Sexual Relationship Scale

Sexual Relationship Scale

WILLIAM E. SNELL, JR.,1 Southeast Missouri State University

Clark and Mills (1979) proposed a theory of relationship orientation based on the rules governing the giving and receiving of benefits. An exchange-relationship orientation was defined as one in which benefits are given on the assumption that a similar benefit would be reciprocated.

The recipient of a benefit in such a relationship presumably incurs a debt to make a suitable, comparable return. By contrast, a communal-relationship orientation was defined by Clark and Mills as one in which benefits are given on the assumption that they are in response to some need. In communal relationships, concern for a partner’s welfare mediates interpersonal giving rather than anticipation of a reciprocated benefit. Sexual relationships may also be viewed from a communal perspective, which emphasizes caring and concern for a partner’s sexual needs and preferences, or else from an exchange perspective, which emphasizes a quid pro quo approach to sexual relations.

The Sexual Relationship Scale (SRS; Hughes & Snell, 1990) is an objective self-report instrument that was designed to measure communal and exchange approaches to sexual relationships. More specifically, the SRS was developed to assess chronic dispositional differences in the type of orientation that people take toward their sexual relations. Some individuals take a communal approach to their sexual relations in which they feel responsible for and involved in their partner’s sexual satisfaction and welfare. They want to respond to their partner’s sexual needs and desires. In this sense, they contribute to their partner’s sexual satisfaction and welfare in order to please the partner and to demonstrate a desire to respond to that person’s sexual welfare. Moreover, people who take a communal approach to sexual relations also expect their partner to be responsive and sensitive to their own sexual welfare and needs. In contrast, those who approach sexual relations from an exchange orientation do not feel any special responsibility for their partner’s sexual satisfaction and welfare. Nor do they feel any inherent need or desire to be attuned to or responsive to their partner’s sexual pleasure. Rather, they give sexual pleasure only in response to sexual benefits they have received in the past or have been promised in the future. An exchange approach to sexual relations often involves sexual debts and obligations. The individuals involved in this type of sexual relationship are usually concerned with how many sexual favors they have given and received, and the comparability of these sexual exchanges. To examine these ideas, the SRS was developed to measure exchange and communal approaches to sexually intimate relations. The SRS was based on the Communal Orientation scale developed by Clark, Ouellette, Powell, and Milberg (1987) and the Exchange Orientation scale developed by Clark, Taraban, Ho, and Wesner (1989) and was intended to represent an extension of their ideas.


The SRS consists of 24 items arranged in a 5-point Likert- type format, in which respondents rate how characteristic the SRS items are of them from (A) not at all characteristic of me to (E) very characteristic of me.

Response Mode and Timing

Typically, individuals respond to the items on the SRS by indicating their responses on a computer scan sheet, using a response range from A to E. The questionnaire usually takes about 10–15 minutes to complete.


People are asked to respond to the SRS items by indicating how much each statement describes them, using a 5-point Likert-type scale: (0) not at all characteristic of me, (1) slightly characteristics of me, (2) somewhat characteristic of me, (3) moderately characteristic of me, and (4) very characteristic of me. The SRS items are coded so that A = 0, B = 1, C = 2, D = 3, and E = 4. Items 6, 8, 10, and 18 are reverse coded so that 0 = 4, 1 = 3, 2 = 2, 3 = 1, and 4 = 0. The SRS consists of two subscales, each containing eight separate items. The labels and items for these two subscales are The Exchange Approach to Sexual Relations (Items 2, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, and 18) and (b) The Communal Approach to Sexual Relations (Items 1, 3, 4, 9, 13, 15, 21, and 24). Finally, the eight items on each subscale are summed so that higher scores indicate a stronger communal and exchange approach, respectively, to sexual relations.


The internal consistency of the two SRS subscales was determined by computing Cronbach alpha coefficients for both females and males, as well as for the combined group of subjects (Hughes & Snell, 1990). For the sexual communion subscale, the coefficients were .77 for males, .79 for females, and .78 for both together. The coefficients for the sexual exchange subscale were .59 for males, .67 for females, and .67 for both. These findings indicate that the two subscales had sufficient internal consistency to justify their use in research. Other analyses have revealed that among females the two SRS subscales are essentially orthogonal to one another (Hughes & Snell, 1990).


Factor analysis (a principal components factor analysis with oblique rotation) was performed on the SRS items to determine whether the statements on the SRS would form two separate clusters. Because several items were unre- lated to the initial factor solutions, they were first deleted, and the same factor analysis procedure was reconducted. The pattern matrix loadings for the females clearly pro- vided support for the expected two factor structure, with conceptually similar items loading together (the results for the males were less clear, given the small sample size). Factor I consisted of sexual communion items (eigenvalue = 4.81, percent of variance = 20%), and Factor II contained sexual exchange items (eigenvalue = 2.98, percent of variance = 12%).

Hughes and Snell (1990) also found that males reported significantly higher scores than females on the sexual exchange subscale, but no difference was found for the sexual communion subscale. Further evidence for the validity of the SRS was obtained by correlating the SRS subscales with Clark’s Communal and Exchange Orientation scales. The sexual communion subscale was significantly and positively correlated with the Communal Orientation scale for females and for the subjects as a whole. Significant and positive correlations were also found between the sexual exchange orienta- tion subscale and scores on the Exchange Orientation scale for males, females, and both together. In addition, the SRS was found to be related to relationship satisfaction. Among males, a significant negative relationship was found between an exchange approach to sexual relations and their relationship satisfaction. The analysis for the females, in contrast, revealed a statistically significant positive correlation between relationship satisfaction and a communal approach to sexual relations.

These patterns of correlations thus provide preliminary evidence for the construct validity of the SRS, in that (a) those individuals characterized by a stronger communal approach to their sexual relations were expected to report greater satisfaction with their intimate relationships and to approach their partners with a more caring and companionate perspective and (b) those individuals characterized by an exchange approach to their sexual relations were expected to have a similar exchange approach to their adult romantic relationships and to report less satisfaction with their romantic relationships.

Sexual Relationship Scale

Instructions: Listed below are several statements that concern the topic of sexual relationships. Please read each of the following statements carefully and decide to what extent it is characteristic of you. Some of the items refer to a specific relationship. Whenever possible, answer the questions with your current partner in mind. If you are not currently dating anyone, answer the questions with your most recent partner in mind. If you have never had a relationship, answer in terms of what you think your responses would most likely be. Then, for each statement fill in the response on the answer sheet that indicates how much it applies to you by using the following scale:

A = Not at all characteristic of me.

B = Slightly characteristic of me.

C = Somewhat characteristic of me.

D = Moderately characteristic of me.

E = Very characteristic of me.

Note: Remember to respond to all items, even if you are not completely sure. Your answers will be kept in the strictest confidence. Also, please be honest in responding to these statements.

  1. It would bother me if my sexual partner neglected my needs.
  2. When I make love with someone, I generally expect something in return.
  3. If I were to make love with a sexual partner, I’d take that person’s needs and feelings into account.
  4. If a sexual partner were to do something sensual for me, I’d try to do the same for him/her.
  5. I’m not especially sensitive to the feelings of a sexual partner.
  6. I don’t think people should feel obligated to repay an intimate partner for sexual favors. (R)
  7. I don’t consider myself to be a particularly helpful sexual partner.
  8. I wouldn’t feel all that exploited if an intimate partner failed to repay me for a sexual favor. (R)
  9. I believe sexual lovers should go out of their way to be sexually responsive to their partner.
  10. I wouldn’t bother to keep track of the times a sexual partner asked for a sensual pleasure. (R)
  11. I wouldn’t especially enjoy helping a partner achieve their own sexual satisfaction.
  12. When a person receives sexual pleasures from another, s/he ought to repay that person right away.
  13. I expect a sexual partner to be responsive to my sexual needs and feelings.
  14. It’s best to make sure things are always kept “even” between two people in a sexual relationship.
  15. I would be willing to go out of my way to satisfy my sexual partner.
  16. I would do a special sexual favor for an intimate partner, only if that person did some special sexual favor for me.
  17. I don’t think it’s wise to get involved taking care of a partner’s sexual needs.
  18. If my sexual partner performed a sexual request for me, I wouldn’t feel that I’d have to repay him/her later on. (R)
  19. I’m not the sort of person who would help a partner with a sexual problem.
  20. If my sexual partner wanted something special from me, s/he would have to do something sexual for me.‌‌‌
  21. If I were feeling sexually needy, I’d ask my sexual partner for help.
  22. If my sexual partner became emotionally upset, I would try to avoid him/her.
  23. People should keep their sexual problems to themselves.
  24. If a sexual partner were to ignore my sexual needs, I’d feel hurt.

Note. R = reverse-coded item.


Clark, M. S., & Mills, J. (1979). Interpersonal attraction in exchange and communal relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37, 12–24.

Clark, M. S., Ouellette, R., Powell, M. C., & Milberg, S. (1987). Recipient’s mood, relationship type, and helping. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53, 94–103.

Clark, M. S., Taraban, C., Ho, J., & Wesner, K. (1989). A measure of exchange orientation. Unpublished manuscript, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA.

Hughes, T., & Snell, W. E., Jr. (1990). Communal and exchange approaches to sexual relations. Annals of Sex Research, 3, 149–163.