Sexual Wanting Questionnaire

Sexual Wanting Questionnaire

ZOË D. PETERSON,1 University of Missouri-St. Louis

CHARLENE L. MUEHLENHARD, University of Kansas

Sexual activity is often classified as wanted or unwanted, reflecting a unidimensional, dichotomous model of sexual wanting. In reality, individuals’ feelings about wanting or not wanting sex often are more complex (Muehlenhard & Peterson, 2005). The Sexual Wanting Questionnaire was developed to measure a new, more complex model of sexual wanting. The questionnaire measures sexual wanting taking into account the following: (a) multiple levels of wanting rather than a dichotomy, acknowledging that sex can be wanted and unwanted to varying degrees; (b) multiple dimensions of wanting, acknowledging that sex can be wanted in some ways and unwanted in other ways; (c) an act-consequences distinction, acknowledging that wanting or not wanting a sexual act differs from wanting or not wanting its consequences; and (d) a wanting-consenting distinction, acknowledging that wanting or not wanting sex differs from consenting or not consenting to sex (Peterson & Muehlenhard, 2007).

Description

The Wanting Questionnaire consists of 106 items assessing participants’ reasons for wanting or not wanting a particular sexual experience (e.g., respondents’ first sexual experience or most recent sexual experience). It measures reasons for wanting and not wanting the sexual act itself, the consequences of engaging in the sexual act, and the consequences of not engaging in the sexual act. Questionnaire items describe reasons for wanting or not wanting sex that relate to sexual arousal, morals and values, situational characteristics, social status, fear of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and relationship concerns.

The scale was developed and tested for use with college students, although it could be adapted for use with other populations. The scale has been used to measure the “wantedness” of college men’s and women’s first sexual intercourse (Muehlenhard, Peterson, MacPherson, & Blair, 2002) and the wantedness of college women’s experiences with consensual and nonconsensual sexual intercourse (Peterson & Muehlenhard, 2007).

Response Mode and Timing

For each item, respondents are asked to indicate whether the statement was true for them prior to the particular sexual experience in question. If the item was true, they are asked to rate the extent to which that item was a reason for wanting or not wanting the sexual activity using a 7-point scale ranging from −3 (A Strong Reason for Not Wanting to Have Sex), to 0 (Not a Reason for Wanting or Not Wanting to Have Sex), to 3 (A Strong Reason for Wanting to Have Sex). Participants also are asked to make three global ratings of wantedness, which provide summaries of the wantedness of the sexual act itself, the wantedness of the consequences of the sexual activity, and the overall wantedness of the sexual activity. These global wantedness items also are rated on a scale ranging from −3 (Strongly Unwanted) to 3 (Strongly Wanted). It takes approximately 15 to 20 minutes to complete the entire scale.

Scoring

In order to calculate scores on the Reasons for Wanting and the Reasons for Not Wanting subscales, the “not true” items are set equal to 0. When calculating the Reasons for Wanting subscale scores, negative ratings are replaced with zeros, and, when calculating the Reasons for Not Wanting subscale scores, positive ratings are replaced with zeros. Ratings for items on each subscale are averaged to calculate subscale scores. Scores on the Reasons for Wanting sub- scales can range from 0 to 3; higher scores indicate stronger feelings of wanting to have sex for that reason. Scores on the Reasons for Not Wanting subscales can range from −3 to 0; lower scores indicate stronger feelings of not wanting to have sex for that reason. The following is a breakdown of items belonging to each subscale:

Reasons for Wanting Subscales

  • In the Mood: 1a, 2a, 3a, 6a, 7a, 10, 11a, 12a, 13a, 14, 16a, 17, 19, 22a, 26, 78
  • Negative Consequences of Refusing: 49, 62, 66, 67, 68, 71, 75, 80, 82
  • Personal Gain: 47, 48, 54, 79a Social Benefits: 40a, 41a, 45 Fear of Physical Harm: 69, 74
  • Strengthen the Relationship: 50, 51, 59, 61 Not Intoxicated: 20a, 21a
  • Not a Virgin: 29b, 30b

Reasons for Not Wanting Subscales

  • Not in the Mood: 1b, 2b, 3c, 5, 12b, 13b, 16b Negative Consequences: 23, 31, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 39
  • Lack of Confidence: 4b, 18, 25, 28, 29a
  • Cheating: 63, 64
  • Disliked the Other Person: 6b, 7b Negative Social Consequences: 40b, 41b

Reliability

Based on a sample of 213 college women who answered the questionnaire based on their experiences with consensual and nonconsensual sexual intercourse, Cronbach’s alphas for the subscales ranged from .72 to .95, providing evidence that the subscales had adequate internal consistency.

Validity

Items for the Sexual Wanting Questionnaire were developed based on themes identified in prior studies of individuals’ reasons for wanting and not wanting sex (e.g., Muehlenhard & Cook, 1988; O’Sullivan & Allgeier, 1998; O’Sullivan & Gaines, 1998) and based on discussions with a group of undergraduate college students. The subscales were developed using exploratory factor analysis and scale reliability analyses.

Because wanting and not wanting sex was conceptualized as distinct from consenting and not consenting to sex, scores on the Sexual Wanting Questionnaire were expected to be associated with—but distinct from—sexual con- sent. Peterson and Muehlenhard (2007) found evidence for this. A group of 87 college women who answered the questionnaire based on their most recent experience with consensual sexual intercourse (i.e., the consensual sex group) was compared with a group of 77 college women who answered based on their experience with nonconsensual sexual intercourse (i.e., the rape group). Not surprisingly, findings suggested that wanting sex and consenting to sex were closely related; on average, the rape group wanted the sexual intercourse significantly less than the consensual sex group. However, also as expected, there were large within-group variations in the wantedness of women’s consensual and nonconsensual sexual experiences; the results demonstrated that individuals some- times consent to unwanted sex and sometimes do not consent to wanted sex. These findings provide some evidence of construct validity.

Other Information

With appropriate citation, the Sexual Wanting Scale may be copied and used for educational and research purposes without permission. The authors would appreciate receiving a summary of any research utilizing this scale.

1Address correspondence to Zoë Peterson, Department of Psychology, 325 Stadler Hall, University of Missouri-St. Louis, One University Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63121; e-mail: [email protected]

Sexual Wanting Questionnaire

Indicate whether each statement was true for you shortly before the sexual activity started.

  • If this statement was not true for you at the time, check Not True and go to the next line.
  • If this statement was true for you at the time, then check True.

Circle a number from −3 to 3 indicating how much, if at all, it was a reason for not wanting or wanting to engage in sexual inter- course, based on the scale below.

It was a reason for not wanting to engage in the sexual activityIt had no influenceIt was a reason for wanting to engage in the sexual activity
−3 −2 −1

a strong a moderate a weak

reason reason reason for not wanting to have sex

0

not a reason for wanting or not

wanting to have sex

1 2 3

a weak a moderate a strong

reason reason reason for wanting to have sex

Was this statement true for you shortly before the sexual activity began?Not True Check and go to the next lineTrue Check and then circle your rating 

A reason for A reason for

not wanting the wanting

sexual activity the sexual activity

1a. I was sexually aroused before the sexual intercourse began. 

−3 −2 −1

 

0

 

1 2 3

1b. I was not sexually aroused before the sexual

intercourse began.

 

−3 −2 −1

 

0

 

1 2 3

2a. I expected to be aroused during the sexual

intercourse.

 

−3 −2 −1

 

0

 

1 2 3

2b. I did not expect to be aroused during the sexual

intercourse.

 

−3 −2 −1

 

0

 

1 2 3

3a. I felt interested in and excited about the

possibility of the sexual act.

 

−3 −2 −1

 

0

 

1 2 3

3b. I felt indifferent about the possibility of the

sexual act; I didn’t care one way or another.

 

−3 −2 −1

 

0

 

1 2 3

3c. I felt uninterested in and bored about the

possibility of the sexual act.

 

−3 −2 −1

 

0

 

1 2 3

4a. I felt comfortable about my body.−3 −2 −101 2 3
4b. I felt uncomfortable about my body.−3 −2 −101 2 3
5. I felt disgusted or revolted by the possibility of

the sexual intercourse.

 

−3 −2 −1

 

0

 

1 2 3

6a. I found the other person physically attractive.−3−2−10123
6b. I found the other person physically unattractive.−3−2−10123
7a. I liked the other person.−3−2−10123
7b. I disliked the other person.−3−2−10123
8. I didn’t know the other person well.−3−2−10123
9a. The sexual activity in question was socially

acceptable.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

9b. The sexual activity in question was socially

unacceptable.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

10. I felt curious to try sexual intercourse with this

person in this situation.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

11a. There was a good location available (it was

comfortable, there was privacy, etc.).

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

11b. There was a problem with the location (it was

uncomfortable, there was little privacy, etc.).

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

12a. I was in the mood to engage in sexual

intercourse.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

12b. I was not in the mood to engage in sexual

intercourse.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

13a. I found the other person’s behavior appealing

or attractive in this situation.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

13b. The other person’s behavior was unappealing

or obnoxious in this situation.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

14. It seemed that the other person wanted to engage in the sexual intercourse at least to some

degree.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

15. It seemed that the other person was at least somewhat reluctant to engage in the sexual

intercourse.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

16a. I expected emotional closeness during this

sexual activity.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

16b. I did not expect emotional closeness during this

sexual activity.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

17. There would have been a great deal of physical

closeness during this sexual activity.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

18. I expected the sexual intercourse to be painful

or physically uncomfortable.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

19. I expected the sexual intercourse to be

pleasurable.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

20a. I was not intoxicated (on alcohol or drugs).−3−2−10123
20b. I was mildly intoxicated (on alcohol or drugs).−3−2−10123
20c. I was extremely intoxicated (on alcohol or drugs).−3−2−10123
21a. The other person was not intoxicated (on

alcohol or drugs).

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

21b. The other person was mildly intoxicated (on

alcohol or drugs).

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

21c. The other person was extremely intoxicated

(on alcohol or drugs).

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

22a. The other person consented (or agreed) to

engage in the sexual intercourse.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

22b. The other person did not consent (or agree) to

engage in the sexual intercourse.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

23. I felt that engaging in the sexual intercourse

would make me feel uncomfortable because it would be going against my morals and values.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

24. I or the other person was menstruating.−3−2−10123
25. I was nervous about my ability to perform

sexual intercourse.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

26. I was confident about my ability to perform

sexual intercourse.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

27. I felt physically unwell or sick.−3−2−10123
28. It would have been my first time engaging in the

sexual activity in question.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

29a.I was a virgin.−3−2−10123
29b.I was not a virgin.−3−2−10123
30a. The other person was a virgin.−3−2−10123
30b. The other person was not a virgin.−3−2−10123
31. I thought that, if I had sex, I might get a sexually

transmitted disease.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

32. I thought I might give the other person a

sexually transmitted disease.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

33. I thought I might get pregnant or get the other

person pregnant.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

34. I thought I might get into trouble (e.g., with my

parents, my boss, the police).

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

35. I thought I might feel bad or guilty because it was

against my morals or values.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

36. I thought I might feel bad or guilty because it was

against my parents’ morals or values.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

37. I thought my parents might find out.−3−2−10123
38. I thought that having sex would improve my

self-esteem or self-image at least in some ways.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

39. I thought that having sex would harm my

self-esteem or self-image at least in some ways.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

40a. I thought it would improve my reputation

among my female friends and acquaintances.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

40b. I thought it would harm my reputation among

my female friends and acquaintances.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

41a. I thought it would improve my reputation

among my male friends and acquaintances.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

41b. I thought it would harm my reputation among

my male friends and acquaintances.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

42. I thought it would prevent me from doing

something else I needed to do (e.g., studying, going to work).

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

43. I thought it would prevent me from doing something else fun or pleasant (e.g., watching

TV, going to a movie).

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

44a. I thought it would make the other person happy.−3−2−10123
44b. I thought it would make the other person unhappy−3−2−10123
45. I thought it would give me something to talk

about with friends and acquaintances.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

46. I thought that, if I had sex, the other person

might think I was cheap or easy.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

47. I thought it might result in my getting something

I really needed (e.g., food, money, transportation, shelter).

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

48. I thought it might result in my getting something

I really wanted (e.g., a gift, a vacation).

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

49. I felt like it would fulfill my obligation to the

other person.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

50. I thought that it would demonstrate my love for

the other person.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

51. I thought that it would make me feel closer to

the other person.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

52. I thought that it would make the other person

fall in love with me.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

53. I thought that it would make me feel needed or

wanted.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

54. I thought that it would result in the other person

doing something I wanted.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

55. I felt like it would be fair to the other person

because, in the past, he/she had engaged in sexual intercourse with me when I wanted to.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

56. I thought that it would result in my being accused

of rape or sexual coercion.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

57. I thought that I might regret it later.−3−2−10123
58. I thought that the other person might regret

it later.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

59. I thought that having sex would strengthen my

relationship with the other person in some ways.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

60. I thought that having sex would damage my

relationship with the other person in some ways.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

61. I thought that it might lead to a steady

relationship with the other person.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

62. I thought that it would cause the other person

to stop pressuring me.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

63. It would have been “cheating,” and I was afraid

that it would damage my relationship with my spouse or steady dating partner.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

64. It would have been “cheating,” and I was afraid

that it would hurt my spouse or steady dating partner.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

65a. I wanted to be more sexually experienced.−3−2−10123
65b. I did not want to be more sexually experienced.−3−2−10123
66. I wanted to avoid hurting the other person’s

feelings.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

67. Refusing sex would have made me feel guilty.−3−2−10123
68. I was afraid that, if I refused, the other person

would become angry.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

69. I was afraid that, if I refused, the other person

might harm me physically.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

70. There was nothing else to do.−3−2−10123
71. I was afraid that, if I refused, the other person might accuse me of being a tease or leading

him/her on.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

72. I was afraid that, if I refused, the other person

might think I was ungrateful because he/she had done something for me.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

73. I was afraid that refusing would make me seem

selfish.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

74. I was afraid that, if I refused, the other person

might try to force me to do it.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

75. I was afraid that the other person would be

disappointed if we didn’t have sex.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

76. I thought that this was my only chance to have

sex with this person—that it was now or never.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

77. I was afraid that, if I refused, the other person

might carry out some threat against me.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

78. This was an experience that I didn’t want to

miss out on.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

79a. I felt like having sex would have made me feel

powerful.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

79b. I felt like having sex would have made me feel

powerless.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

80. I thought that refusing might damage my

relationship with the other person at least in some ways.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

81. I thought that refusing might strengthen my relationship with the other person at least in

some ways.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

82. I was afraid that, if I refused, the other person

might break up with me.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

83. I was afraid that, if I refused, the other person

might have sex with someone else.

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

84. It was a situation where sex was expected (e.g., it was prom night; the other person was my

girlfriend/boyfriend visiting from out of town, etc.).

 

−3

 

−2

 

−1

 

0

 

1

 

2

 

3

Overall, how much did you want or not want to engage in the sexual act itself (not considering the consequences)?

−3−2−10123
StronglyModeratelySlightlyNoSlightlyModeratelyStrongly
unwantedunwantedunwantedopinionwantedwantedwanted

Overall, how much did you want or not want the possible consequences of engaging in the sexual activity?

−3−2−10123
StronglyModeratelySlightlyNoSlightlyModeratelyStrongly
unwantedunwantedunwantedopinionwantedwantedwanted

Overall, how much did you want or not want to engage in sexual activity in this situation (taking into account the sexual act itself, the possible consequences of engaging in the sexual act, and the possible consequences of not engaging in the sexual act)?

−3−2−10123
StronglyModeratelySlightlyNoSlightlyModeratelyStrongly
unwantedunwantedunwantedopinionwantedwantedwanted

References

Muehlenhard, C. L., & Cook, S. W. (1988). Men’s self-reports of unwanted sexual activity. The Journal of Sex Research, 24, 58–72.

Muehlenhard, C. L., & Peterson, Z. D. (2005). Wanting and not wanting sex: The missing discourse of ambivalence. Feminism and Psychology, 15, 15–20.

Muehlenhard, C. L., Peterson, Z. D., MacPherson, L. A., & Blair, R. L. (2002, June). First experiences with sexual intercourse: Wanted, unwanted, or both? Application of a multidimensional model. Paper presented at the Midcontinent and Eastern Region Joint Conference of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, Big Rapids, MI.

O’Sullivan, L. F., & Allgeier, E. R. (1998). Feigning sexual desire: Consenting to unwanted sexual activity in heterosexual dating rela- tionships. The Journal of Sex Research, 35, 234–243.

O’Sullivan, L. F., & Gaines, M. E. (1998). Decision-making in college students’ heterosexual dating relationships: Ambivalence about engag- ing in sexual activity. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 15, 347–363.

Peterson, Z. D., & Muehlenhard, C. L. (2007). Conceptualizing the “wantedness” of women’s consensual and nonconsensual sexual experiences: Implications for how women label their experiences with rape. The Journal of Sex Research, 44, 72–88.