Sexual Narcissism Scale

Sexual Narcissism Scale‌

LAURA WIDMAN AND JAMES K. MCNULTYUniversity of Tennessee, Knoxville

Narcissism—a personality style characterized by tendencies toward exploiting others, a general lack of empathy for others, a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, and an excessive need for admiration (American Psychiatric Association, 2000)—has numerous implications for sexual behavior (e.g., Baumeister, Catanese, & Wallace, 2002; Buss & Shackelford, 1997). Yet, owing to the situation-specific nature of personality (see Mischel & Shoda, 1995), global assessments of narcissism, such as the frequently used Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI; Raskin & Terry, 1988), may be imprecise tools for assessing the extent to which the components of narcissism are active in the sexual domain and predict sexual behavior. In an effort to allow researchers to demonstrate more consistent links between narcissism and sexual behavior, Widman and McNulty (in press) developed the Sexual Narcissism Scale (SNS).


The 20-item Sexual Narcissism Scale SNS assesses the extent to which self-centered, narcissistic personality traits are manifested in sexual situations. The Sexual Narcissism Scale‌ SNS comprises four 5-item subscales: (a) Sexual Exploitation, (b) Sexual Entitlement, (c) Low Sexual Empathy, and (d) Sexual Skill. The Sexual Exploitation subscale assesses the ability and willingness to manipulate a person to gain sexual access. The Sexual Entitlement sub- scale assesses a sense of sexual entitlement and belief that the fulfillment of one’s sexual desires is a personal right. The Low Sexual Empathy subscale assesses a general lack of empathy and devaluation of sexual partners. The Sexual Skill subscale assesses a tendency to hold a grandiose sense of sexual skill or an exaggerated sense of sexual success. Items are rated on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 5 (Strongly Agree). Two reverse- scored items are included to help control response sets.

Response Mode and Timing

The SNS can be administered in either paper-and-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 SNS generally takes less than 5 minutes to complete.


Items are coded such that higher scores indicate greater sexual narcissism. A total SNS score is computed by reverse

scoring two items from the Low Sexual Empathy sub- scale (see Exhibit) and then summing all scores (possible range = 20–100). Individual subscale scores are computed by summing the 5 items from each subscale (possible range = 5–25).


Widman and McNulty (in press) recently reported evidence supportive of the factor structure of the SNS using confirmatory factor analyses in a sample of 299 male and female virgin and nonvirgin college students. Adequate fit of the four-factor model was observed for the entire sample (= 299, MFF χ²[164] = 433.47, < .01, χ²/df ratio = 2.64, CFI = .95, RMSEA = .077), and individually for men (= 152, MFF χ²[164] = 282.29, < .01, χ²/df ratio = 1.76, CFI=.94, RMSEA = .07), women (= 147, MFF χ²[164] = 323.39, < .01, χ²/df ratio = 1.97, CFI = .93, RMSEA = .08), nonvirgins (= 206, MFF χ²[164] = 377.90, < .01, χ²/df ratio = 2.30, CFI = .93, RMSEA = .082), and virgins (= 93, MFF χ²[164] = 310.63, < .01, χ²/df ratio = 1.89, CFI =.90, RMSEA = .095). Likewise, Widman and McNulty (in press) reported adequate internal consistency of the SNS in two independent samples of male and female virgin and nonvirgin college students for the full scale (α = .81–.86) and each subscale (Sexual Exploitation α = .72–.78; Sexual Entitlement α = .76–.84; Low Sexual Empathy α = .70–.79; Sexual Skill α = .80–.89).


The SNS has also demonstrated convergent, divergent, and predictive validity. Regarding convergent validity, the SNS demonstrated strong positive correlations with another published scale of sexual narcissism, the Index of Sexual Narcissism (ISN; Hurlbert, Apt, Gasar, Wilson, & Murphy, 1994), = .72, < .001, and with the NPI, =.41, < .001, in a sample of 163 college men (Widman & McNulty, 2009). These results suggest the SNS is related to but unique from existing measures of narcissism. Regarding divergent validity, the SNS demonstrated null or weak relationships with each of the Big Five personality traits using the same sample of 163 college men (Widman & McNulty, 2009) (Extraversion = −.04, Agreeableness = −.24, Conscientiousness = −.09, Neuroticism = .21, Openness = .03), suggesting that sexual narcissism can emerge independent of these traits. Finally, the SNS has demonstrated predictive validity in several samples. In a sample of 211 college men, those higher in sexual narcissism reported an earlier age of first intercourse, a higher number of sex partners, more acceptance of rape myths, more hostility toward women, and more adversarial sexual beliefs (Widman & McNulty, 2008). Likewise, in a recent study of 378 college men, those higher in sexual narcissism reported more frequent past sexual aggression (including unwanted sexual contact, sexual coercion, and attempted/ completed rape) and a greater likelihood of future sexual aggression (Widman & McNulty, in press). Importantly, consistent with the proposed need for a sexual-specific measure of narcissism, associations between the SNS and sexual aggression were more robust than associations between sexual aggression and a global measure of narcissism (Widman & McNulty, in press) and between sexual aggression and the existing ISN (Widman & McNulty, 2009).

Other Information

Future researchers may benefit by examining the extent to which the SNS accounts for variance in additional sexual behaviors and outcomes, such as sexual satisfaction, sexual frequency, sexual exploration, contraceptive use, and infidelity (for discussion of future research possibilities, see Widman & McNulty, in press).

1Address correspondence to Laura Widman, Department of Psychology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996; e-mail: [email protected]

Sexual Narcissism Scale

Item Wording Subscale

  • If I ruled the world for one day, I would have sex with anyone I choose. Exp
  • One way to get a person in bed with me is to tell them what they want to hear. Exp
  • When I want to have sex, I will do whatever it takes. Exp
  • I could easily convince an unwilling person to have sex with me. Exp
  • I would be willing to trick a person to get them to have sex with me. Exp
  • I feel I deserve sexual activity when I am in the mood for it. Ent
  • I am entitled to sex on a regular basis. Ent
  • I should be permitted to have sex whenever I want it. Ent
  • I would be irritated if a dating partner said no to sex. Ent
  • I expect sexual activity if I go out with someone on an expensive date. Ent
  • When I sleep with someone, I rarely know what they are thinking or feeling. Emp
  • It is important for me to know what my sexual partner is feeling when we make love.a Emp
  • I enjoy sex more when I feel I really know a person.a Emp
  • The feelings of my sexual partners don’t usually concern me. Emp
  • I do not usually care how my sexual partner feels after sex. Emp
  • I am an exceptional sexual partner. Skill
  • My sexual partners think I am fantastic in bed. Skill
  • I really know how to please a partner sexually. Skill
  • I have been very successful in my sexual relationships. Skill
  • Others have told me I am very sexually skilled. Skill

Note. Items were randomized for survey administration. Exp = Sexual Exploitation, Ent = Sexual Entitlement, Emp = Low Sexual Empathy, Skill = Sexual Skill.

a Reverse-scored item.


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Buss, D. M., & Shackelford, T. K. (1997). Susceptibility to infidelity in the first year of marriage. Journal of Research in Personality, 31, 193–221.

Hurlbert, D. F., Apt, C., Gasar, S., Wilson, N. E., & Murphy, Y. (1994). Sexual narcissism: A validation study. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 20, 24–34.

Mischel, W., & Shoda, Y. (1995). A cognitive-affective system theory of personality: Reconceptualizing situations, dispositions, dynamics, and invariance in personality structure. Psychological Review, 102, 246–268.

Raskin, R. & Terry, H. (1988). A principal-components analysis of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory and further evidence of its con- struct validity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 890–902.

Widman, L., & McNulty, J. K. (2008, August). Sexual narcissism and the confluence model of sexual aggression. Presentation at the meeting of the American Psychological Association, Boston, MA.

Widman, L., & McNulty, J. K. (2009). “If I ruled the world . . . I would have sex with anyone I choose.” Sexual narcissism and sexual aggres- sion. Unpublished manuscript.

Widman, L., & McNulty, J. K. (in press). Sexual narcissism and the perpetration of sexual aggression. Archives of Sexual Behavior.