Attitudes Toward Unconventional Sex Scale

Attitudes Toward Unconventional Sex Scale‌‌‌


University of Tennessee, Knoxville

The Attitudes Toward Unconventional Sex Scale (ATUSS) was developed to assess a general disposition to engage in unconventional sexual practices. In contrast to the two existing measures of conventional sex (Hendrick & Hendrick, 1987; Purnine, Carey, & Jorgensen, 1996), which confound general tendencies toward unconventional sex with specific unconventional behaviors, the ATUSS contains only global items assessing individuals’ general preferences for unconventional sex. Accordingly, the ATUSS can be used to determine the extent to which a general tendency toward unconventional sex predicts specific behaviors that may or may not be unconventional, without concern that item overlap may lead to spurious associations (see Fincham & Bradbury, 1987).


The 5-item ATUSS assesses the extent to which individuals perceive that they enjoy sexual behaviors that deviate from traditional, conventional sexual practices. Items are rated on a 7-point Likert-type scale ranging from 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 7 (Strongly Agree).

Response Mode and Timing

The ATUSS can be administered in either paper-pencil or computerized response formats. Respondents should be instructed to choose the Likert rating that best describes their current attitudes or beliefs and assured that there are no “right or wrong” sexual attitudes. The ATUSS takes less than 2 minutes to complete.


Items are coded such that higher scores indicate more unconventional sexual preferences. A total ATUSS score is computed by summing all scores (possible range = 5–35, see Exhibit).


The ATUSS demonstrated high internal consistency in both a sample of 204 undergraduate college students (α = .80 for males; α = .76 for females) and a sample of 36 recently mar- ried couples (α = .86 for husbands; α = .70 for wives).


The ATUSS also demonstrated predictive validity in both samples. Specifically, in the sample of 204 undergraduate college students, scores on the ATUSS were strongly associated with enjoyment of various unconventional sexual behaviors, such as anal sex (r = .39), dominant/submissive sex (r = .58), and sex in unique places (r = .59). Likewise, in the sample of 36 recently married couples, scores on the ATUSS were strongly associated with enjoyment of anal sex (r = .61 for husbands; r = .42 for wives), dominant/ submissive sex (r = .76 for husbands; r = .60 for wives), and sex in unique places (r = .62 for husbands; r = .39 for wives). Notably, husbands (M = 19.39, SD = 6.79) reported more unconventional preferences than wives (M = 15.39, SD = 4.74), t(35) = 3.94, p < .001, though husbands’ and wives’ unconventional sexual preferences were highly correlated (r = .48). In contrast, although male undergraduates (M = 20.18, SD = 6.50) reported slightly more unconventional preferences than female undergraduates (M = 19.13, SD = 5.65), that difference was not statistically significant, t(202) = 1.23, p = .22.

Other Information

The ATUSS may be useful in determining whether a general disposition toward unconventional sex is a risk factor for negative sexual outcomes (e.g., sexually trans- mitted infections, unwanted pregnancy). The ATUSS may also be useful in determining the distal sources of unconventional sexual preferences (e.g., personality, previous sexual experiences). Finally, the ATUSS may be useful in determining whether particular levels or combinations of unconventional sexual preferences are beneficial or harmful for relationships. For example, partners may be more satisfied to the extent that both prefer unconventional sex, or to the extent that they both prefer conventional sex, or to the extent that the male is more conventional than the female, or to the extent that the female is more conventional than the male.

Address correspondence to Carolyn Wenner, Department of Psychology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996; e-mail: [email protected]

Attitudes Toward Unconventional Sex Scale

  1. I would describe my sexual preferences as “non-traditional.” I like sex most when it is out-of-the-ordinary.‌‌
  2. I like sex with my partner to be unpredictable.
  3. I like to experiment with different sexual practices.
  4. Some people might think my sexual preferences are unusual.


Fincham, F. D., & Bradbury, T. N. (1987). The assessment of marital quality: A reevaluation. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 49, 797–809.

Hendrick, S., & Hendrick, C. (1987). Multidimensionality of sexual attitudes. The Journal of Sex Research, 23, 502–526.

Purnine, D., Carey, M., & Jorgensen, R. (1996). The inventory of dyadic heterosexual preferences: Development and psychometric evaluation. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 34, 375–387.