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Fairer Sex: The Role of Relationship Equity in Female Sexual Desire

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Abstract

Previous investigations into Female Sexual Desire (FSD) have been focused on women's biological, cognitive, and emotional processes, despite evidence that FSD is also responsive to relational contexts. Past research consistently demonstrates a general association between relationship satisfaction and FSD. There remains, however, a need to expound this connection. In response, this study explored the role of relationship equity in relationship satisfaction and FSD. For this cross-sectional study, 299 Australian women aged 18 to 39 years responded to an online questionnaire measuring relationship factors and dimensions of sexual desire. Two mediation models were tested to examine how relationship equity was associated with solitary and dyadic sexual desire, via a connection with relationship satisfaction. As expected, equality in relationships predicted relationship satisfaction, which, subsequently, was related to higher levels of dyadic sexual desire. No significant mediation was found for solitary desire, indicating that relationship factors may not play a critical role in this domain. This result also demonstrates a distinct divergence between the two domains of desire that requires further examination. These results solidify the notion of FSD as a multifaceted construct and present meaningful implications for theory, research, and clinical practice.

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A nearly universal stereotype holds that men are driven by their sexual impulses or drives while women rarely feel desire. This paper will consider the reported differences in sexual desire between men and women and the biological and social considerations fueling these differences. The effect of menstruation, gestation and lactation on female sexual desire will be briefly reviewed as well as the influence of estrogens and androgens on sexual drive. The suggestion will be made that, while differences in sexual drive and its behavioral expressions certainly exist, these gender differences may be narrowing as women gain political, social, economic and reproductive freedom. Finally, it will be argued that these differences may be precisely what makes sex interesting and meaningful and more than the simple release of biological tension.
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This study examined how full-time employed partners from 43 gay and 36 lesbian couples allocated labor for six household tasks typically performed by women in heterosexual couples. Although the relative frequency of performing household labor within the couple did not differ between gay and lesbian partners, compared to gay partners, lesbian partners reported that more tasks were done equally often by both partners. The relative frequency of performing household labor was related to interest in household labor, even with controls for skill in performing household labor. Satisfaction with the division of household labor exerted its effect on both relationship satisfaction and relationship stability through perceived equality in the relationship.
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The present study explored the causal role played by putative environmental factors on variation in female sexual dysfunction (FSD) by investigating FSD discordant monozygotic (MZ) twins, which permits a control over genetic confounders. In a population-based sample of female twins aged 25-69 years (M = 55 years), MZ twins discordant for recent and lifelong FSD were selected. Sample sizes varied depending on the specific sexual problem (N = 33-90 pairs). The Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI) score was used to discriminate cases from controls. Once genetic factors were controlled for, relationship satisfaction emerged as the strongest independent predictor for recent and lifelong FSD, being associated with FSFI dimensions measuring desire, arousal, and lubrication problems. The association with orgasm problems was especially strong (OR 7.1, 95 % CI: 1.9-25.3) as was the association with sexual dissatisfaction (OR 5.1, 95 % CI: 2.1-12.1). Furthermore, obsessive-compulsive symptomatology was weakly associated with desire problems (OR 1.5, 95 % CI: 1.4-1.8) and anxiety-sensitivity with orgasm problems (OR 1.1, 95 % CI: 0.9-1.3). Negligible effects were found for personality factors and small effects for self-reported abusive experiences. These data indicate, for the first time, that in women at identical genetic risk, relationship factors play a key role in the development of sexual problems. These findings require replication in prospective designs which can provide additional powerful tests of the direction of causality between interpersonal factors and later sexual dysfunction.
Article
The purpose of the present study was to investigate the relationships between gender role attitudes, household tasks, and the perception of equity among heterosexual, gay and lesbian couples. One hundred and twenty-four participants (54 heterosexuals, 30 gay men and 40 lesbians) were tested. It was found that same-sex couples had more liberal attitudes toward gender roles than did heterosexual couples. In addition, significant differences were found between the spouses in their responses regarding role division in housekeeping in each group. The responses of heterosexual spouses correlate more closely with each other regarding the role of each of the spouses than was the case for same-sex couples. However, the role division among lesbian couples was more egalitarian than that of heterosexual couples. In addition, heterosexual women consider their married life less equitable than heterosexual men do. Similarly, one of the gay spouses considers the relationship less equitable than the other spouse does. The results are discussed in terms of their relevance to theories of social perception and cultural backgrounds.
Article
The study examines the relationship between husband-wife equality in late adulthood and two dimensions of marital quality: burn-out, and satisfaction with marriage. Husband-wife equality has been examined on the basis of marital power relations and the division of roles in three areas: in-home tasks, financial management, and social life. Equity theory provided the conceptual framework for the hypothesis that equality in various aspects of marriage enhances marital quality. The research sample consisted of 116 retired Israeli couples. Negative correlations were found between equality in family roles and burn-out among both husbands and wives. Surprisingly, equality in the performance of in-home roles correlated positively with burn-out among husbands. Moreover, equality in power relations correlated positively with marital satisfaction among wives. In addition, an interaction was found for wives' perceptions of equality in power relations and their husbands' level of burn-out. State of health correlated negatively with burn-out for both partners. Furthermore, husbands' religiosity explained a substantial percentage of the variance in their level of burn-out and marital satisfaction. On the whole, wives reported a higher level of burn-out and a lower level of marital satisfaction than did their husbands.
Article
Introduction: Sexual distress is an important component of diagnostic criteria for sexual dysfunctions, but little is known about the factors associated with sexual distress in women with low sexual desire. Aim: To investigate the correlates of sexual distress in women with self-reported low sexual desire. Methods: The Prevalence of Female Sexual Problems Associated with Distress and Determinants of Treatment Seeking study was a cross-sectional, nationally representative, mailed survey of U.S. adult women. There were 31,581 respondents (response rate 63.2%) to the 42-item questionnaire that measured sexual function, sexual distress, demographic, and health-related factors. Multivariable logistic regression was used to explore the correlates of distress. Main outcome measures: Low sexual desire was defined as a response of "never" or "rarely" to the question, "How often do you desire to engage in sexual activity?" Sexual distress was measured with the Female Sexual Distress Scale (range 0-48), with a score of 15 or higher indicating presence of distress. Results: Of 10,429 women with low desire, 2,868 (27.5%) had sexual distress (mean age 48.6 years, 81% with a current partner). Women without distress were 10 years older on average, and 44% had a current partner. Having a partner was strongly related to distress (odds ratio 4.6, 95% confidence interval 4.1-5.2). Other correlates were age, race, current depression, anxiety, lower social functioning, hormonal medication use, urinary incontinence, and concurrent sexual problems (arousal or orgasm). Dissatisfaction with sex life was more common in women with low desire and distress (65%) than in those without distress (20%). Conclusions: Age has a curvilinear relationship with distress, and the strongest correlate of sexual distress was having a current partner. Sexual distress and dissatisfaction with sex life are strongly correlated. Distress is higher in women with low sexual desire in a partner relationship; further research on this factor is needed.
Article
Sexual desire is typically higher in men than in women, with testosterone (T) thought to account for this difference as well as within-sex variation in desire in both women and men. However, few studies have incorporated both hormonal and social or psychological factors in studies of sexual desire. The present study addressed how three psychological domains (sexual-relational, stress-mood, body-embodiment) were related to links between T and sexual desire in healthy adults and whether dyadic and solitary desire showed associations with T. Participants (n = 196) were recruited as part of the Partnering, Physiology, and Health study, which had 105 men and 91 women who completed questionnaires and provided saliva for cortisol and T assays. T was positively linked to solitary desire in women, with masturbation frequency influencing this link. In contrast, T was negatively correlated with dyadic desire in women, but only when cortisol and perceived social stress were controlled. Replicating past findings, no significant correlations between T and desire in men were apparent, but these analyses showed that the null association remained even when psychological and confound variables were controlled. Men showed higher desire than women, but masturbation frequency rather than T influenced this difference. Results were discussed in terms of challenges to assumptions of clear links between T and desire, gendered approaches to T, and the unitarity of desire.
Article
Sexual desire is often present at the beginning of a romantic relationship. However, research is divided regarding whether, and how, desire is experienced as a relationship progresses. The authors examined relationship duration and its effect on sexual desire in a sample of 170 undergraduate men and women between the ages of 18 and 25 years. Hierarchical multiple regression results indicated that women's sexual desire was significantly and negatively predicted by relationship duration after controlling for age, relationship satisfaction, and sexual satisfaction. Men's sexual desire, however, was not significantly affected by the duration of their romantic relationships. These findings suggest that men and women may have different experiences with sexual desire as relationships progress and that sexual desire might be affected by different factors depending on one's gender. Possible reasons for these results are suggested and therapeutic implications are discussed.
Article
This research tested whether and how partners' support of self-improvement efforts influences recipients' relationship evaluations and self-improvement success. Study 1 provided an initial test of predictions using self-reports (N = 150). Study 2 assessed support behavior exhibited in couples' (N = 47) discussions of self-improvement desires, and tracked relationship quality and self-improvement every 3 months for 1 year. More nurturing and action-facilitating partner support was more helpful to recipients, whereas partners who criticized and invalidated recipients were less helpful. Receiving more help from the partner, in turn, predicted greater relationship quality and more self-improvement. More negative support seeking also predicted lower self-improvement because recipients' behavior elicited less partner help. These effects were not attributable to partners' general warmth and understanding, global self or relationship evaluations, how much recipients desired or tried to change, or whether targeted attributes posed relationship problems. This research documents the powerful influence that partners' help has on recipients' personal growth.