaging the respondent’s ratings for the items on the subscale. Subscale scores can range from 0 to 6. For the reasons-for-wanting-to-masturbate subscales and the reasons-for-avoiding-masturbation subscales, higher scores reflect a greater importance of the reason tapped by that subscale. For the feelings-related- to-masturbation subscales, higher scores reflect greater intensity of feeling.
Each subscale score can be used individually to assess the specific content of each subscale. In addition, four composite scores can be calculated: the Wanting Composite (the mean of the 13 reasons-for-wanting-to-masturbate subscales), the Avoiding Composite (the mean of the
10 reasons-for-avoiding-masturbation subscales), the Negative-Feelings Composite (the mean of the Guilt, Anger, Anxiety, and Indifference subscales), and the Positive-Feelings Composite (the Satisfaction subscale score). These composites can be used to assess the respondent’s overall positive and negative attitudes toward masturbation.
The subscales and items on each are as follows:
Pleasure: 1, 2, 35, 41, 42, 44, 50, 51, 52
Self-Exploration and Improvement: 11, 13, 17, 23, 39, 54, 55, 56, 63, 68
Mood Improvement: 47, 60, 62, 67
Relaxation and Stress Relief: 6, 7, 16, 40, 46, 58, 61, 64
Avoidance of Partner Sex: 26, 28, 29, 30, 34, 65
Arousal Decrease: 18, 21, 33, 49, 59, 69
Compulsion: 8, 25, 27, 32, 43
Pleasure of Partner: 15, 66, 70
Adherence to Social Norms: 12, 14, 19, 20, 38, 57
Substitution for Partner Sex: 4, 9, 10, 22, 24, 31
Importance of Fantasy: 36, 37, 48, 72
Feeling Unattractive: 45, 53, 71
Boredom: 3, 5
Immorality: 73, 74, 75, 79, 81, 83, 105, 122, 123, 124, 125, 126, 127, 131, 132, 134
No Desire or Interest: 76, 77, 86, 87, 88, 100, 101, 114, 118, 119, 120
Preference for Partner Sex: 90, 103, 104, 107, 110, 128, 129, 133
Fear of Negative Social Evaluation: 84, 91, 93, 95, 102, 121
Sex Negativity: 78, 82, 85, 94, 96, 97
Negative Mood State: 92, 106, 109, 117
Detraction from Partner Sex: 111, 112
In Committed Relationship: 80, 98, 108, 115
Bothered by Thoughts: 116, 130
Self-Control: 89, 99, 113
Guilt: 136, 138, 142, 143, 153, 154, 155, 167, 168, 169, 171, 179
Satisfaction: 135, 139, 146, 147, 149, 150, 151, 152, 156, 157, 158, 163, 166, 170, 173, 174, 176, 177, 178
Anger: 159, 160, 161, 165
Anxiety: 144, 145, 148, 162
Indifference: 137, 140, 141, 164, 172, 175
Based on a sample of 518 undergraduate women and men (Young & Muehlenhard, 2009), Cronbach’s alphas for the subscales ranged from .71 to .97, providing evidence that the subscales have good internal consistency.
Based on data from 518 undergraduate women and men, Young and Muehlenhard (2009) found numerous significant differences between participants who masturbated and those who did not, even after controlling for gender. Compared with nonmasturbators, masturbators scored significantly higher on 9 of the 13 reasons-for-wanting- to-masturbate subscales and the Satisfaction subscale and significantly lower on 5 of the 10 reasons-for-avoiding- masturbation subscales and the Guilt, Anger, Anxiety, and Indifference subscales.
Consistent with meta-analytic findings that more men than women masturbate (Oliver & Hyde, 1993; Petersen & Hyde, 2007), there were significant gender differ- ences on 18 of the 28 subscales. Men generally reported stronger reasons for wanting to masturbate, weaker rea- sons for avoiding masturbation, and stronger positive and weaker negative feelings related to masturbation. When controlling for masturbation status, there were fewer gen- der differences, but some remained: For the reasons-for- wanting-to-masturbate subscales, women scored higher on Self-Exploration and Improvement, Avoidance of Partner Sex, and Pleasure of Partner; men scored higher on Boredom. For reasons-for-avoiding-masturbation sub- scales, women scored higher on No Desire or Interest, Fear of Negative Social Evaluation, and Sex Negativity. For feelings-related-to-masturbation subscales, women scored higher on Anxiety.
Young and Muehlenhard (2009) performed a cluster analysis on participants’ subscale scores. They identified four clusters: The enthusiastic cluster had high Wanting subscale scores and low Avoiding subscales scores. The lukewarm cluster had low Wanting subscale scores and even lower Avoiding subscales scores. The high-guilt cluster had low Wanting subscale scores and high Avoiding subscales scores. The ambivalent cluster had the highest Wanting subscale scores and the highest Avoiding sub- scales scores. These clusters showed numerous differences in the percentages of women and men in the cluster, the percentages who reported masturbating, and their qualitative comments about masturbation.
In another study (Stroupe, 2008), 210 undergraduate women completed the ATMS. Compared with women who had never masturbated, those who masturbated had significantly higher Wanting Composite and Positive-Feelings Composite scores and significantly lower Avoiding Composite and Negative-Feelings Composite scores; scores for women who masturbated infrequently were intermediate. Analyses of subscale scores provided additional information.
With appropriate citation, the ATMS may be copied and used for educational, research, and clinical purposes, with- out permission. The authors would appreciate receiving a summary of any research using this scale.
Attitudes Toward Masturbation Scale
Reasons for Wanting to Masturbate
Whether they masturbate or not, people may want to masturbate (or be tempted to masturbate) for many different reasons. Below is a list of possible reasons. Please rate how strong each of the reasons is for your wanting to masturbate or being tempted to masturbate, regardless of whether or not you actually masturbate.
For you, how strong are the following reasons for wanting to (or being tempted to) masturbate?
If I’m feeling horny
I find it pleasurable
If there is nothing else to do
If I’m not getting as much sex as I want
If I’m bored
To relieve stress
If I’m anxious
Because—even though I try—I just can’t stop myself
Because it’s a substitute for sex with a partner
Out of sexual frustration
I hope that masturbating will help me reach orgasm with a partner
Someone else thinks I should (e.g., a friend or a dating partner)
To explore my own sexuality
So I could say that I’ve done it (it’s something to talk about)
My partner wants to watch me do it
It’s a good way to take a break (e.g., a break from studying, etc.)
I’m curious about it
If I want to avoid unwanted arousal later
My friends have masturbated, and I want to be able to talk with them about it
“Everyone” does it, and I want to feel “sexually normal”
If I’m so sexually aroused that it’s interfering with other things I want or need to do
If I don’t have a partner to have sex with
To make myself a better sexual partner (e.g., to figure out how to achieve orgasm or to become more comfortable having orgasms with my partner)
Masturbating helps me keep my mind off sex with a partner
It’s a compulsive sexual behavior
Masturbating helps me remain a virgin
I just do it without really thinking about it
Masturbating makes it easier to avoid sex with a partner, and I don’t want to have sex with a partner for moral reasons (e.g., I don’t want to have sex before marriage)
Masturbating makes it easier to avoid sex with a partner, and I don’t want to have sex with a partner for health reasons (e.g., I don’t want to risk sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy)
Masturbating makes it easier to avoid sex with a partner, and I don’t want to have sex with a partner for self-esteem reasons (e.g., I don’t feel comfortable being sexual with someone else)
If I have a partner, but my partner refuses to have sex
I feel an uncontrollable urge to do it
If I want to decrease my sexual arousal so I can focus on something else
It’s more moral to masturbate than to have sex with a partner
If I want to have an orgasm
I get aroused by sexual activities that are not socially acceptable, so I fantasize about them during masturbation
I get aroused by sexual activities that are not possible in real life, so I fantasize about them during masturbation (e.g., sex with a movie star, sex on a beach, etc.)
Because I hear about it from TV, movies, magazines, etc.
Masturbating improves my sexual health
To help me fall asleep
Because it’s fun
Because I know exactly how to stimulate myself and maximize my pleasure
It’s a habit
If I am already sexually aroused (e.g., from watching a movie, reading a magazine)
Because I feel like no one is attracted to me
If I want to relax
If I’m angry
If I want to exercise my imagination
So that I can focus my concentration on a task after masturbating
Because I deserve to experience pleasure
If I see someone or something that is arousing
If I have an urge to do something sexual
Because I’m not comfortable enough with my body to be sexual with someone else
To learn how to give myself pleasure
To gain more sexual confidence
Because it’s good exercise
Because my friends masturbate
To calm myself down
So that I can stop thinking about masturbating
If I feel frustrated about something else
It makes me feel peaceful
It distracts me when I’m feeling down
To try a new method (e.g., sex toys, pornography)
It’s an escape
To avoid using another person for sex
Because it arouses my partner when he/she knows that I masturbated
If I’m in a bad mood
To learn how to have better orgasms
If I’m already sexually aroused, and I want to decrease my level of sexual arousal
Because it arouses my partner when I masturbate in front of him/her
If I’m feeling unattractive
I enjoy my fantasies during masturbation
Reasons for Avoiding (or for Trying to Avoid) Masturbating
Whether they masturbate or not, people might avoid (or try to avoid) masturbating for many different reasons. Below is a list of possible reasons. Please rate how strong each of the reasons is for you avoiding (or trying to avoid) masturbating, regardless of whether or not you actually masturbate.
For you, how strong are the following reasons for avoiding (or trying to avoid) masturbating?
It’s against my religion
It’s against my morals or values
It’s against my parents’ morals or values
I’m just not interested
It just doesn’t appeal to me
I am uncomfortable with any sexual behavior
It would make me feel cheap
If I am committed to someone
I would feel guilty about it
I am anxious about sexual behavior
I know I’d regret it
I fear it will damage my reputation
I feel uncomfortable or embarrassed about my body
I think it would be physically uncomfortable
It seems weird to me
I feel strange doing it
I think I should have more self-control
If I’m currently sexually satisfied
Society says it’s wrong
If I’m stressed
I’m afraid of someone knowing I masturbate
It makes me feel lonely
If I’m afraid of being caught
It makes me feel sexually inadequate
It’s bad for my health
If I’m in a committed relationship
I like to feel in control of my urges
I’m not sure how to masturbate
I don’t like how it feels
It’s embarrassing to me
Because I like intercourse better
Because I like any sexual contact with a partner better
I feel bad about myself afterwards
If I’m depressed
Orgasms are better with a partner
My partner doesn’t want me to do it
If I’m worried about something else
If I’ve recently had sex
It makes me less able to orgasm during sex
It makes me less horny during sex
I want to improve my self-discipline
I feel like I’m cheating on my partner
My fantasies during masturbation bother me
If I’ve had a bad day
It’s a waste of time
It seems pointless
I don’t find it sexually arousing
Other people might find me gross
My family is against it
My friends are against it
It makes me feel empty inside
I was raised to believe it’s wrong
It makes me feel ashamed
It’s disrespectful to myself
If I’m satisfied with the quantity of the sex I’m having
If I’m satisfied with the quality of the sex I’m having
My sexual thoughts during masturbation bother me
Masturbation in an adult is immature
It makes me feel like I’m sinning against myself
It’s not as good as sex
It does not fit with my religious views
Feelings About Masturbation
Check which set of directions applies to you:
If you masturbate: People feel many different things when they masturbate. Below is a list of possible feelings. How strongly, if at all, do you usually experience these feelings when you masturbate?
If you don’t masturbate: People feel many different things when they masturbate. Below is a list of possible feelings. How strongly, if at all, do you think you would usually experience these feelings if you did masturbate?
Not at all
How strongly do you experience this feeling when you masturbate?
How strongly would you experience this feeling if you did masturbate?
152. in control
157. connected to myself
Address correspondence to Charlene Muehlenhard, Department of Psychology, 426 Fraser Hall, University of Kansas, 1415 Jayhawk Blvd, Lawrence, KS 66045–7556; e-mail: [email protected]
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Elliott, L., & Brantley, C. (1997). Sex on campus: The naked truth about the real sex lives of college students. New York: Random House.
Miller, W. R., & Lief, H. I. (1976). Masturbatory attitudes, knowledge, and experience: Data from the sex knowledge and attitude test (SKAT). Archives of Sexual Behavior, 5, 447–467.
Oliver, M. B., & Hyde, J. S. (1993). Gender differences in sexuality: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 114, 29–51.
Petersen, J., & Hyde, J. S. (2007, November). A meta-analytic review of gender differences in sexuality: 1990–2007. Paper presented at the 50th Anniversary Meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, Indianapolis, IN.
Stroupe, N. (2008). How difficult is too difficult? The relationships among women’s sexual experience and attitudes, difficulty with orgasm, and perception of themselves as orgasmic or anorgasmic. Unpublished master’s thesis, University of Kansas, Lawrence.
Young, C. D., & Muehlenhard, C. L. (2009). The meanings of masturba- tion. Manuscript in preparation.