Date of Graduation

5-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Psychological Science

Advisor

Ana J. Bridges

Committee Member

David Schroeder

Second Committee Member

Timothy Cavell

Keywords

Psychology; Disgust sensitivity; Female sexual dysfunction; Sexual functioning; Sexual trauma

Abstract

Sexual dysfunctions are a common problem for women that negatively impact quality of life (Laumann, Paik, & Rosen 1999). A history of sexual trauma is associated with an increase in sexual difficulties (Neumann et al., 1996). One common reaction to unwanted sexual contact is disgust (Whealin & Barnett, 2010). However, the role of disgust in the relationship between sexual trauma and female sexual dysfunction has not been examined. This study explored how disgust and a history of sexual trauma related to different domains of sexual functioning (desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction, and pain). Furthermore, this study assessed whether disgust mediated or moderated the relationship between sexual trauma and sexual satisfaction. A total of 156 heterosexual women age 18 years and older in current romantic relationships completed an online questionnaire. Results indicated that women without a history of sexual trauma reported higher sexual satisfaction but lower sexual desire than women with a history of sexual trauma. Levels of overall sexual functioning and an increase in sexual pain were related to disgust. Results indicated that disgust did not mediate or moderate the relationship between sexual trauma and sexual satisfaction, nor between trauma history and sexual desire. Exploratory analyses revealed that childhood sexual abuse, a close relationship with the perpetrator, experiencing penetration during the abuse, and disclosing the abuse were unrelated to sexual satisfaction, sexual functioning, and levels of disgust in victimized women. In this sample of women, a history of sexual trauma was associated with negative subjective evaluations about sex, but not with the physiological components of sexual functioning. Clinical implications and future directions are discussed.

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