Sexual Cognitions Checklist

Sexual Cognitions Checklist

CHERYL A. RENAUDFederal Medical Center Devens

SANDRA BYERS,University of New Brunswick

The Sexual Cognitions Checklist (SCC) was developed to assess sexual cognitions that are experienced as positive as well as those that are experienced as negative (Renaud, 1999). Most conceptual definitions and measures of sexual cognitions (often referred to as fantasies) assume that they are pleasant, enjoyable, and deliberate (Leitenberg & Henning, 1995). However, many individuals report having negative sexual thoughts that are experienced as ego-dystonic, unwanted, and personally unacceptable (Byers, Purdon, & Clark, 1998). To fully understand sexual cognitions, it is important to distinguish between those that are experienced as positive and those that are experienced as negative.

Description

The SCC consists of a checklist of 56 sexual cognitions. Forty of the items were taken from the Wilson Sex Fantasy Questionnaire (WSFQ; Wilson, 1988). The WSFQ has been used extensively in sexual fantasy research and has been found to have strong internal consistency (α = .98). The remaining 16 items were taken from the Revised Obsessional Intrusions Inventory—Sex Version (ROII– v2), which also has demonstrated high internal consistency (α = .92; Byers et al., 1998). For the SCC, the wording of some of the items was changed so that they could be experienced as either positive or negative. The SCC is appropriate for men and women of any age and sexual orientation.

Response Mode and Timing

The SCC can be administered individually, or in a group format, and takes approximately 30 minutes to complete. Respondents are first provided with definitions of positive and negative sexual cognitions. Positive sexual cognitions are defined as purposeful or nonpurposeful cognitions that are experienced as acceptable and pleasant, are the types of thoughts one would expect to have, and might or might not result in sexual arousal. Negative sexual cognitions are defined as purposeful or nonpurposeful cognitions that are experienced as highly unacceptable, upsetting, unpleasant, and repugnant, and might or might not result in sexual arousal. Participants then indicate how often they have had each of the listed sexual thoughts when it was a positive thought as well as when it was a negative thought on a scale ranging from I have never had this thought (0) to I have this thought frequently during the day (6).

The SCC also contains two nonoverlapping subscales, one reflecting themes of sexual dominance and one reflecting themes of sexual submission. To develop these subscales, six doctoral students in human sexuality independently rated each of the 56 sexual cognitions on the SCC as reflecting sexual submission, sexual dominance, both sexual submission and sexual dominance, or neither sexual submission nor sexual dominance. Six items were judged to have dominance but not submission themes and make up the dominance cognitions subscale. Ten items were judged to reflect submission but not dominance themes and make up the sexual submission subscale.

Scoring

The total frequency scores for positive sexual cognitions (POSCOG) and negative sexual cognitions (NEGCOG) are calculated by summing the item ratings for the 56 items. Thus, scores range from 0 to 336, with higher scores indicating more frequent positive or negative cognitions. Scores on the positive sexual dominance (POSDOM) and negative sexual dominance subscales (NEGDOM) are determined by summing frequency ratings on the six dominance items such that scores range from 0 to 36. A simi- lar procedure is used to calculate scores on the 10 positive sexual submission (POSSUB) and negative sexual submission (NEGSUB) subscales, with scores ranging from 0 to 60.

Reliability

In a study of 148 female and 144 male undergraduate students, Renaud and Byers (1999) found high internal consistencies for the POSCOG and NEGCOG subscales for both men (α = .95 and .96, respectively) and women (α = .95 and .95, respectively). Acceptable internal consistencies have also been found for men and women for POSDOM (α = .76 and .71, respectively), NEGDOM (α = .84 and .66, respectively), POSSUB (α = .81 and .80, respectively), and NEGSUB (α = and .82, respectively; Renaud & Byers, 2005, 2006).

Validity

Renaud and Byers (1999) found that the sexual cognitions most commonly experienced as positive by individuals differed from those most commonly experienced as negative. The most commonly reported POSCOG revolved around themes of romance and intimacy, whereas the most commonly reported NEGCOG reflected themes of anonymous sex and sexual embarrassment. In addition, Renaud and Byers (2001) found that, compared to negative cognitions, positive cognitions were associated with more positive affect, less negative affect, more frequent subjective general physiological and sexual arousal, and less frequent upset stomach. They also found that positive sexual cognitions are more deliberate than are negative sexual cognitions and result in fewer attempts to control them. Further, in line with previous sexual fantasy research findings (Alfonso, Allison, & Dunn, 1992), a greater frequency of positive sexual cogni- tions is associated with better sexual adjustment, including more masturbation experience, a greater number of sexual partners, and greater sexual satisfaction (Renaud & Byers, 2001). In contrast, when the frequency of positive cognitions was controlled, the frequency of negative sexual cognitions was not associated with sexual adjustment.

Renaud and Byers (2005, 2006) provided evidence for the validity of the dominance and submission subscales. Consistent with previous research (e.g., Gold & Clegg, 1990), self-reported use of sexual coercion was uniquely associated with the frequency of sexual dominance cognitions experienced as positive but not sexual dominance cognitions experienced as negative (Renaud & Byers, 2005). Consistent with prior research that had found that individuals who reported having been sexually abused as children reported fantasizing about being forced to have intercourse more often than did individuals without a his- tory of child sexual abuse (Briere, Smiljanich, & Henschel, 1994), a greater frequency of positive sexual submission cognitions was uniquely associated with a history of child sexual abuse (Renaud & Byers, 2006).

We all have thoughts about sex from time to time. Sexual thoughts can be divided into different types:

Positive Sexual Thoughts. Sometimes we experience our sexual thoughts as positive. Positive sexual thoughts may include thoughts that we purposely engage in to enhance our sexual feelings or sexual arousal. Positive sexual thoughts may also include thoughts that pop into our heads out of the blue. Whether we purposely engage in positive sexual thoughts, or they pop into our minds out of the blue, positive sexual thoughts are thoughts that we find acceptable and pleasant. They are the types of thoughts that we would expect to have. We can have positive sexual thoughts while we are engaging in masturbation, while we are engaged in sexual activity with a partner, and while we are involved in non-sexual activities.

Negative Sexual Thoughts. Sometimes, we have sexual thoughts that we experience as negative. Negative sexual thoughts are thoughts that we dislike having. They are the types of thoughts that we would not expect to have because they are uncharacteristic of our usual thoughts and habits. That is, negative sexual thoughts are thoughts of things we would never want to do or say. Therefore, negative sexual thoughts are highly unacceptable, upsetting, and unpleasant. We tend to find these thoughts disgusting and we wonder why we are having such repugnant thoughts. However, because they are sexual in content, we may experience sexual arousal to these thoughts even though we find them unacceptable, unpleasant, and upsetting. Like positive sexual thoughts, we can have negative sexual thoughts while we are engaging in masturbation, while we are engaged in sexual activity with a partner, and while we are involved in non-sexual activities.

Sometimes Positive and Sometimes Negative Sexual Thoughts. Although some thoughts are clearly positive or clearly negative for us, there are some sexual thoughts that we experience as positive at times and as negative at other times. For example, you may have had a thought about seeing your neighbor undress. If that thought was about the good-looking neighbor in apartment “B,” the thought might be positive. That is, it might be the type of thought you would expect to have and it is acceptable and pleasant. On the other hand, if you thought about the neighbor in apartment “A,” who you find disgusting, the thought might be negative. In this case, the thought is unac- ceptable, unpleasant, and not the type of thought you would expect to have. So, in this case, the same thought, “Seeing your neighbor undress,” is sometimes positive and sometimes negative. Other factors, such as your mood or what you are doing when you have a sexual thought, may also make a certain thought sometimes positive and sometimes negative.

INSTRUCTIONS: The questionnaire on the following few pages deals with a variety of very common sexual thoughts. On this questionnaire, we would like you to indicate how often you have had each of the listed sexual thoughts when it was a positive sexual thought, and when it was a negative sexual thought using the following scale:

  1. I have never had this thought

  2. I have had this thought only once or twice ever

  3. I have had this thought a few times a year

  4. I have had this thought once or twice a month

  5. I have had this thought once or twice a week

  6. I have had this thought daily

  7. I have had this thought frequently during the day

    Example:

    Watching my neighbor undress.

    How often have you had this thought when it was positive? 0 1 2 3 5 6

    How often have you had this thought when it was negative? 0 1 2 3 5 6

    This example shows that I have had this thought a few times a year (I circled “2”) when it was positive (pleasant and acceptable) and that I have had this thought once or twice a week (I circled “4”) when it was negative.

    Please indicate how often you have had each of the following sexual thoughts.

    1. I have never had this thought

    2. I have had this thought only once or twice ever

    3. I have had this thought a few times a year

    4. I have had this thought once or twice a month

    5. I have had this thought once or twice a week

    6. I have had this thought daily

    7. I have had this thought frequently during the day In the past year, I have had sexual thoughts of:

      1. Making love out of doors in a romantic setting (e.g. field of flowers; beach at night).

        How often have you had this thought when it was positive? 0 1 2 3 4 5 6a

        How often have you had this thought when it was negative? 0 1 2 3 4 5 6a

      2. Having intercourse with a loved partner.

      3. Having intercourse with someone I know but have not had sex with.

      4. Having sex with an anonymous stranger.

      5. Engaging in a sexual act with someone who has authority over me.

      6. Being pressured into engaging in sex.

      7. Engaging in a sexual act with someone who is “taboo” (family member, religious figure).

      8. Having sex with two other people at the same time.

      9. Participating in an orgy.

      10. Being forced to do something sexually.

      11. Forcing someone to do something sexually.

      12. Engaging in sexual activity contrary to my sexual orientation (e.g. homosexual or heterosexual).

      13. Throwing my arms around and kissing an authority figure.

      14. Lifting my skirt or dropping my pants, thereby indecently exposing myself in public.

      15. Receiving oral sex.

      16. Giving oral sex.

      17. Watching others have sex.

      18. Having sex with an animal or non-human object.

      19. Being overwhelmed by a stranger’s sexual advances.

      20. Being sexually victimized.

      21. Receiving or giving genital stimulation.

      22. Whipping or spanking someone.

      23. Being whipped or spanked.

      24. Taking someone’s clothes off.

      25. Having my clothes taken off.

      26. Engaging in a sexual act which I would not want to do because it violates my religious principles.

      27. Forcing another adult to engage in a sexual act with me.

      28. Making love elsewhere than the bedroom (e.g. kitchen or bathroom).

      29. Being excited by material or clothing (e.g. rubber, leather, underwear).

      30. Hurting a partner.

      31. Being hurt by a partner.

      32. Partner-swapping.

      33. Being aroused by watching someone urinate.

      34. Being tied up.

      35. Masturbating in a public place.

      36. Authority figures (minister, boss) being naked.

      37. People I come in contact with being naked.

      38. Having sex in a public place.

      39. Tying someone up.

      40. Having incestuous sexual relations (sexual relations with a family member).

      41. Exposing myself provocatively.

      42. Wearing clothes of the opposite sex.

      43. Being promiscuous.

      44. Having sex with someone much younger than myself.

      45. Having sex with someone much older than myself.

      46. Being much sought after by the opposite sex.

      47. Being seduced as an “innocent.”

      48. Seducing an “innocent.”

      49. Being embarrassed by failure of sexual performance.

      50. Having sex with someone of a different race.

      51. Using objects for stimulation (e.g. vibrator, candles).

      52. Being masturbated to orgasm by a partner.

      53. Looking at obscene pictures or films.

      54. Kissing passionately.

      55. While engaging in a sexual act with my partner I have had sexual thoughts of saying something to my partner that I know would upset him/her.

      56. While engaging in a sexual act with my partner I have had sexual thoughts of doing something to my partner that I know would upset him/her.

      57. Any other sexual thought not listed above. (SPECIFY):

Note. Items 11, 22, 27, 30, 39, and 48 constitute the Sexual Dominance Subscale. Items 5, 6, 10, 19, 20, 23, 26, 31, 34, and 47 constitute the Sexual Submission Subscale.

Address correspondence to Sandra Byers, University of New Brunswick, Psychology Department, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada E3B 6E4; e-mail: [email protected]

References

Alfonso, V. C., Allison, D. B., & Dunn, G. M. (1992). Sexual fantasy and satisfaction: A multidimensional analysis of gender differences. Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality5(3), 19–37.

Briere, J., Smiljanich, K., & Henschel, D. (1994). Sexual fantasies, gender, and molestation history. Child Abuse and Neglect, 18, 131–137.

Byers, E. S., Purdon, C., & Clark, D. A. (1998). Sexual intrusive thoughts of college students. The Journal of Sex Research, 35, 359–369.

Gold, S. R., & Clegg, C. L. (1990). Sexual fantasies of college students with coercive experiences and coercive attitudes. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 5, 464–473.

Leitenberg, H., & Henning, K. (1995). Sexual fantasy. Psychological Bulletin, 117, 469–496.

Renaud, C.A. (1999). Differentiating between positive and negative sex- ual cognitions. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton.

Renaud, C. A., & Byers, E. S. (1999). Exploring the frequency, diversity, and content of university students’ positive and negative sexual cognitions. Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 8, 17–30.

Renaud, C. A., & Byers, E. S. (2001). Positive and negative sexual cognitions: Subjective experience and relationships to sexual adjustment. The Journal of Sex Research, 38, 252–262.

Renaud, C.A., & Byers, E. S., (2005). Relationship between sexual violence and positive and negative cognitions of sexual dominance. Sex Roles, 53, 253–260.

Renaud, C. A., & Byers, E. S. (2006). Positive and negative cognitions of sexual submission: Relationship to sexual violence. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 35, 483–490.

Wilson, G. D. (1988). Male-female differences in sexual activity, enjoyment, and fantasies. Personality and Individual Differences, 8, 125–127.