ASSESSING WOMEN'S ENDORSEMENT OF CONFLICTING MESSAGES ABOUT SEXUALITY: DEVELOPMENT OF THE SEXUAL AMBIVALENCE QUESTIONNAIRE (SAQ)

Open Access
Author:
Danube, Cinnamon Lynn
Graduate Program:
Psychology
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
May 12, 2011
Committee Members:
  • Karen Gasper, Committee Chair
  • Janet K. Swim, Committee Member
  • Theresa K. Vescio, Committee Member
  • Patricia Barthalow Koch, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • gender
  • ambivalence
  • sexuality
Abstract:
I argue that the American culture provides women with mixed and conflicting messages about sexual expression and will demonstrate that these messages can create conflict in some women that contributes to unhealthy sexual attitudes and behaviors. I focus on two messages. First, women learn to hide their sexual feelings so as to conform to traditional standards of femininity and morally virtuous behavior (Tolman, 2002) and to be disproportionately concerned about the possible dangers of sexual expression (Fine, 1988; Vance, 1984). I label these Suppress messages because they teach women to suppress sexual feelings and ¨Djust say no¡¬ to sexual expression. Conversely, women learn the importance of proving their desirability by performing their sexuality so as to appear sexually attractive and desiring of sexual attention from men (Douglas, 2010; Levy, 2005; Tolman, 2002), irrespective of their own desires (Tolman, 2002). I label this a Perform message because it encourages women to engage in sexual performance so as to always ¨Dappear sexually available.¡¬ Suppress and Perform messages are both problematic. However, I go farther to argue that they are particularly problematic because they are contradictory. They pit the idea that sexual expression should be hidden and is dangerous against messages that sexual expression should be performed and displayed. Simultaneous endorsement of Perform and Suppress messages might create a state of conflict in some women, sexual ambivalence (SA), with regards to how to negotiate sexual expression. In this research, I describe the creation (Study 1 and 2) and validation (Study 3 and 4) of a measure that assesses women¡®s endorsement of these messages, the Sexual Ambivalence Questionnaire (SAQ), such that predictions can be tested. I use the SAQ to demonstrate that endorsement of either Perform or Suppress messages alone, or endorsement of both simultaneously (SA), can lead to negative consequences for women¡®s attitudes, beliefs, and decision-making.