Sexual Scripts Overlap Scale—Short Version

Sexual Scripts Overlap Scale—Short Version


Little is known about the possible impact of sexually explicit material (SEM) or pornography use on young people’s sexual socialization. The efforts so far have been characteristically brief (1-item measures assessing self- rated influence of pornography on one’s sex life were often used) and direct—thus vulnerable to normative expectations and socially desirable answers. According to our conceptualization, pornographic imagery competes with other socially available sexual narratives in the process of sexual scripting, particularly in the formation of personal sexual scripts (Simon & Gagnon, 2003). It should be possible, therefore, to retrospectively assess the impact of SEM on sexual socialization by measuring the overlap between a pornographic and personal depiction of sex, which is what the Sexual Scripts Overlap Scale (SSOS) does. Recently, the SSOS has been found to be a useful tool in modeling mediated effects of early SEM use on sexual satisfaction of young adults (Štulhofer, Buško, & Landripet, 2010; Štulhofer et al., 2007). To facilitate wider application of this composite measure, a brief but more robust version of the scale (SSOS-S; k = 20) has been developed and vali- dated using two online surveys.


The original Sexual Scripts Overlap Scale SSOS was developed by asking a group of Croatian college students (N = 41) to make a list of things/ activities/sensations that are important for the pornographic depiction of sex. The other group (N = 35) was asked to do the same for what they personally considered to be “great sex.” The two inventories—the pornographic inventory and the great sex inventory—were then merged. Judged for relevance and occurrence, 42 items were selected and combined into the final inventory, which was pretested on 277 students. In 2006 and 2007, two online surveys were carried out to validate this new instrument among sexually active young adults (18–25) with at least some experience with SEM. In 2006 the questionnaire was completed by 1,914 participants and in 2007 by another 600. In the first part of the questionnaire, participants were asked to assess the importance of the listed 42 items for great sex. Near the end of the questionnaire, participants were asked to assess the inventory again, but this time they were asked about each item’s importance for the pornographic presentation of sex. In both cases, answers were anchored on a 5-point Likert scale. The scores were computed on each of the 42 paired items by subtracting the pornographic item value from the great sex item value. After the SSOS scores were reverse recoded, greater overlap between the values— which implied greater influence of pornography on sexual socialization—was represented by higher SSOS scores (for the list of the SSOS items, see Štulhofer et al., 2010). The SSOS items reflected five important dimensions of sexual socialization: (a) personal and partner sexual role expectations, (b) content of “successful” sex, (c) sexiness and body image, (d) relationship between emotions, intimacy, and sexuality, and (e) power dynamics within sexual relationship.

To make the SSOS more efficient, items from both inventories were arranged according to their sample means to determine the most characteristic aspects of the great sex and pornographic script. The top 10 items from both inventories were identical in 2006 and 2007. The resulting 20-item version of the scale (SSOS-S) was normally distributed (2006: range 8–80, M = 45.0, SD = 11.3; 2007: range 17–79, M = 44.2, SD = 11.1) and highly correlated with the SSOS, both in total and by gender (r = .90–.94, p < .001). Principal component analysis indicated the presence of four dimensions (eigenvalues > 1) in the 2006 dataset, accounting for 57% of the total item variance. However, a scree test suggested a forced two-factor solution: 10 items loaded high (> .4) on the Sexual Intimacy factor and the remaining 10 on the Sexual Performance factor. Similar structure and factor loadings were found in the 2007 sample.

Response Mode and Timing

To minimize self-censorship, the great sex inventory should be placed closer to the beginning of the questionnaire and the pornographic inventory closer to its end (or vice versa). Respondents are asked to assess the importance of the 20 items for what they consider to be great sex (“How important for great sex do you personally find . . .?”) and for pornographic representation of sex (“How important for pornographic depiction of sex do you find . . .?”). Responses are recorded on a 5-point scale ranging from 1 = Not at all Important to 5 = Exceptionally Important. Most participants complete both scales in less than 8 minutes.


Twenty overlap items are calculated from the paired great sex and pornographic inventory items by subtracting the second from the first (negative signs are ignored). The SSOS-S is additive and represents a linear combination of the overlap-item scores. Absolute range of the scale is 0 (all paired items have identical values) to 80 (all paired items have opposite values). The SSOS-S scores are reverse recoded (80–n), so that higher scores indicate greater over- lap between the scripts.


The SSOS-S had satisfactory internal consistency in both 356 U.S. college students. Obtained reliability was satisfactory (Cronbach’s α = .88).


Construct validity was assessed by zero-order correlations between the SSOS-S and theoretically relevant constructs/ indicators: partner intimacy, exposure to SEM at the age of 14 and 17, range of sexual experiences, the acceptance of myths about sexuality, attitudes towards SEM, and the presence of sexually compulsive sexual thoughts and behaviors (Kalichman & Rompa, 1995). All the associations were found significant and in the expected direction in both samples (r = .21–.50, p < .001). Convergent validity was investigated by relating the SSOS-S to the real-life desirability of SEM-portrayed sexuality (“To what extent would you like your sex life to resemble a pornographic movie?”), personal importance of SEM, and the perceived realism of pornographic depictions of sex. Again, significant and moderately strong associations were found (r =.35–.40, p < .001).

The SSOS-S was shown to differentiate between male and female participants, as well as between users of main- stream vs. nonmainstream SEM. Women reported lesser overlap than men (p < .001), whereas users of nonmain- stream SEM (S&M and B&D, fetishism, bestiality, and/or sexually violent/coercive material) reported higher overlap than those who preferred mainstream SEM (p < .05). Effect size of the observed differences was medium to small.

Sexual Scripts Overlap Scale—Short Version

The “Great Sex” Script Items The Pornographic Script Items

How important for great sex do you personally find: a How important for pornographic depiction of sex do you find: 1 = Not at all 2 = Somewhat 3 = Moderately 4 = A Great Deal 5 = Exceptionally

  1. I am always ready for sex b 1. Men are always ready for sex

  2. My partner is always ready to have sex c 2. Women are always ready for sex

  3. It is easy to initiate sex 3. (same)

  4. Sex is possible in any situation 4. (same)

  5. Oral sex 5. (same)

  6. Anal sex 6. (same)

  7. Partner’s sexual pleasure 7. (same)

  8. Emotions, love 8. (same)

  9. Intimate communication 9. (same)

  10. Penetration 10. (same)

  11. Being constantly horny b 11. Men are constantly horny

  12. Partner is constantly horny c 12. Women are constantly horny

  13. Trust in partner 13. (same)

  14. Commitment 14. (same)

  15. Intense passion 15. (same)

  16. Feeling safe and well cared for 16. (same)

  17. Spontaneity 17. (same)

  18. Imagination 18. (same)

  19. Unselfishness 19. (same)

  20. “Pumping” (fast and deep penetration) 20. (same)

  • aThe questions regarding the “great sex” script should be placed closer to the beginning of the questionnaire, whereas the questions concerning the pornographic script should be closer to the end.
  • bIf a respondent is male, the item should be paired with the corresponding item on the pornography inventory; if a respondent is female, the item should be paired with the next item on the pornography inventory.
  • cThe item should be paired according to participant’s sexual orientation.


Kalichman, S. C., & Rompa, D. (1995). Sexual sensation seeking and sexual compulsivity scales: Reliability, validity, and predicting HIV risk behaviors. Journal of Personality Assessment, 65, 586–602.

Simon, W., & Gagnon, J. H. (2003). Sexual scripts: Origins, influences and changes. Qualitative Sociology, 26, 491–497.

Štulhofer, A., Buško, V., & Landripet, I. (2010). Pornography, sexual socialization and sexual satisfaction among young men. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 168–178.