|Table of Contents|
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. Introduction and review of the literature
Chapter 2. Method
Chapter 3. Results
Chapter 4. Discussion
Appendix A. The meaning of sexual experience questionnaire
Appendix B. The meaning of sexual experience information sheet
Appendix C. Adjectives found on the Mose III
THE EFFECT OF AMOUNT OF SEXUAL EXPERIENCE
ON THE MEANING OF SEXUAL EXPERIENCE
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
It is with great respect and fondness that I begin this
final section by acknowledging my chairperson, mentor and,
finally, colleague, Dr. Harry Grater. He taught me to
believe in the goodness of myself and, in his gentle and
supportive way, showed me that I have what it takes to
become the kind of professional I can admire.
Each of my committee members are people who do not hold
themselves above others, but rather offered their
encouragement, support, and guidance as one person to
another, without cost, and in kindness. They have and will
continue to serve as a model for my own betterment. I am
very grateful to them.
Dissertations are not written by people who, one day,
suddenly take on special courage and determination. These
traits begin long before it is time to type the title page.
My family has been an invaluable asset to me in everything
I do. I have always felt secure in the knowledge of their
love. This has made all the difference in the world. Here
I learned to grow beyond the bounds of my home. Their gift
is the greatest love of all, for they taught me to be free.
A family does not end at home, but grows as you grow,
and with you. There is no particular order I can put to
all the many friends with whom I have shared so much, nor
can I mention them all. They were very much present and
available over the many years that I pursued my goal, and
share in the joy of this accomplishment. Michael Garvey,
my friend eternal, was a pillar of strength throughout this
process. To him I owe more than I can say. Ed Spauster
greatly eased the burden of this task by showing me the way
and by believing in me. How important this was he will
never know. Rick Jensen, my compare, helped me to be
myself, and loved me for it. The faith that Maureen McGeary
had in me was unshakable, no matter how I tried. To her I
owe a special debt of thanks.
Bunny Lake put in a special command performance for this
event and is no longer missing. Charlotte Pierce gave
herself to the cause with complete abandon. It was the
only way she knew how. Her help and support were
Finally, I would like to offer a word of thanks to two
very special people. Gordon Smith held my hand, and me,
when it all seemed so impossible, and gave me comfort beyond
words. It is a rich man who has him for a friend. Bob
Meshrach taught me to reach beyond myself, and is now
learning this same skill. To him and all who have been
there with me I dedicate this work.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ABSTRACT ............................................ vii
1 INTRODUCTION AND REVIEW OF THE
LITERATURE ........................... 1
A Historical Overview...................... 6
Recent History............................. 10
Changes in Sexual behavior and Attitudes:
Fact or Fallacy....................... 17
Theories and Research on the Meaning of
Sexual Experience..................... 25
2 METHOD .................................... 45
Subjects .................................. 45
3 RESULTS................................... 54
Affiliation ................................ 56
Achievement ................................ 58
4 DISCUSSION ................................. 62
Limitations of the Study.................. 72
Directions for Future Research............ 75
A THE MEANING OF SEXUAL EXPERIENCE
QUESTIONNAIRE ....................... 77
B THE MEANING OF SEXUAL EXPERIENCE
INFORMATION SHEET.................... 81
C ADJECTIVES FOUND ON THE MOSE III.......... 84
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ 92
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
THE EFFECT OF AMOUNT OF SEXUAL EXPERIENCE
ON THE MEANING OF SEXUAL EXPERIENCE
Chairman: Dr. Harry Grater
Major Department: Psychology
This study examines the effects of the amount of
sexual experience on the meaning of sexual experience.
In part, it is also a replication study of the work of
Bernstein and Garrison both of whom assessed the
difference in the meaning of sexual experience between
men and women. Although sexual beliefs, behaviors and
attitudes have been studied extensively over the past
three decades, the meaning of sexual experience has been
researched very little. It has been theorized that an
individual's sexual attitudes and behaviors would be
better understood if the meaning that sex has for that
individual was known as well.
The Meaning of Sexual Experience Questionnaire
(MOSE III) was used to measure subjects on the following
scales: Affiliation, Inadequate/undesirable, Achievement,
Moral and Erotic/dominance. Amount of sexual experience
was measured by subjects' self-report of the number of
sexual partners and amount of intercourse they had. A
multiple regression analysis was used in order to test
the statistical hypothesis that there is no significant
relationship between each of the scales of the MOSE III
and gender, number of partners, or number of times a
person has intercourse.
Some gender differences were significant. Females
scored higher on the Affiliation scale while males scored
higher on Achievement. A significant relationship was
also established for number of sexual partners and amount
of intercourse on the Achievement and Erotic/dominance
scales. The interaction term number of sexual partners
and amount of intercourse was also significant and
negatively correlated to the Achievement and Erotic/dom-
inance scales, indicating that a high level of experience
on both measures was not necessarily predictive of highest
achievement scores. Significance was not demonstrated
in the Inadequate/undesirable or Moral scales with any
of the independent variables. The author concluded that
experience was a significant variable to be considered
in discussing the meaning of sexual experience. Results
are discussed in terms of current theory and research
INTRODUCTION AND REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
The dominant meaning of sexuality has
changed during our history from a primary
association with reproduction within families
to a primary association with emotional
intimacy and physical pleasure for individuals.
We find ourselves dissatisfied with one
distinction drawn in the literature the
opposition of sexual ideology ("what ought to
be") and sexual behavior ("what was"). It
seems to us that this dichotomy assumes too
simple and direct a relationship, as well as
an opposition, between what individuals believe
and what they do. To avoid these problems we
have chosen to explore [a subject] that most
concerns us, sexual meanings. (D'Emilio &
Freedman, 1988, p. xv)
The past several years have seen an increasing
interest in exploring and understanding the particular
significance sex holds for individuals, how they value
it, and what part it plays in their lives (Gagnon &
Simon, 1973; Smilgis, 1987). The shift towards greater
sexual experimentation among college students has been
well documented in a series of studies conducted
throughout the late 1960s, the 1970s and the first half
of the present decade (Hildebrand & Abromowitz, 1984).
Jackson and Potkay (1973) view the reports of earlier,
more prevalent and more widely accepted intercourse as
signaling the advent of a sexual revolution, replete
with a reordering of social mores. Others (Kaats &
Davis, 1970) viewed the same data as being consistent
with the century long evolution towards more relaxed
In reviewing changes in sexual behavior over the
past three decades (whether they be revolutionary or
evolutionary) it seems evident that they have been
fueled, at least in part, by a rapidly changing
technological/social environment (D'Eminio & Freedman,
1988). Factors such as the women's liberation movement,
the increase in availability and reliability of birth
control, mass media and advertising, and an overall
increase in sexual permissiveness have been identified
as some of the variables that may have contributed to
these changes (Comfort, 1976; D'Emilio & Freedman, 1988).
The recent and still present AIDS (Acquired Immune
Deficiency Syndrome) crisis is forcing young people to
take yet another look at their sexual behavior (Smilgis,
1987). The present effort by the United States Department
of Education, in response to the AIDS crisis, is to
educate individuals to the dangers of "unsafe" sex and
to suggest abstinence as one way of avoiding contact
with potentially diseased individuals (Shiltz, 1987).
If this and other similar efforts continue, sexual
behavior in the United States may undergo a substantial
change during the remainder of this century. This, in
turn, may cause a significant shift in the attitudes,
beliefs and values individuals presently hold about sex.
Despite the increasing prevalence of premarital
intercourse, its apparently earlier onset, and the
general shift in sexual standards toward greater
permissiveness (Bell & Chaskes, 1970; Finger, 1975;
Kaats & Davis, 1970; Katz, 1974; Hildebrand & Abromowitz,
1984; Hopkins, 1977), having sexual intercourse remains
a life experience of considerable developmental salience
for college students. Both cultural norms and societal
restraints, by reserving sexual experience for a later,
more mature status, have the effect of attaching to its
occurrence a variety of social and psychological meanings
(Jessor & Jessor, 1975). Psychology as a science has
studied attitudes, beliefs, fantasies and behaviors
related to sex, although the underlying meaning of sexual
experience (the fulfillment of interpersonal psychological
needs through sex) has been researched very little. A
number of researchers (Farley, Nelson, Knight, & Garcia-
Colberg; 1977, Libby & Strauss, 1980; Schildmeyer, 1977)
have made significant contributions to the literature by
identifying some of the various meaning sex has to men
and women and in developing several dimensions (morality,
power, violence, eroticism, love, achievement) along
which to study the meaning of sexual experience. The
first attempt to incorporate these independent studies
into an overall method by which to study sexual meaning
was undertaken by Grater and Dowling (1981). Their work
resulted in the formulation and validation of a research
tool by which to measure the meaning of sexual experience
The Meaning of Sexual Experience questionnaire
(MOSE III) examines the meaning of sexual experience
along five discrete dimensions: Affiliation,
Inadequate/undesirable, Achievement, Moral, and
Erotic/dominance. Several attempts have been made to
look at the difference in the meaning of sexual
experience between men and women over the past several
years with varying results. In an initial study
Bernstein (1982) found that men scored significantly
higher on the Achievement and Erotic/dominance dimensions
while women scored significantly higher on the Affiliation
and Moral dimensions.
A follow-up study by Garrison (1984) attempted to
examine the relationship between sex-role and gender of
the subjects, both of which served as independent
variables, and their meaning of sexual experience, which
was the dependent variable. The MOSE III, the BEM Sex
Role Inventory (BSRI) and gender were analyzed using a
multivariate procedure. Follow-up analysis established
significant differences on two of the MOSE III
dimensions, Inadequate/undesirable, and Moral, with
males scoring significantly higher on both factors.
This was not consistent with Bernstein's initial
In both studies the authors cautioned that other
factors may have served to confound their results. The
factor most often cited as not considered was amount of
sexual experience and lead the researchers to ask the
question: Is the amount of sexual experience a
significant variable to be studied in understanding the
meaning of sexual experience for men and women. The
purpose of this study is to investigate this question.
In order to shed light on the importance of this
study this literature review will focus on the following
areas: (a) a presentation of a historical overview
tracing the development of meaning as it applies to
sexual experience; (b) an examination of research of the
past three decades which attempted to identify recent
changes in behaviors and attitudes about sex, with
particular emphasis on the post-Masters and Johnson era;
(c) a review of research which focused on developing
theories and dimensions with which to study the meaning
of sexual experience; and (d) specific studies that
examine personality, motivational and emotional variables
that contributed to the development of the MOSE III and
the five discrete dimensions used to quantify meaning of
sexual experience with this instrument.
A Historical Overview
Tannahil (1980) traced human sexual development
back to the prehistoric world. He believed that the
first efforts to establish meaning for sexual experience
can be found in the paleolithic era. During this period
there was a shift from rear-entry coital position to the
face-to face "missionary" position, the development of
intertribal marriages and, consequently, the taboo
against incest. Sex was seen as a means of procreation
and a symbol of fertility. The second major taboo
developed during the neolithic era. Men were forbidden
to have sex with women during their menstrual period
because the blood in menstrual fluid was believed to
contain supernatural powers. It was also during this
period that man emerged as master of his family and was
believed to be superior to women.
Sexual attitudes of Mesopotamian civilization (3000
to 300 B.C.) were derived from the belief that women
were considered the property of men (Bullough, 1976).
Adultery was not a moral transgression but rather a
violation of another man's property. Procreation was
still the primary purpose of marriage. Bullough (1976)
also sketches the contribution of Judaism to the develop-
ment of western sexual attitudes. The Talmudic period
(before 600 B.C.) was characterized as having a permis-
sive attitude towards sex. Coitus was seen as required
religious duty. This permissiveness gave way to a more
repressive attitude in the years immediately following
the death of Christ as the Jews were pressured to assimi-
late with other cultures and were forced to respond to
the hostility of Christians towards them. Women were
seen as having a more constant and aggressive sexual
drive than men. Rape was, therefore, considered to be
at least instinctually consented to by women.
Throughout this period love was not considered to
be a crucial part of the sexual experience. McCrary
(1976) identifies the Greek culture as the wellspring
for the concept of romantic love, citing the distinction
between sexual love (eros) and spiritual love (agape).
He further notes that "Christianity, following the Jewish
tradition . .idealized the purity of love apart from
sex. Love of God was the only 'pure' love and celibacy
became a means of proving one's love for God" (p. 46).
Sexual expression continued to be repressed and through
the wedding of nuns to Christ in a spiritual sense, women
were idealized. As in the past, sex was for the purpose
of procreation only.
Although the Protestant Reformation brought some
moderation of these views, both Calvin and Luther felt
that even marital sex was shameful, sinful, and unclean
(Bailey, 1970; Cole, 1961). The Puritan era continued
to identify the female as sexual temptress. This gave
way to the Victorian view of women as being inherently
pure and innocent (Wilson, Strong, Robbins, & Johns,
1980). Tannahil (1980) notes that middle class women
were transformed "into sweet, untouchable guardians of
morality, whose distaste for sex led to an explosive
increase in prostitution, an epidemic spread of venereal
disease, and a morbid taste for masochism" (p. 347).
The 1800s were a period where men were seen as
having to struggle with their sordid physical needs and
means of sexual expression, while women were the
guardians of purity and chastity with no sexual feelings
or desires. Bullough (1976) notes the effects of this
period on human sexuality: (a) men were seen as sexual
aggressors and women as reluctant victims; (b) the role
of women emerged as one of child rearer and homemaker
while simultaneously mystifying her existence and
conforming her to the home; (c) masturbation was
condemned by medical authorities due to the draining of
vital energy and the threat of resulting insanity; and
(d) both prostitution and venereal disease increased,
which resulted in a search for "clean" virgins and medical
procedures to limit one's sexual functioning. Procreation
was reinforced as the only legitimate reason for sexual
activity. In effect it was a period of continued sexual
repression and the propagation of sexual myths, some of
which continue to this day.
In tracing the genesis of our present day cultural
attitudes towards sexuality, it seems clear that the
single most powerful determinant has been Judeo-
Christian doctrine. Roman Catholic doctrine has been
particularly consistent over the past twenty centuries.
Pleasure is shunned as a valid reason for sexual
experiences. Only procreation justifies sexual
intercourse. Premarital sex, homosexuality,
masturbation, and birth control are anathema (Taylor,
1970; Clemens, 1961).
It was not until the late 1800s when the first
attempts were made to combine sex, love and marriage
into one unique experience for men and women. For the
first time the interpersonal meaning of sexual experience
began to include affiliation, or love. Charles Knowlton,
who authored the first known marriage manual, published
in 1832, and Ezra Harvey Heywood, author of the first
book on open marriages, argued that moderate pleasure
gained from sexual expression within marriage was not
sinful, but rather was a natural component of the human
reproductive process and of the highest spiritual love
between man and women (LoPiccolo and Heiman, 1977).
These men, by publicly advocating for sexual freedom,
created the climate for the work of sex researchers such
as Ellis and Krafft-Ebing at the turn of the century and
into the early 1900s.
Havelock Ellis (1936, 1942, 1964) believed that
sexuality should be studied as a scientific discipline
rather than leave it to the whims of theologians and
moralists. His interest stemmed from his own discomfort
with the lack of information on sexuality. He states:
"I determined that I would make it the main business of
my life to get to the real natural facts about sex apart
from all the would-be moralists or sentimental notions,
and so spare the youth . the trouble which this
ignorance has caused me" (1936, p. ix). Ellis's work
created a public outcry, so much so that one George
Bedborough was made famous in the annals of sex history
when he was arrested for selling Ellis's books. Despite
the furor, the study of sexual experience was, from this
point on, no longer solely confined to the purview of
the moralists, but was identified as a topic for
Ellis was considered a radical in his time. Yet
his attitudes towards masturbation and excessively
frequent intercourse were quite similar to the moralists
he wrote against. He describes the results of excessive
sex as including acne, epilepsy, deafness, insanity and
criminality. Popular authors were even more extreme in
their views. McFadden (1900) writes: "Many married
people will give themselves up to the embrace daily. .
. But not only its frequency but the manner in which it
is performed are so unnatural . that the most
desperate cases of epilepsy and paralysis are frequently
the direct and immediate results" (p. 38).
The work of Ellis and his peers brought sex out of
the closet. Although they were reformers, they mirrored
the dominant cultural value of their time: sex was a
force that must be carefully controlled, sex must be
less physical and mental harm results from excessive
sex. By the 1920s sex was more openly discussed, more
common premaritally, and emerged as a social phenomenon
as a result of post-war adjustment (LoPiccolo and Heiman,
1977). Sigmund Freud contributed to this new-found
sexual freedom by making sex the core of his view of
Most significant of Freud's contributions to the
meaning of sexual experience was his dismissal of the
Victorian notion that females did not have sexual feel-
ings; thus the meaning of sexual experience for females
could no longer be restricted to submission and procrea-
tion. Yet Freud continued to mirror the prevailing
cultural attitudes. His conception of sex was based on
anatomy: given the genital sex of a person, the stages
of gender and personality development were preordained.
Female sexuality was regarded as compensatory. To be
healthy females had to be exclusively vaginal-centered,
give up clitoral pleasures, and adjust to the anatomical
inferiority of not having a penis (Freud, 1905/1962).
He further drew a sharp distinction between masculinity
and femininity. Masculinity was active, dominant and
directive; femininity was passive, submissive, and
responsive (Freud, 1925/1959). Freud's personality theory
identified the libido as the source of sexual energy.
It was turbulent, uncontrolled, and needed to be tamed
into more constructive modes of behavior.
Freud's theories led to much discussion but, unfor-
tunately, little research. The importance of his work
was gradually overshadowed by the works of Alfred Kinsey
(Kinsey, Pomeroy, & Martin, 1948; Kinsey, Pomeroy,
Martin, & Gebhard, 1953) and, later, by the contributions
of William Masters and Virginia Johnson (1966, 1970).
Freud's theories of sexuality were based on interpretation
of a limited number of cases. Kinsey's work focused on
quantifying sexual behavior in a descriptive manner and
was an exhaustive attempt to develop an understanding of
what kinds of sexual activities were practiced by the
average person. This information allowed individuals to
evaluate for themselves how often other males and females
practiced "aberrant" sexual behaviors.
Given the asexual nature of the Victorian and
Freudian concept of the idealized women some of the data
gathered about female sexual practices was particularly
shocking. Kinsey reported that 62 percent of women
eventually masturbated, and that 85 percent of these
women relied on labial and/or clitoral stimulation. The
number of women studied (n = 5940) and their responses
made it improbable that these women were "immature or
masculine" as Freudian theorists would call them. The
fact that orgasm during intercourse for women could be
predicted by their orgasmic responses to any other sexual
activity, including masturbation, challenged the
biological naturalness of coitus as the only real form
of sexual satisfaction. Thus, the verity of female
sexuality gained more empirical identity thorough Kinsey's
work. Although Gecas and Libby (1976) note that one of
Kinsey's greatest shortcomings was his failure to take
into account the meaning that sexual experience had for
people, he did have a major impact on the perceived
meaning of sexual experience for women. Most notably,
women were shown to experience sex as a pleasurable
activity and as being far less responsive to societal
norms about sexual morality than was expected (Sherfey,
The publication of such facts shocked almost every-
one. It provided important standards against which
average persons could measure themselves. One effect of
Kinsey's information was to normalize the sexual ac-
tivities that were a part of people's sexual repertoires
in spite of laws, religion, and Freud. His work,
however, did little to break down the sharp discrepancies
between masculine and feminine stereotypes. It did, in
fact, support the notion that men had the greater libido:
they masturbated more, had sexual experiences at an
earlier age, and had a greater amount of extramarital
affairs. His methodology suggests that these differences
were probably natural and reflected inherent biological
differences between the sexes (Bardwick, 1971). Finally,
Kinsey's work served not only to bring sex "out of the
closet" for the public at large, but also helped
legitimize the study of sex as a research area for social
scientists (D'Emilio & Freedman, 1988).
Masters and Johnson (1966) provided important
research that challenged former ideas on male-female
differences. Most importantly, they concluded that
during the sexual response cycle, men and women responded
more similarly that dissimilarly. In the sexual arousal
stage both men and women experienced increased heart
rate, blood pressure, rate of breathing, genital vaso-
congestion, and skin flush. Contractions during orgasm
occurred at the same time intervals for men and women.
For both sexes, sexual response was a total body involve-
ment. Their second book, Human Sexual Inadequacy (1970),
challenged the Freudian notion that sexual dysfunction
was a reflection of deep-seated emotional problems.
Instead, they postulated that sex was a learned skill
and emphasized sexual pleasure as a positive goal which
could be attained through learning sexual pleasuring
activities in a non-demanding and non-threatening environ-
Both Kinsey and Masters and Johnson added several
important dimensions to the meaning of sexual experience
for men and women. Kinsey supported the cultural view-
point that it was the male's responsibility to initiate
sexual activity and maintain an erection. Masters and
Johnson reframed sexual activity as something at which
one learned to be successful. Performance became a key
factor for both men and women. "Successful sex" became
something that one could achieve. Inadequacy in sex was
a reflection of one's inability to "do it right."
Finally, Masters and Johnson's work emphasized sex as a
pleasurable activity, and thus contributed to the erotic
meaning of sexual experience.
Changes in Sexual Behavior and Attitudes:
Fact or Fallacy
After Kinsey's initial studies on sexual behavior,
research into sexual experience focused on two areas.
The first involved a series of behavioral studies that
attempted to establish whether or not, in an age filled
with so-called liberalized societal attitudes towards
sex, there has been a corresponding increase in the
amount of sexual experience in which people engaged.
The answer to this question was an emphatic yes. The
second area posed a more difficult question. This
research attempted to identify if, given that there had
been a shift towards greater sexual experimentation
among Americans, particularly college students, there
had been a corresponding shift in the attitudes and
beliefs that individuals hold towards sex. The following
section will first identify the nature and extent of
change in sexual behavior of college students and, second,
address the question of whether or not there has been a
significant shift in attitudes, beliefs and values that
college students hold towards sex.
Numerous studies conducted in the late 1960s and
1970s chronicled the increasing prevalence of premarital
intercourse and the general shift in sexual standards
towards greater permissiveness (Bell & Chaskes, 1970;
Finger, 1975; Hildebrand & Abromowitz, 1984; Hopkins,
1977; Kaatz & Davis, 1970; Reed & Weinberg, 1974). A
comprehensive study which reviewed previous research on
the sexual behavior of adolescents between the 1930s and
1970s was undertaken by Hopkins (1977). After taking
into account discrepancies in data from various studies,
and methodological issues associated with most of them,
he was able to draw the following conclusions: (a) a
greater number of college-age adolescents are sexually
experienced now than in previous generations; (b) there
has been a greater increase in the incidence of premarital
intercourse for females than for males, although most
surveys reported a higher absolute incidence for males;
and (c) the data suggest a trend toward earlier sexual
experience for both men and women.
In a series of studies conducted at the University
of Virginia, Finger (1975) documented a substantial
increase in the proportion of males engaging in
premarital sexual intercourse. His first study,
conducted during 1943-44, established that 45 percent of
male college students studied engaged in premarital
sexual intercourse. In two follow-up studies conducted
during 1967-68 and 1969-73 (both of which were
replications of his original study) he found that the
incidence of premarital intercourse among male college
students increased to 61.8 percent in the 1968-69 study,
and to 74.9 percent in the 1969-73 study.
Hildebrand and Abramowitz (1984) conducted a series
of studies in 1969 that were replicated through 1981
and found that both male and female college students
reported an increase in the frequency of premarital
intercourse. Specifically, in their original study
conducted in 1969, 56 percent of men and 41 percent of
women engaged in premarital intercourse. These figures
had increased substantially in their final study in
1981, to 70 percent and 61 percent for males and females,
respectively. Their study also supported Kaats and
Davis's (1970) finding that, although there had been an
increase in both male and female incidence of intercourse,
the change for women has been more marked and their
frequency approaches that of men.
Changes in sexual behavior have been documented by
a number of other researchers who, in addition to
documenting increases in premarital intercourse among
college-age individuals, attempted to address the
question of whether or not there was a corresponding
change in attitudes towards sex. Alex Comfort (1976),
in discussing the future of sexuality in the "post-
sexual revolution" era wrote:
All that can be certainly predicted for the
future is that the variety of patterns [in
sexual relationships] will increase as
individuals find the norms that suit them.
For some, parenthood will still be the central
satisfaction, carrying with it the obligation
to [sic] giving their children the stability
they require. For others sexuality will
express total involvement with one person.
For others, one or more primary relationships
will be central, but will not exclude others,
in which the recreational role of sex acts as
bonding to supply the range of relationships
formerly met by kin. . (p. 181)
Hopkins (1977) looked at the sexual revolution from
a different perspective. He wrote:
The term "sexual revolution" is often used to
characterize [changing] trends in sexual
behavior. Although a popular term, it is
imprecise. A shift towards sexual
permissiveness in the behavior of young people
has occurred. Such a shift may well be part
of a larger liberal trend in adolescent
behavior, but it does not imply a complete
overthrow of established standards. (p. 83)
One way researchers have attempted to assess a
change in attitude has been to look at whether or not
there has been a change in the tendency to express
different standards for members of one's own sex than
for members of the opposite sex or, in the popular term,
the double standard. Kaats and Davis (1970) found that,
despite a marked increase in premarital intercourse,
there remained a strong adherence to the double standard.
Specifically, males were found to view their peer and
familial groups as only slightly or moderately
disapproving of their having had premarital intercourse.
They also felt that close friends would approve and
support this behavior. Females saw all groups, including
close friends and sorority sisters, as disapproving of
their having premarital intercourse. They also found
that the double standard was more closely adhered to
when sexual behavior was most intimate (i. e. intercourse)
and when there was no affection in the relationship.
This last finding was later supported by McBride and Ender
(1977). Results of their study indicated that there was
substantial agreement between attitude and behavior when
affectionate feelings existed in the relationship. They
concluded that, although there had been a marked shift
towards permissiveness, there was not a corresponding
change in attitude towards sexual behavior.
In contrast, Bauman and Wilson (1976) compared
attitudes towards premarital sex over a four year period
from 1968 to 1972. They concluded that there was a
significant decrease in differences in attitudes towards
premarital sex between men and women as well as less
adherence to the double standard.
Sex role playing is another avenue along which
sexual attitudes have been explored. Traditional sex
role theory prescribe that men and women play different
roles in sexual interactions. Men are expected to
initiate sex while women are expected to set limits on
the couples' sexual intimacy (Gagnon & Simon, 1973).
Peplau, Rubin and Hill (1977) noted that "recent research
on individual attitudes and sexual experience has
documented an increasing convergence between the sexes
over the past decade" (p. 89) and hypothesized that
attitudinal changes on the individual level would not
affect patterns of sexual interaction in couples.
In order to test their hypothesis they identified
three types of orientation in couples: (a) sexually
traditional, who felt that love alone was not a valid
reason for intercourse, that marriage was a prerequisite,
and that abstinence was a sign of love and faith;
(b) sexually moderate, who considered love as a
sufficient factor and long term commitment as
unnecessary; and (c) sexually liberal, who considered
love a desirable factor for having sex, but not a
necessary one. The major finding of their study was
that, regardless of the orientation of the couple
traditional sex role playing still existed in the
majority of the couples, and that there was no
significant difference among these groups. Several
other findings of this study, more directly related to
the meaning sex held its subjects, will be discussed
later in this review.
The findings of Peplau et al. (1977) were later
supported in a study conducted by LaPlante, McCormick and
Brannigan (1980). One of the three hypotheses they
tested was that students would stereotype resisting
sexual intercourse as a feminine activity and initiating
sexual intercourse as masculine. Their findings
indicated that the participants both supported and used
strategies considered stereotypic to their respective
In contrast, Finger (1975) found a significant
change in attitudes within the 30 year period of his
study. The number of college students who condoned
premarital intercourse changed from 51 percent in 1943
to 90 percent in 1973. He also notes the emergence of a
"sex as pleasure" attitude in 1967. As this might
indicate, Finger found a decrease in moral and religious
attitudes prohibiting premarital intercourse over the
time period studied.
While Finger (1975) examined the change in attitudes
over time and found that a greater incidence of
intercourse was associated with a change in values,
Istvan and Griffitt (1980) investigated the effects of
the level of sexual experience of men and women on their
evaluations of opposite-sex peers. They found that
one's own degree of sexual experience had a direct affect
on one's attitude about the desirability of others with
varying levels of sexual experience. Inexperienced men
and women and moderately experienced women did not rate
highly experienced opposite-sex peers as desirable.
Moderately experienced men and highly experienced men
and women rated all opposite-sex peers as equally
While most researchers would agree that there have
been changes in sexual behavior, it has been more
difficult to assess whether there have been significant
changes in attitudes about sex. Perhaps, as suggested
by D'Emilio and Freedman (1988), the presently
established method of investigating sex through the
examination of attitudes and behaviors assumes too simple
and direct a relationship between one's beliefs and
one's actions. It is their contention that the meaning
of sexual experience must be taken into account in any
discussion of sexuality.
Theories and Research
on the Meaning of Sexual Experience
As early as 1970 Turner noted that "the sex act as
a physiological experience is subordinated to its
personal and social meaning" (p. 322). For Turner,
meaning defined experience, and the effects of sexual
relations depended on the meaning that people learned to
attach to sex, and not upon any natural or innate
Hessellund (1971) attempted to understand the
meaning of sex for men and women by looking at an
individual's motivation for engaging in sexual
intercourse. He reasoned that motivation for sex could
not simply be relief from physiological tension. If
this was so, he postulated, masturbation would suffice.
He also eliminated reproduction as a primary motivation
for intercourse and concluded that motivation for sexual
intercourse came chiefly from psychological sources. He
wrote: "Sex is supposed to mean different things for men
and women, but there is no acceptable evidence for inborn
biological differences. . This means that the point
of departure must be the psychological aspects of sexual
expression" (p. 263).
Gagnon and Simon (1973) also noted the importance
of studying meaning in order to understand the "why" of
sex. They state: "Rarely do we turn from a consideration
of the organs themselves to the source of meanings that
are attached to them . and the ways in which . .
activities are integrated into larger social scripts and
social arrangements where meaning and social behavior
come together to create sexual conduct" (p. 5). In
order to study meaning they made reference to the idea
of scripts which they applied explicitly to the area of
sexual behavior. They define sexual scripts as "involved
in learning the meaning of internal states, organizing
the sequence of specifically sexual acts, decoding novel
situations, setting limits on sexual responses, and
linking meaning from nonsexual areas of life to a
specifically sexual experience" (Gagnon and Simon, 1973,
In a follow-up article Gagnon (1977) identified the
components of the sexual script construct to include who
one has sex with, what one does sexually, when (age or
time of day), where, and why humans engage in approved
or disapproved sexual behaviors. In considering the
last component, the "why" of sexual behavior, Gagnon
lists the following reasons: having children, pleasure,
lust, fun, passion, love, variety, intimacy, rebellion,
degradation, instinct/needs, exploitation, relaxation,
achievement and service. With the exception of the
first, having children, all pertain to psychological
factors and, hence, meaning.
In a previously cited study Finger (1975) examined
the attitudes and behavior of male college students over
a 30 year period. He noted that divergent behavior
sometimes indicated similar underlying meanings.
Individuals who engaged in premarital sex viewed it as
an opportunity to enhance sexual skills and
compatibility, and as a means by which to increase the
likelihood for a successful marriage. The same reason
was given by those who abstained from premarital sex;
specifically, that this behavior increased respect and
trust. Although religious and moral reasons were
important in the early (1943) phase, almost no such
reasons were mentioned in the later (1967) phase.
Gecas and Libby (1976) attempted to identify sexual
meaning by looking at sexual symbolism. They
conceptualized sexual experience through the constructs
of symbolic interaction and hypothesized that sexual
symbolism creates sexual experience. The authors
identified four codes of sexual behavior in contemporary
American society. These included (a) the romantic code,
which emphasized the value of love; (b) the traditional
code, where sex outside of marriage is considered sinful;
(c) the recreational code, which identifies sex as
pleasure; and (d) the utilitarian code which "views sex
as a means to some other end [and is] used to gain money
(as in prostitution), or power (as in certain types of
heterosexual bargaining) or prestige (status in one's
peer group)" (p. 38).
The interpersonal meaning of sexual experience as a
factor in understanding sexual dysfunction was looked at
by Kaufman and Krupka (1973). In reporting on a sexual
therapy group at Michigan State University they presented
a number of interpersonal processes which, they believed,
contributed to sexual dysfunction. These included
(a) the early deprivation of one's need for affection,
which results in the sexualization of the need for
intimacy and confusion between sexual and affectionate
needs; (b) guilt, where parents did not give their
opposite-sex children permission to seek sexual
gratification, and sex takes on a moral meaning; (c)
power struggles, where winning or being "right" becomes
more important than being close; (d) hostility,
identified as unexpressed anger or rage, which can lead
to impotence, avoidance of sex, lack of orgasm, or a
retreat into helplessness; (e) expectation, where a
competency meaning of sexual experience can lead to
debilitating anxiety; and (f) adequacy and potency, both
related to expectations, which may lead to a fear of
reprisals. These categories highlight different meanings
of sexuality such as affiliation, morality, and
dominance. When overemphasized, they were considered to
contribute to sexual dysfunction.
Libby and Strauss (1980) surveyed past studies that
attempted to link sexual arousal with aggression and
noted that the results were conflicting. They
hypothesized that contradictions among the studies could
be explained by the failure of these studies to consider
the subjective meaning of sexual acts. Referring to the
work of Gagnon and Simon (1973) and Gecas and Libby (1976)
they noted that "the symbolic meaning of sex must be
considered to predict whether sexual activity will result
in more or less aggression or violence. This plausible
view has not been tested in research to date" (p. 137).
In order to test their hypothesis they considered
two separate meanings of sexual activity: (1) dominant
sex, where traditional men compete against other men for
the sexual favors of a given person, and (2) affectionate
sex, which is caring, loving sex, and usually associated
with women. If sex connoted an act of male dominance,
then sexual activity would be associated with the
aggression and violence which typically accompany
dominance. If, however, sex connoted an act of human
warmth, then sexual activity would be associated with
nonviolence. The results of their study showed the
anticipated tendency for those high in interpersonally
warm sex to be low in aggression and violence, and were
therefore able to identify the meaning of sex to be a
Several other investigators have examined
personality, motivational and emotional variables as
they relate to current sexual behaviors and attitudes.
A study conducted by Hobart (1958) examined sex
differences related to love and suggested that males
were more romantically inclined than females in paired
relationships. Kanin, Davidson, and Scheck (1970)
disputed this finding. They found that, although males
tended to experience being "in love" earlier in
relationships, women more often perceived sexual
relationships as a romantic experience.
Many other efforts were made in an attempt to assess
male-female differences in the meaning of sex. At the
turn of the century Havelock Ellis (1936, 1942) theorized
that the sexual emotions of females are more closely
associated with the level of the relationship than those
of males. He wrote, "The masculine tendency is to delight
in dominance; the female tendency is to delight in
submission" (Ellis, 1942, p. 82). Reik (1960) contends
that those who analyze heterosexual relations often fail
to distinguish needs for affection from needs for physical
sex. He postulated that the meaning of sexual experience
for men involves a strong sexual desire, while women
have a stronger need for affection. He stated that "The
sexual urge of the male has an aggressive and even
sadistic character, and the wish to intrude the female
body amounts to a kind of forceful incursion" (p. 118).
Morris (1978) suggested that women had a stronger
commitment to the relational aspects of sex, while males
focused on its recreational aspects.
Nearly all of the above studies suggest that sexual
meaning for men is more closely associated with
dominance, achievement and eroticism, while women find
meaning in romance and affection. Seguschi, Schmidt,
Reinfeld, and Widemann-Sutor (1970) add an interesting
note to this discussion. They presented sexually oriented
slides to 50 male and 50 female subjects in order to
elicit ratings of sexual arousal and
favorableness/unfavorableness. As expected, women tended
to react less favorably and report less arousal than men
when viewing sexually explicit slides, but judged slides
of romantic content more favorable and equally arousing
(as compared with sexually explicit slides) when compared
to men. In follow-up interviews with the subjects some
interesting data emerged. Their conclusion is worthy of
Contrary to the sex-specific differences
evident in emotional reactions, there do not
seem to be significant differences with regard
to the sexual-physiological reactions and the
sexual behavior after the experiment. Women
reported, almost as often as men, physiological
reactions in the genital area and activation
of sexual behavior after the experiment. (p.
In the previously cited study by Hessellund (1971)
he concludes "there is a great difference in the meaning
of sex for young men and women" (p. 272). In assessing
first coital experiences he was able to further support
the contention that men were more achievement-oriented
than women, and that women tended to emphasize relational
aspects more than men. Women were concerned about their
ability to bring emotional warmth to the relationship
while men tended to emphasize the technical aspects of
the coital experience and felt that their self-image
would be affected positively by their ability to perform
Pleck (1976), who has written extensively on male
sex roles, adds some clarity to the discussion of
achievement and affection for males in sexual
relationships. He identified two fundamental themes for
males: (1) stress on achievement, and (2) suppression of
affect. He notes that this is a difficult area to study
as the male sex role is somewhat in transition from the
traditional dominant male "who expects women to
acknowledge and defer to his authority" (p. 157), to the
modern male "who expects companionship and intimacy in
his relationships with women" (p. 157). He further
comments, however, that although this transition appears
to be desirable, it is not without cost. He argues that
these changes have led to performance anxiety and the
concept of frigidity in order to blame women for any
lack of sexual satisfaction.
Gross (1978) took this argument one step further.
In his conclusion he argued that
. many of the influences emanating from a
restrictive sex-type socialization process are
maladaptive, and . that recent shifts away
from the traditional "sexual animal" stereotype
toward a modern "competent lover" image are
largely surface alterations, [and] that both
have their roots in the same learning process
with similar pernicious results. (p. 87)
Gross (1978) identified two important themes that
he considered central to the male sex role: (1) the
centrality of sexual behavior to male gender identity;
and (2) the relative isolation of sex from other aspects
of male heterosexual relationships. In attempting to
clarify the relationship between male sexual
behavior/attitudes and general facets of the male sex
role he identified several dimensions along which to
link them. These included (1) goals and success;
(2) control and power; and (3) aggression and violence.
Morality, religiosity, and conservatism have been
identified by a number of researchers as a key component
in understanding the meaning that sex holds for
individuals. The relationship between religiosity and
sexual behavior has been documented in a number of early
studies (Kinsey et al., 1948, 1953; Bell & Chaskes, 1970;
Ehrmann, 1959; Burgess & Wallin, 1953; Kanin & Howard,
1958). Similarly, the relationship between religiosity
and sexual attitudes was studied by Dedman (1959),
Cardwell (1969), Ruppel (1969), and Reiss (1967).
Although these studies utilized a variety of ways of
measuring religiosity and sexual standards, it can be
stated generally that religiosity has been found to be
inversely related to both the amount of premarital sexual
behavior and the degree of premarital permissiveness
(King, Abernathy, Robinson, & Balswick, 1976).
King et al. (1976) studied both behavior and
attitudes and their relationship to religiosity within
the same sample group. Unlike previous findings, they
found there to be no significant relationship between
religiosity and sexual behavior. One reason cited for
this discrepancy was that previous studies looked
primarily at church attendance in measuring religiosity
while this study considered a broader definition which
included measuring religious beliefs and attitudes.
Religiosity was, however, inversely correlated with
sexual attitudes, and more highly correlated among males
Joe, Brown, and Jones (1976) studied the relationship
of conservatism to amount of sexual experience. They
found that high conservative subjects most often cited
their belief that premarital intercourse was morally
wrong as a reason for not engaging in coital activities.
Highly conservative subjects also reported a lower
frequency and variety of sexual experiences when compared
with low conservative subjects.
Finally, sex guilt (guilt about sexually related
thoughts and behaviors) has also been addressed by a
number of researchers. Langston (1973) found that an
individual's sex guilt increased linearly as a function
of religious affiliations. Mosher and Cross (1971)
studied college students and found that high sex guilt was
associated with low sexual experience.
Propper and Brown (1986) studied sex guilt in college
females and its relationship to moral reasoning, sexual
experience, and decisions about sexual activity. Their
results indicate that women who tend to have high moral
reasoning experience more sex guilt than those who are
low on moral reasoning. They also tend to have less
sexual experience than their counterparts and make
decisions about sexual activity based on a fear of
experiencing sex guilt.
All of the above studies contribute to the
definition of meaning of sexual experience, although
little has been done to consolidate the various meanings
that people ascribe to sexual behavior. Heath (1978)
notes that few scientific studies of the psychological
meaning of sexuality have been published. He wrote:
"Not until researchers are willing to explore more
systematically and as conscientiously the subjective
psychological meaning of different sexual experiences
. . will we secure the information necessary to
understand more objectively the significance of sexuality
to the psychological health and continued maturity of a
person" (p. 475).
One effort to do this was undertaken by Nelson
(1978). He developed an instrument called The Sexual
Function Measure (SFM), which examined the reasons
subjects engaged in sexual relations. He established
five factors: Pleasure Stimulation; Conformity;
Acceptance, Personal Love and Affection; Power; and
Recognition/competition. His research was one of the
precursors to the work done by Grater and Dowling (1981,
unpublished) who attempted to quantify the interpersonal
meaning of sexual experience. The end product of their
research was the development of the Meaning of Sexual
Experience Questionnaire (MOSE), an instrument
specifically designed to quantify the meaning of sexual
experience for individuals. The MOSE and related
research appears to be the most direct attempt to
quantify the meaning of sexual experience to date.
Validity and reliability for the MOSE were established by
Bernstein (1982). His work resulted in the final version
of the MOSE, entitled the MOSE III.
The MOSE III consists of five scales that measure
the meaning of sexual experience. Each scale consists
of adjectives which describe a particular dimension of
the meaning of sexual experience. The five scales are
as follows: Affiliation, Inadequate/undesirable,
Achievement, Moral, and Erotic/dominance. A detailed
description of the reliability and validity of each
scale can be found in Chapter 2 of this study.
An individual who finds the adjectives included in
the Affiliation scale as descriptive of the meaning of
sexual experience would appear to perceive sexual
experience as a positive interpersonal relationship.
This scale includes eleven adjectives: caring, warm,
kind, loving, sincere, affectionate, intimate, trusting,
gentle and mature.
The Inadequate/undesirable scale includes such
adjectives as distant, resentful, evasive, flat,
inhibited awkward, remote, disagreeable, and inept. An
individual finding these adjectives descriptives would
be experiencing sexual experience in a negative way, and
would have great difficulty in establishing close,
intimate relationships as the sexual aspects of those
relationships would more likely lead to distancing than
The Achievement scale includes such adjectives as
victorious, daring, assertive, successful, and capable.
Taken out of context, these adjectives might be thought
to describe a great athlete or successful businessman.
In the context of the meaning of sexual experience an
individual finding these adjectives would be said to
perceive sex as a competitive interpersonal encounter.
The Moral scale includes nine adjectives: proper,
moral, pure, dignified, clean, correct, righteous,
honorable, and virtuous. It conveys a person who
apprehends sexual experience in a very reserved, almost
The final scale, Erotic/Dominance, is characterized
by such adjectives as hot, erotic, titillating,
aggressive, and demanding. An individual finding these
adjectives descriptive of the meaning of sexual
experience would consider sex to be a highly sensual and
emotional experience. The dominance portion of this
scale is distinguished from the Achievement scale in
that it is related to sexual pleasure, whereas dominance
in the achievement scale is related to winning.
Since the development of the MOSE III it has been
applied to a variety of studies compared the difference
in the meaning of sexual experience between men and
women, virgins and non-virgins, and heterosexual and
homosexual men. Correlation studies were also conducted
to assess the relationship between the meaning of sexual
experience and sexual fantasies and sex-role orientation.
The following studies bear direct relevance to this
As a part of his initial study Bernstein (1982)
assessed sex differences in ratings on each of the
MOSE III scales and found that males scored significantly
higher on the Achievement and Erotic/dominance scales
while women scored higher on the Affiliation and Moral
scales. Thus, sexual experience for men seemed to be
related to a more highly eroticized, achievement-oriented,
physical meaning, while the meaning of sexual experience
for women was more closely identified within a positive
interpersonal relationship. Women also tended to be
more morally bound than men.
In a follow-up study, Garrison (1984) tested to see
whether the sex role of the subject was a significant
variable to be studied which might account for some of
the differences found in Bernstein's (1982) study. He
examined the relationship between sex role and gender of
the subject, both of which served as independent
variables, and meaning of sexual experience, which was
the dependent variable. The Bem Sex Role Inventory
(BSRI), gender, and MOSE III were analyzed using a
multivariate procedure. No interaction was established
between sex role and meaning. In considering gender
differences, however, significant differences were found
on two of the MOSE III dimensions, Inadequate/undesir-
able, and Moral, with males scoring significantly higher
on both dimensions. This was not consistent with
Bernstein's (1982) findings. This appears particularly
significant given that methodology and demographics in
both studies were not significantly different, and that
the studies were completed within one year of each other.
As previously mentioned, both Bernstein (1982) and
Garrison (1984) cautioned that other factors may have
served to confound their results. The factor most often
cited as not considered was amount of sexual experience.
This led the researchers to ask the question: Is the
amount of sexual experience a significant factor to be
considered in assessing the difference in the meaning of
sexual experience for men and women.
Sexual experience can be defined in several ways.
"Petting," "heavy petting," masturbation, oral sex, anal
sex and coitus are some of the terms and behaviors to be
considered in assessing degree or amount of sexual
experience. In all of the previously cited studies that
assessed changes in sexual behavior among college
students, experience was defined predominantly by
measures of sexual intercourse. Although this seems to
be the most easily defined behavior that can be measured
in assessing whether differences in amounts of sexual
experience among individuals affect the meaning that
sexual experience holds for them, it may be somewhat
misleading. For example, even though the amount of
intercourse may be the same for any two individuals, the
difference in the meaning of sexual experience between
these individuals may vary considerably. Sex guilt, sex
roles, and self-perception may vary considerably based
on the number of sexual partners a person has (Coles &
Stokes, 1985). It therefore appears essential to
consider the number of sexual partners a person has as a
primary variable in measuring sexual experience.
The intent of this study was to assess whether the
amount of sexual experience a person has is a significant
variable to be considered in understanding the differences
in the meaning of sexual experience among individuals.
In part, this study was a replication of the earlier
works of Bernstein (1982) and Garrison (1984), both of
whom investigated differences in the meaning of sexual
experiences for men and women. For the purpose of this
study, sexual experience was defined in three ways: (1)
amount of sexual intercourse; (2) number of sexual
partners; and (3) a combination of both amount of sexual
intercourse and number of sexual partners. The MOSE III
was used as a measure of the meaning of sexual experience.
3Both sex differences in the meaning of sexual experience
and the effect of sexual experience on sexual meaning
were tested against the null hypothesis.
1. There will be no significant relationship
in the self-reported ratings between men
and women on each of the five scales of
the MOSE III (Affiliation, Inadequate/un-
desirable, Achievement, Moral and
2. There will be no significant relationship
in the self-reported ratings of
individuals on the five scales of the
MOSE III (Affiliation, Inadequate/un-
desirable, Achievement, Moral and
Erotic/dominance) and sexual experience
(number of sexual partners, amount of
sexual intercourse, and all interaction
Subjects for the present study were obtained from
undergraduate psychology courses and residence halls at
the University of Florida. Demographic information
collected from the subjects included gender, age, and
sexual preference. Since the data analyzed did not
include the total sample, demographic information for
both the total sample and analyzed sample can be found
in Table 1.
Voluntary participation in the study was stressed.
Subjects were advised of their rights pursuant to state
and federal statutes and in accordance with American
Psychological Association guidelines.
Both the Meaning of Sexual Experience Questionnaire,
Form III (MOSE III, Appendix A) and an Information
Questionnaire (Appendix B) were used in this study.
Following is a brief description of each of these
for Total Sample and Analyzed Sample
Total Sample Analyzed Sample
The MOSE III
This instrument lists a series of adjectives and
asks the subject to rate how accurately each adjective
describes the personal meaning of sex for the subject.
A seven-point scale, from "not descriptive" to "highly
descriptive," is used. Completion of the adjective list
results in a rating of the five MOSE III subscales
(Appendix C): (a) affiliation, which indicates a tender,
caring viewpoint of sex, and suggests that the subject
would tend to perceive sexual experience as a very
positive and meaningful experience; (b) inadequate/un-
desirable, which indicates a negative view of sexuality,
and suggests that the subject would have some difficulty
in establishing close intimate relationships and more
likely lead to distancing than intimacy; (c) achievement,
reflecting competition and competency issues, and suggests
an individual who perceives sexual experience as a
competitive encounter; (d) moral, which indicates an
ethical stance towards sex, and suggests an individual
who perceives sexual experience in a reserved, almost
religious fashion; and (e) erotic/dominance, which
includes sexually oriented adjectives, and suggests an
individual who would tend to perceive sexual experience
as highly physical and emotional, and directly related
to sexual pleasure.
Bernstein (1982) developed the MOSE III through a
series of four studies which incorporated the 84
adjectives identified by Grater and Downing (1981,
unpublished) in the MOSE II. These adjectives were
purported to pertain to the meaning dimensions of
morality, affiliation, pleasure, achievement, and
dominance. The MOSE II was administered to 255 college
students using a 7-point rating scale to rate each
adjective, in terms of the subject's meaning of sexual
experience, ranging from "never or almost never" (1) to
"always or almost always" (7). Several factor analyses
were performed on the data in order to determine:
S. the most meaningful factors both
statistically and conceptually. The criteria
levels for maintaining items were factor
ratings of at least .40 on one factor and less
than .30 on every other factor. In addition,
oblique factor rotation was permitted as long
as the correlation between factors was not
substantially greater than .30 for any two
factors. (Bernstein, 1982, p. 34)
A new list of adjectives was then constructed by
Bernstein (1982), retaining items from the MOSE II and
generating items that the author judged to be reflective
of the emerging factors. The MOSE III includes 70
adjectives, with a 7-point rating scale ranging from
"not at all descriptive" (1) to "completely descriptive"
(7) (i.e., of the meaning of the subject's sexual
experience). The MOSE III was administered to 326
college students and several factor analyses were run,
utilizing the same criteria levels that were mentioned
above for the MOSE II analysis. A total of five factors
emerged from the final analysis, with a total of 54
adjectives. A list of the adjectives contained within
each of the five factors can be found in Appendix C.
These factors include (1) affiliation; (2) inadequate/un-
desirable; (3) achievement; (4) moral; and
(5) erotic/dominance. In this case, an orthogonal
analysis was run, utilizing the criteria levels mentioned
for the MOSE II, to determine if the factors would meet
criteria with no intercorrelations. None of the
adjectives loaded on a different factor from the factor
on which they originally loaded in the oblique analysis.
Bernstein (1982) assessed the reliability of the
MOSE III by using Cronbach's (1951) coefficient alpha
(e.g., the average of all possible split-half reliability
coefficients). A criterion level of .70 was adopted, as
per Nunnally's (1978) suggestions. The alpha coefficients
for the five factors were as follows: (1) .91 for
affiliation; (2) .86 for inadequate/undesirable; (3) .84
for achievement; (4) .85 for moral; and (5) .69 for
erotic dominance. Several different approaches were
taken in order to assess the validity of the MOSE III.
The 70 adjectives were administered to 67 students, who
were asked to categorize the items in terms of "don't
understand at all," "have some idea," and "know what it
means." Of the 70 words, only two were categorized as
"don't understand at all" by more than two students (e.g.,
"amorous," "titillating"). This precluded definition
problems as possible threats to the validity of the MOSE
III. Content validity, according to Bernstein (1982)
was demonstrated by the selection of adjectives along
conceptual guidelines and by the successful prediction
of three out of the five hypothesized dimensions (e.g.,
affiliation, morality, and achievement). The other two
emergent factors (e.g., inadequate/undesirable and erotic
dominance) were seen as "conceptually cohesive" and,
therefore, also supportive of content and, partially,
construct validity. Nelson's (1978) previously reviewed
Sexual Functions Measure (SFM) was utilized to assess
the convergent validity of the MOSE III. A sample of 70
students (i.e., 33 females and 37 males) were administered
the SFM and the MOSE III, with predicted correlations
between the following factors on the instruments:
(1) "affiliation (MOSE III) with personal love and
affection" (SFM); (2) "achievement (MOSE III) with power,
recognition, and competition (SFM)"; and (3) "erotic
dominance (MOSE III) with pleasurable stimulation (SFM)"
(Bernstein, 1982, p. 53). The correlations were
significant for gender in some cases, but overall, only
weak support for the convergent validity of the MOSE III
In addition to requesting demographic data, this
questionnaire was designed to answer two questions:
(a) with how many persons has the subject had a sexual
relation; and (b) how many times has the subject had
sexual intercourse. In order to control for random the
subject is asked a series of questions that prompt the
subject to recall each person with whom they have had
sexual intercourse, and to estimate the number of times
that they had intercourse with this person. The subject
is then asked to add both the number of persons with
whom they had sexual intercourse and the number of times
they had sexual intercourse.
A pilot study was undertaken in order to assess the
validity of this instrument. Ten subjects, five females
and five males, were randomly selected from a residence
hall activity group at the University of Florida. Each
subject was given the instrument to complete in the same
manner that was planned for this study. One month later
subjects were individually questioned by an impartial
examiner to assess whether their original responses to
the instrument were consistent with the responses given
to the examiner. The examiner was unaware of the
responses given on the paper and pencil administration.
Eight of the ten subjects reported the same number of
partners and same amount of intercourse. One of the
respondents was a virgin at the time of the first
administration and had since become involved in a sexual
relationship. Another subject was able to recall one
additional partner with whom they had sexual intercourse
on one occasion. It was therefore determined that this
instrument was reliable for the purpose of this study.
Subjects were provided with a general explanation
of the purpose of the study, given a Statement of
Informed Consent (Appendix D), and instructed as to how
to complete both questionnaires. Subjects were also
provided with envelopes and instructed to place completed
questionnaires in the envelope, seal the envelope, and
return it to the examiner. Complete anonymity was
assured. A general explanation was provided for those
subjects who requested a definition of an adjective from
the MOSE III Questionnaire
A total of 287 sets of questionnaires were given
out. Of these, 255 were returned. Forty-six of the
respondents reported themselves to be homosexual, and
were eliminated from the study. Thirty subjects who
reported themselves to be virgins were also eliminated
from the study. It was felt that the meaning that
virgins would ascribe to sexual experience would not be
comparable with experience as measured in this study.
Twenty-seven additional subjects were also eliminated
from the study because of incomplete or improperly
A multiple regression analysis was used in order to
test the statistical hypothesis that there is no
significant relationship between each of the subscale
scores on the MOSE III and sex, number of partners, or
number of times a person had intercourse. In each case
a number of models were tested for each of the subscales
(affiliation, Inadequate/undesirable, achievement, moral,
and erotic/dominance) of the MOSE III. For each model
the dependent variable was the scores for the appropriate
scale on the MOSE III.
In these models the sex of the subject, the number
of sexual partners of the subject, and the number of
times a subject had had intercourse (hereafter referred
to as amount of intercourse) were used as independent
variables. In addition, four interaction variables were
computed in order to test for interaction between the
independent variables. These included the following:
1. sex x number of partners
2. sex x amount of intercourse
3. number of partners x amount of intercourse
4. sex x number of partners x amount of
All possible models were tested. Each of the
independent variables was used singly, and in combination
with each of the other independent variables. Models
were also used to test each of the three primary
independent variables with combinations of the interaction
variables. A total of fifteen different models were
tested for each of the independent variables.
The results included (a) the correlation between
each of the three independent variables and each of the
subscale scores; (b) statistics for the full models
(including the three independent variables and the four
interaction variables); and (c) statistics for the most
adequate models. The most adequate model is defined as
the strongest predictive capability as demonstrated by
the R-square as well as the efficiency of prediction as
expressed through the statistical significance of the
regression equation for each of the dependent variables.
Following is an analysis of the relationship between
each of the subscales of the MOSE III and the independent
variables of sex, number of partners, and amount of
intercourse. A summary of this analysis summarized in
Correlations for Each of the MOSE III Scales
with the Independent Variables Tested
Number of Amou
Sex Partners Inte
iation .174* .090
auate/ -.032 .090
*R < .05
**R < .01
The correlations for sex, number of partners and
amount of intercourse with the affiliation scores are
contained in Table 2. Of these, only sex (r = .17) is
statistically significant. The positive direction
indicates that females were higher on this subscale.
For the full model the R-square is .068 and is not
significant (F = 1.89, df = 7,181, R = .07). The only
significant independent variable is sex which has a
positive regression coefficient of 5.39 with a t. value
of 2.23, R = .03.
The most adequate model involves the three
independent variables and the interaction variable,
number of partners x amount of experience. In this
analysis the R-square = .062 (F = 3.04, df = 4,184,
p. = .02). In this case sex is significant (t = 2.20,
2. = .03) and positively related to affiliation scores.
Number of sexual partners is negatively related and
significant (t = -2.03, p = .04). The interaction of
number of partners x amount of experience is positively
related to affiliation but not significant (t = 1.28,
The correlations for sex, number of partners and
amount of intercourse with inadequate/undesirable scores
are also contained in Table 2. They are all small and
In the full model the R-square is equal to .039 (F
= 1.04, df = 7,181, n.s.).
The most adequate model includes only number of
partners and amount of intercourse as variables. For
this model R-square = .032 (F = 3.11, df = 2,186, p <
.05). The number of partners is positively associated
(t = 2.01, p < .05) and the amount of intercourse is
negatively associated and also significant (t = -2.16,
R = .03). This suggests that the higher the number of
partners, the higher the score on this subscale, and the
lower the amount of intercourse, the higher the score on
The correlations for sex, number of partners and
amount of intercourse with the achievement scores are
contained in Table 2. All three correlations are
significant with sex correlating -.15 (p < .05), number
of partners correlating .20 (R < .01), and amount of
intercourse correlating .19 (p <.01).
The full model for the achievement scores produced
a highly significant R-square of .146 (F = 4.45, df =
4,181, p < .001). This suggests that the independent
variables in combination provide a highly significant
estimate of achievement scores. Of the independent
variables in this analysis, however, none were found to
be individually statistically significant predictors of
achievement scores. The only variable approaching
statistical significance was sex (t = -1.61, p = .11).
The negative direction of the relationship indicates
that, in general, males had higher achievement scores
than did females.
Of the models tested the most significant included
the three primary variables together with the interaction
term involving number of partners X amount of intercourse
(F = 7.19, df = 4,184, R < .001). The R-square for
this analysis was .135. In this analysis the regression
coefficient for each of the independent variables was
significant. As before, sex had a negative relationship
indicating higher achievement scores for males (t =-
2.07, p < .04). Number of partners was positively
associated with achievement scores with a t-value of
3.88 (p < .001). Amount of intercourse was also
positively associated with achievement scores (t = 2.94,
The interaction term (product of number of partners
and amount of intercourse), however, has a negative
regression coefficient (-.0005, t = -3.40, p < .001)
suggesting that for each of the two variables there is a
non-linear relationship to achievement scores.
The correlations for sex, number of partners and
amount of intercourse with moral scores are contained in
Table 2. None of these are statistically significant.
In the full model the R-square = .038 (F = 1.01,
df = 7,181, n.s.) indicating that there is very little
predictive power for all of the independent variables.
In considering all of the independent and interaction
variables individually, none were found to be
The most adequate model includes only sex. For
this model the R-square = .013 (F = 2.49, df 1,187,
R = .12). This is also not statistically significant.
The correlations for sex, number of partners and
amount of intercourse with erotic/dominance scores are
contained in Table 2. Both number of partners (r = .23)
and amount of intercourse (r = .16) are positive and
In the full model the R-square = .125 (F = 3.69,
df 7,181, p < .001). In this analysis none of the
variables are significant on their own.
Of the models tested the most significant included
the three primary variables together with an interaction
term involving number of partners x amount of
intercourse. The R-square for this analysis was
.122 (F = 6.37, df = 4,184, R < .001). Number of
partners is the most significant variable and is positive
(t = 4.31, R <.001). The interaction term is negative
and is also highly significant (t =-3.52, p < .001).
The amount of intercourse is also positive and
significant (t = 2.22, P = .03). Sex is not significant
(t = -.68, n.s.). This suggests that eroticism is best
predicted by the number of partners. It is also related
to a greater number of sexual experiences; however, the
negative interaction term indicates that the relationship
is not a multiplicative one, and that people with the
highest number of partners and amount of intercourse are
not necessarily those with the highest erotic scores.
As presented in the literature review, an
understanding of the history of the meaning of sexuality
in America and of the societal forces affecting current
meaning is necessary in considering the results of this
study. The dominant meaning of sex in American society
has changed during American history from a primary
association with reproduction within families to a
primary association with intimacy and physical
pleasuring. D'Emilio & Freedman (1988) write:
In the colonial era, the dominant language of
sexuality was reproductive, and the appropriate
locus for sexual activity was in courtship or
marriage. In the nineteenth century, an
emergent middle class emphasized sexuality as
a means to personal intimacy. . Gradually,
commercial growth brought sex into the
marketplace. By the twentieth century, when
individuals had replaced the family as the
primary economic unit, the tie between sexuality
and reproduction weakened further. Influenced
by psychology as well as the growing power of
the media, both men and women began to adapt
personal happiness as the primary goal of
sexual relations. (p. xvi)
The late 1970s saw the effects of the marketing of
sex, lobbying by women and homosexuals for equality, and
new demographic patterns, all of which fostered
substantially altered sexual attitudes and behaviors.
The 1980s brought a backlash of conservatism that
challenged Americans to abandon the sexual permissiveness
of the prior two decades. Religious and political
traditionalists, distressed by the reorientation of
sexual values that occurred since the 1960s, mounted a
campaign to restore the country's sexual standards to a
more restrained, family-oriented, stance. Debates about
sex, rather than remaining the province of feminists and
gay liberationists, began to polarize American politics.
It is against this backdrop, and the more recent
controversies generated by the AIDS epidemic, that this
study was completed.
In part, this study was a replication of the earlier
works of Bernstein (1982) and Garrison (1984), both of
whom investigated differences in the meaning of sexual
experience for men and women. Methodology for this
study was modeled after the work of Bernstein and
Garrison, and the sample studied was similar in all
possible respects. In addition, this study investigated
the effects of objective sexual experience (number of
partners, amount of intercourse) on the subjective
meaning of sexual experience (scores on MOSE scales of
Affiliation, Inadequate/undesirable, Achievement, Moral,
and Erotic/dominance). In reviewing the results of this
study it would be helpful to refer to the list of
adjectives (Appendix C) contained within each of the
A multiple regression analysis was performed which
tested the relationship of the independent variables to
scores on each of the scales of the MOSE III. This
method of analysis was chosen in order to achieve the
strongest possible validity while controlling for each
independent variable singly, and in combination with
other independent variables.
The remainder of this chapter will explore five
topics. The first two are the variables sex and
experience. The final three sections will discuss
limitations of the study, implications for counseling,
and directions for future research.
It is important to note that the MOSE III was
designed to measure the degree to which each of the five
scales reflects the meaning of sexual experience for
that individual. There are no critical values nor are
there any assumptions that one meaning or combination of
meanings is better than any other. This factor must be
taken into consideration when looking at sex differences.
As discussed earlier, the sex differences found by
Bernstein (1982) were not supported by Garrison (1984).
Bernstein's findings that males scored significantly
higher on the Achievement and Erotic/dominance scales
and women scored higher on the Affiliation and Moral
scales were partially supported in the present study.
Garrison's findings, with males scoring higher on both
the Inadequate/undesirable and Moral scales, were not
In the present study sex was found to be significant
for two of the five variables, Affiliation and
Achievement. Females scored higher on the Affiliation
scale when tested singly, in the full model, and in the
most adequate model. Conversely, males scored higher on
the Achievement scale when tested singly, in the full
model, and in the most adequate model.
That females scored significantly higher on the
Affiliation scale lends support to the theoretical and
empirically derived contentions that women are more
interested in the emotional/relational aspects of sex.
This is compatible with Reik (1960), Morris (1978),
Kamin, Davidson & Schek (1978) all of whom identify a
stronger need for affection and romance in the sexual
relationships of women. It is not surprising that women
would continue to score highly on this dimension.
Although there has been significant change in women's
roles in the past twenty years (e.g., increased
opportunity for women to enter male-dominated
professions) there is little evidence to indicate that
they place less emphasis on traditional relationship
Males' lower scores on this dimension may be
indicative of their suppression of affect, as noted by
Pleck (1976) or of Gross' (1978) contention that the
modern male image of a more affiliative, relationship-
oriented male is only a superficial alteration of the
traditional male sex role. Perhaps lower male scores
on Affiliation can be better understood when they are
examined in conjunction with the differences found
between male and female scores on the Achievement
dimension of the MOSE III.
A significant correlation was found between men and
Achievement. This indicates that when presented with
adjectives like victorious, mighty, capable, daring,
assertive and successful, men give stronger endorsement
to these as characteristic of their sexual activity than
do their female partners. This is not surprising as it
is a clear reflection of the role men take in both sexual
and business relations and can be seen as somewhat
incompatible with the Affiliation themes of loving,
caring, kind, sincere and gentle.
As described by Gagnon and Simon (1973), traditional
male sex roles identify males as the initiator in sexual
activity and as concerned with competence and achievement.
Hessellund (1971) points to men as more concerned with
adequate performance than emotional warmth when describing
their early coital experiences. These and the results
of other researchers (Kamin, Davidson & Scheck, 1970;
Morris, 1978; Pleck, 1976) are supported by the sex
differences found in this study.
On three dimensions of the MOSE III (Erotic/dom-
inance, Moral, Inadequate/undesirable) no differences were
found for sex. This indicates that men and women in the
study endorsed these characteristics equally; it does
not indicate that the subjects found these dimensions
irrelevant to their symbolic meaning of sex. For example,
men and women gave equivalent ratings to such adjectives
as forceful, aggressive, erotic and hot (Erotic/dominance
items) while, as previously noted, men gave stronger
responses to the Achievement items.
Both Bernstein (1982) and Garrison (1984) identified
sexual experience as a factor to be examined in future
work with the MOSE III. The results of this study point
to the importance of this variable in understanding the
meaning of the sexual experience. The independent
variables, amount of intercourse and number of partners,
were identified as distinct measures of experience in
pilot work completed prior to the start of this study.
The results of the present study indicate that amount of
intercourse and number of partners were significant
singly and in combination for several of the MOSE III
On the Affiliation dimension, the most adequate
model included the three independent variables and the
interaction, number of partners x amount of intercourse.
This model was found to be significant as was the number
of sexual partners. This indicates that as the number
of partners increased, there was less likelihood that
the subject endorsed items on the Affiliation scale.
The interaction of number of partners and amount of
experience was included in the most adequate model and
was positively related to affiliation. However, the
effects of this interaction did not reach significance.
On the dimension Inadequate/undesirable the most
adequate model included only the two experience
variables. Number of partners was positively associated
and amount of intercourse was negatively associated.
Both variables reached significance. The strength of
these results indicate that the type of sexual experience
influenced subjects' responses to such scale items as
resentful, inhibited, distrustful and inadequate.
Subjects with a greater number of partners tended to
attribute many negative meanings to the sexual
experience. However, those subjects with greater amounts
of intercourse did not endorse as many negative items as
those with less experience. This seeming contradiction
may be due to the possibility that subjects with many
partners may not have had the opportunity to develop
long-term sexual relationship with any one person and
thus remain uncomfortable with intercourse. Subjects
with greater amounts of intercourse are more likely to
have had extended relationship with one or more partners.
The significance of the experience variables was
evidenced again on the Achievement dimension. Number of
partners and amount of intercourse both correlated sig-
nificantly with the Achievement scale. In the most
adequate model both variables were positively associated
with achievement scores. The interaction term number
of partners x amount of intercourse had a significant
negative coefficient. This indicates that subjects who
are high both in number of partners and amount of
intercourse did not score significantly higher on the
Achievement dimension than subjects high on only one.
This may suggest that at a certain level of experience
the importance of the sexual experience as an achievement
The results on the Erotic/dominance scale were
similar to those found for achievement. Number of
partners had a significant positive correlation with
erotic/dominance scores and it was found to have a highly
significant positive coefficient in the most adequate
model. Amount of intercourse was also correlated
positively and had a significantly positive coefficient.
These findings indicate that subjects with either a
higher amount of intercourse or a high number of sexual
partners would strongly ascribe adjectives such as hot,
titillating, erotic and ecstatic to the meaning that sex
holds for them. Once again the interaction of number of
partners and amount of intercourse was significant and
negative. This indicates that the relationship between
the two experience variables is not a multiplicative
one, and suggests that subjects high on both are not
necessarily the highest scorers on the Erotic/dominance
There were no significant findings for the dependent
variable moral. This indicates that neither experience
variable nor any interaction of variables adequately
predicted scores on the moral dimension. These results
neither support nor refute Finger's (1975) belief that
there has been a decrease in the moral prohibition of
intercourse. They do indicate that experience (and sex,
as noted previously) is not a factor in subjects'
endorsement of such Moral items as proper, pure, clean
In summary, both of the independent variables
(number of partners, amount of intercourse) used to
measure experience proved to be worthy of study. They
did not, however, hold equal weight in many instances,
thereby demonstrating the need to assess sexual experience
by measuring at least two different variables. Also
worthy of note is the interaction term number of partners
and amount of experience. In two cases where
significance was established when testing this interaction
term against a dependent variable the results equalled a
negative coefficient. This suggests that there are
significant differences in the kinds of variables used
to measure experience, It also suggests that a
preponderance of experience in both of the variables
studied would not necessarily indicate a higher score on
any scale than would any single experience variable.
Limitations of the Study
All of the conclusions that have been drawn from
the results of this study can be said to apply to a
heterosexual, non-virgin, college-age population. It is
not possible to determine, based on the sample studied,
whether the results can be generalized to other
populations, although this can be determined by future
The age of the sample studied is a particular
limitation that bears further discussion. Although all
of the subjects studied can be said to have had some
degree of sexual experience, that experience is
necessarily limited by age. Although marital status was
not assessed it might be assumed that the greater
majority of the sample studied was single given the age
of the sample. Other factors such as life experience,
work experience and increases in sexual experience over
time might yield different results. The sample studied
can be said to be at the beginning of their experience
in sexual relationships when compared with life
Although sex differences in the meaning of sexual
experience (where males scored higher on achievement and
females scored higher on affiliation) are consistent
with stereotypic sex roles, this finding should not be
taken for granted. Equally important, and somewhat
inconsistent with sex role stereotyping, was the lack
of significant differences in the three other dimensions
studied (Moral, Inadequate/undesirable and Erotic/
dominance). These findings support the clinical practice
of assessing differences on an individual basis without
prejudice. Although this a commonly held clinical stance
this study highlights the importance of extending this
practice when considering sexual meaning.
The results of this study indicate that experience
is a significant variable to be considered by the
researcher when assessing the difference in the meaning
of sexual experience for individuals. Experience itself
was shown to be made up of at least two factors. When
these factors were considered separate and distinct
variables, and when considered together as one, they
tended to yield different results. This should be taken
into account in any future research effort.
The results also support the contention that sexual
experience is an important factor to be considered by
the clinician in both counseling and clinical settings,
as it has a direct effect on the meaning that sexual
experience holds for individuals. It was also
demonstrated that the clinician should take care in the
way that experience is measured, as differing types of
experience can yield different results when assessing
the impact of sexual experience on individuals.
One further implication can be found in looking at
the interaction term which included both amount of
intercourse and number of sexual partners. It appears
that, when both of these factors are considered together,
relative meaning on at least two of the subscales
decreased in relation to those who scored high on either
measure of experience when considered independently. It
may be that these dimensions reflect sexual meaning for
the population sampled in the original creation of the
instrument, and that meaning may change to include other,
not yet identified, dimensions that would be conspicuous
in older, more experienced populations.
Directions for Future Research
The results of this study support the contention
that there is a difference in the meaning of sexual
experience between men and women, and that experience is
an important factor to be studied in order to better
understand differences in meaning. In that the MOSE III
has proven to be an important tool in helping assess
these differences, other researchers could study
differences in the meaning of sexual experience among
populations not covered by this study. These might
include single parents, homosexuals, discrete ethnic
groups and the elderly. Another effort which could add
significant knowledge to our understanding of sexuality
would be to attempt a longitudinal study that would
measure changes in meaning over time, as well as test
changes in sexual meaning against other variables such
as career experience, family, changes in marital status
or changes in socio-economic status. This would provide
a broader picture of whether these factors have an impact
on sexual meaning.
Finally, other researchers may wish to further
explore the establishment of other factors that may be
more meaningful for groups not yet researched. The
factors of Achievement, Inadequate/undesirable,
achievement, Moral, and Erotic/dominance should not be
considered as the only meaning of sexual experience.
Rather, the MOSE III should be considered as a first
attempt to measure sexual meaning. Its successful
application in clinical settings may prove a useful
tool for the population it was normed on. There may be
other refinements and changes that could be attempted in
order to develop similar instruments that can be applied
in a variety of settings with differing populations.
THE MEANING OF SEXUAL EXPERIENCE QUESTIONNAIRE
(Grater & Dowling, 1981)
Directions: Sexual experiences have various meanings
for different people. The unique meaning that sexual
experience has for you may be the result of your actual
experience with kissing, petting, intercourse, oral sex,
etc., or they may be the result of your thoughts,
fantasies, or reading about sexual experience.
On the following pages you will find a list of 70
adjectives. Indicate, by circling a number from 1 to 7,
how descriptive each of these adjectives is of your
personal meaning of sexual experience or, in other words,
what your sexual experience means to you.
Circle 1 if the adjective is NOT DESCRIPTIVE.
Circle 7 if the adjective is HIGHLY DESCRIPTIVE.
Use the numbers 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 if the adjective is
between being NOT DESCRIPTIVE and being HIGHLY
PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE ANY ADJECTIVES UNMARKED.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
e 1 2
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
e 1 2
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
THE MEANING OF SEXUAL EXPERIENCE
Directions: Please answer each of the following questions
as accurately and as honestly as you can. Please do not
leave any questions unanswered.
1. Sex: Male__ Female__
3. Which of the following best describes your sexual
f. Do not prefer to answer__
4. Please circle the number between 1 and 7, with 1
being "inexperienced" and 7 being "very experienced,"
that you think best describes how sexually
experienced you consider yourself to be.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
5. Have you ever had sexual intercourse? Yes No
6. If you answered yes to question # 5, how old were you
when you first had sexual intercourse? __ years old.
7. Do you remember the name of the person with whom you
first had sexual intercourse? Yes___ No If you
answered yes to this question, answer the following:
a. How long did you "go out" with this person?
weeks/months/years (circle one)
b. How many times did you have sexual intercourse
with this person in the course of a week___
c. How many times would you estimate that you had
sexual intercourse with this person throughout
the time you knew him/her? ___times.
8. Do you remember the name of the second person with
whom you had sexual intercourse? Yes___ No If
you answered yes to this question, answer the following:
a. How long did you "go out" with this person?
___weeks/months/years (circle one)
b. How many times did you have sexual intercourse
with this person in the course of a week___
c. How many times would you estimate that you had
sexual intercourse with this person throughout
the time you knew him/her? ___times.
9. Please complete the chart on the following page
according to the directions below:
Column One: List the initials of all the persons
you can remember with whom you have had sexual
intercourse. Be sure to include the first two partners
mentioned on the previous page. IF YOU CANNOT REMEMBER
THE PERSON'S NAME INDICATE SO BY THE LETTER"X". Be sure
to include all instances you can remember.
Column Two: For each person in Column One list the
length of time that you were sexually active (i.e. having
sexual intercourse) with this person. Be sure to
indicate whether you are reporting days, weeks, months
Column Three: For each person listed in Column
One, list the total number of times that you have had
sexual intercourse with this person.
If you are not sure of this number you may estimate
it by multiplying the approximate number of times that
you had sexual intercourse with this person in the course
of a week or month or year by the length of time that
you were sexually active with this person.
For example, if you estimated that you had sexual
intercourse three times a week and you were sexually
active with this person for one-half year, you could
estimate that you had sexual intercourse approximately
78 times (three times a week multiplied by 26 weeks
equals 78 times).
Put this final number in Column Three.
If you need more room continue on the back of this page.
If you are finished with this section, go on to question
10. Please indicate the number of persons with whom you
have had sexual intercourse. This is the same as the
total number of persons listed in Column One.
11. How many times would you estimate that you have had
sexual intercourse in your lifetime? This is the same
as the total of all the numbers listed in Column Three.
PLEASE PLACE THIS SURVEY IN THE ENVELOPE PROVIDED, SEAL
IT, AND RETURN IT AS INSTRUCTED.
ADJECTIVES FOUND ON THE MOSE III
Bailey, D. S. (1970). Sexual ethics in Christian
tradition. In J.C. Wynn (Ed.), Sexual ethics and
christian responsibility (p. 217-232). New York:
Bardwick, J. (1971). Psychology of women: A study of
bio-cultural conflicts. New York: Harper and Row.
Bauman, K. E., & Wilson, R. R. (1976). Premarital
sexual attitudes of unmarried university students:
1968 vs. 1972. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 5(1),
Bell, R. R., & Chaskes, T. B. (1970). Premarital sexual
experience among coeds: 1958 and 1968. Journal of
Marriage and the Family, 32, 81-85.
Bernstein, D. (1982). The formulation of an instrument
to assess the interpersonal meaning of sexual
experience (Doctoral dissertation, University of
Florida) Dissertation Abstract International, 43,
Bullough, V. L. (1976). Sexual variance in society and
history. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1976.
Burgess, E. W. & Wallin, P. (1953). Engagement and
marriage. New York: J. B. Lippencott Co.
Cardwell, J. D. (1969). The relationship between
religious commitment and premarital sexual
permissiveness: A five dimensional analysis.
Sociological Analysis, 30, 72-81.
Clemens, A. H. (1961). Catholicism and sex. In A.
Ellis & A. Abarhanel (Eds.), Encyclopedia of sexual
behavior (pp. 87-91). New York: Hawthorn.
Cole, W. G. (1961). Protestantism and sex. In A. Ellis
& A. Abarhanel (Eds.), Encyclopedia of sexual
behavior (pp. 126-141). New York: Hawthorn.
Coles, R., & Stokes, G. (1985). Sex and the American
teenager. New York: Harper and Row.
Comfort, A. (1976). Sexuality in a zero growth society.
In C. Gordon & G. Johnson (Eds.), Readings in human
sexuality: Contemporary perspectives (pp. 91-94).
New York: Harper & Row.
Crombach, L. (1951). Coefficient alpha and the internal
structure if tests. Psychometricks, 16, 297-334.
Dedman, J. (1959). The relationship between religious
attitudes and attitudes towards premarital sexual
relations. Marriage and the Family, 21, 171-174.
D'Emilio, J., & Freedman, E. (1988). Intimate matters:
a history of sexuality in America. New York:
Harper and Row.
Ehrmann, W. W. (1959). Premarital dating behavior. New
York: Henry Holt.
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