Table of Contents
Sexual Anxiety Scale
ERIN E. FALLIS,1 CHRISTINA GORDON, AND CHRISTINE PURDON, University of Waterloo
The Sexual Anxiety Scale (SAS) was developed to assess individuals’ affective response to sexual cues, or erotophobia/philia. The term erotophobia/philia (EE) refers to the tendency to respond to sexual stimuli with either negative or positive affect (Fisher, Byrne, White, & Kelley, 1988), and the primary measure of EE to date has been the Sexual Opinion Survey (SOS; Fisher et al., 1988). Although exhibiting good psychometric properties, the SOS focuses primarily on responses to homosexuality, media with sexual content, and a small range of sexual behaviours. The SAS was developed to assess affective response to a broader range of sexual cues in both the public and the private domain.
Respondents rate their degree of discomfort with a list of sexually relevant situations or stimuli on 11-point Likert-type scales ranging from Extremely Pleasurable to Extremely Discomforting. Items reflecting categories of sexual cues were written by members of our laboratory team and reviewed by two experts on sexuality who were not members of the team. The 56-item version of the scale was thus produced. The SAS was administered to a sample of undergraduate students at a midsized university in Ontario, Canada as part of a large test battery (N = 701). Reliability and validity were examined using a subset of the undergraduate students (n = 376) and a community sample of adults (n = 188). The demographic characteristics of the validation samples are shown in Table 1.
A factor analysis on responses from the undergraduate and community samples (N = 889) was conducted. This yielded a three-factor solution accounting for 49.5% of the variance. The first factor, Solitary and Impersonal Sexual Expression, accounted for 35.8% of the variance in the SAS and consists of 23 items pertaining to pornographic and erotic material, masturbation, and impersonal sexual experiences. The second factor, Exposure to Information, accounted for 8.1% of the variance in the SAS and consists of 14 items about giving or receiving information of a sexual nature. The third factor, Sexual Communication, accounted for 5.6% of the variance and includes 16 items reflecting openness to consensual sexual activity and communicating sexual likes and dislikes. Subscales based on these factors were then calculated and labeled accordingly.2 *p < .01 Correlation coefficients between the three factors were calculated for both samples, and these relationships may be seen in Table 2. Means and standard deviations for each factor for men and women in both samples are shown in Table 3. Response Mode and Timing The SAS is a self-report measure that takes between 5 and 15 minutes to complete. Scoring The SAS total score is calculated by summing the responses to each item. Higher scores indicate greater erotophobia. Individual scale scores can be calculated by summing the items in the relevant scale (see the Exhibit for the scale item key). 1Address correspondence to Erin Fallis, Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo, 200 University Avenue West, Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1, Canada; e-mail: [email protected] 2In these studies, respondents also rated the extent to which the sexual cue was likely to be avoided or approached so that behavior/attitude discrepancies could be explored. However, the scores on the two sets of ratings were redundant, with correlations > .92 in all samples. As such, it was decided that the approach/avoidance ratings were not a useful addition to the measure and have been dropped from the final version.
correlated with greater sexual satisfaction (Global Measure of Sexual Satisfaction; Lawrance & Byers, 1995), less antigay prejudice (Heterosexual Attitudes Toward Homosexuality Scale; Larsen, 1998), better sexual functioning (Sexual Functioning Questionnaire; Lawrance
Means and Standard Deviations of Total SAS Scores correlated with greater sexual satisfaction (Global Measure of Sexual Satisfaction; Lawrance & Byers, 1995), less antigay prejudice (Heterosexual Attitudes Toward Homosexuality Scale; Larsen, 1998), better sexual functioning (Sexual Functioning Questionnaire; Lawrance
The SAS showed strong internal consistency, with Cronbach’s alphas of .96 in the undergraduate sample and .95 in the community sample. The scale scores were equally strong, with alphas ranging from .87 to .95. Test-retest reliability was examined in a subset of the undergraduate sample (n = 42), and suggested good stability of scores over time (r = .87, p < .01).
In order to establish discriminant validity, measures of mood (Depression, Anxiety, Stress Scale; Lovibond & Lovibond, 1995) and personality (International Personality Item Pool; Goldberg, 1999) were administered to both samples. SAS total scores were not simply a reflection of mood, showing only a very small correlation with anxiety, and were not a reflection of neuroticism or other personality traits. See Table 4 for additional details.
In order to establish construct validity, the SAS was administered along with measures of various aspects of sexuality, with overlapping and different measures within each sample. In the community sample, the SAS had a high correlation with the SOS. As well, lower SAS scores (i.e., greater erotophilia) were significantly Pearson Correlations With SAS Undergrad Sample Community Sample
& Byers, 1992), and more positive attitudes towards sex education of both male and female children (measure developed by the authors). Regression analyses indicated that the SAS was a better predictor of sexual functioning than was the SOS, particularly the Sexual Communication scale; otherwise, the two measures were equivalent in their prediction of sexual behaviour and attitudes (Purdon & Gordon, 2005).
In the undergraduate sample, lower SAS scores were significantly correlated with greater sexual satisfaction (Global Measure of Sexual Satisfaction; Lawrance & Byers, 1995), better sexual functioning (Golombok-Rust Inventory of Sexual Satisfaction; Rust & Golombok, 1998), higher scores on a measure of knowledge about sexual issues (e.g., anatomy, contraception, pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections [STIs], reproduction; developed by the authors), and more frequent use of birth control and STI protection (measure developed by the authors). The correlation between the SAS and antigay prejudice (Heterosexual Attitudes Toward Homosexuality Scale; Larsen, 1998) was not significant. However, the distribution of this measure was heavily skewed with the vast majority of the sample reporting little or no antigay prejudice, so there was little variance. See Table 5 for additional details.
Some group differences emerged. In both samples, males had lower SAS scores than females, t(370) = −5.16, p < .01 and t(185) = −3.19, p < .01 for the undergraduate and community samples respectively. Participants not currently practicing a religion had significantly lower SAS scores than those currently practicing a religion, t(164) = 2.23, p < .05. However, SAS scores did not differ according to sexual orientation.
For each item presented below, you are asked to rate how much discomfort you would experience using the following scale: How much discomfort would you feel in each situation? (Place this rating under column “D”)
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
Extremely Neutral Extremely Pleasurable Discomforting
- Wearing clothes that show off my sexually attractive features c
- Seeing two people kissing or fondling each other a
- Watching a movie scene from a major box office movie in which people were naked a
- Talking with my friends about my sex life
- Masturbating a
- Looking at hardcore or pornographic photos in a magazine (explicit scenes of the genitals and penetration)a
- Using sex toys, such as a vibrator, during sex with my partner a
- Exploring the erogenous, or sexually exciting, parts of my partner’s body c
- Hearing about someone engaging in a consensual sexual act that I personally would never want to engage in a
- Discussing my sexual fantasies with my partner c
- Having arousing sexual thoughts that are unrelated to my current sexual partner a
- Hearing about a woman who enjoyed sex and was sexually adventurous a
- Watching a “hardcore” or “pornographic” film a
- Being exposed to information about sexually transmitted infections b
- Kissing or fondling my partner in a public place
- Vocalizing my pleasure during sex with my partner c
- Watching a movie scene from a major box office movie in which people were kissing or fondling each other c
- Hearing about someone who has a biological sexual abnormality, such as undescended testicles, or a fertility problem b
- Reading books with sexually explicit passages c
- Agreeing to try sexual activities or positions that I find unusual but my partner suggests c
- Using sex toys, such as a vibrator, when I am alone a
- Engaging in foreplay with my partner c
- Finding myself becoming sexually aroused in response to something I never would have expected myself to be aroused by c
- Visiting Internet sites that feature erotic or softcore photos or video clips a
- Having arousing sexual thoughts that are related to my current sexual partner c
- Talking with my partner about his/her sexual fantasies c
- Talking with my friends about general matters of a sexual nature, such as menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth b
- Changing my clothes in a public change room that does not have privacy cubicles b
- Being exposed to information about contraceptive devices that require intimate genital contact (e.g., diaphragm, sponge, foam)b
- Overhearing other people (not parents) having sex a
- Watching a scene from a major box office movie in which people were engaging in sex a
- Exploring erogenous, or sexually exciting, parts of my body when I am alone a
- Someone knowing that I look at/watch erotic photos/films a
- Suggesting new sexual activities or positions to my partner c
- Visiting Internet sites that features hardcore or pornographic photos or video clips a
- Engaging in a casual sexual encounter (e.g., a one-night stand)a
- Being invited by an acquaintance/friend/partner to engage in an unusual sexual acta
- Hearing about sexual issues or matters from the newspaper or TV b
- Fantasizing about arousing sexual acts during sex with my partner in order to enhance my sexual excitement c
- Disclosing to my friends that I have a sexual problem b
- Answering questions about sexual matters such as conception b
- Someone overhearing me and my partner having sex a
- Being around others who are changing their clothes
- Being exposed to information about diseases of the sex organs, such as cervical cancer, testicular cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer b
- Watching an “erotic” or “softporn” film (no explicit scenes of the genitals or penetration)a
- Allowing my partner to explore my erogenous, or sexually exciting, parts of my body c
- Someone knowing that I look at/watch pornographic photos/films a
- Changing activities or positions during sex with a partner to help ensure that I have an orgasm c
- Looking at erotic or softcore photos in a magazine a
- Telling my partner what pleases me and does not please me sexually c
- Hearing about people I don’t consider to be sexual engaging in sex, such as the elderly, my parents, disabled people b
- Having a conversation with my friends about their sex lives b
- Fantasizing about arousing sexual thoughts during masturbation in order to enhance my sexual excitement a
- Watching coverage of the Gay Pride Day parade b
- Being exposed to information about contraceptives and contraceptive use b
- Completing questionnaires about my sexuality b
a = Solitary and Impersonal Sexual Expression (Factor 1)
b = Exposure to Information (Factor 2)
c = Sexual Communication (Factor 3)
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