Group Title: formulation of an instrument to assess interpersonal meanings of sexual experience /
Title: The formulation of an instrument to assess interpersonal meanings of sexual experience /
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Title: The formulation of an instrument to assess interpersonal meanings of sexual experience /
Physical Description: viii, 105 leaves : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Bernstein, David Norman, 1948-
Publication Date: 1982
Copyright Date: 1982
Subject: Sex (Psychology)   ( lcsh )
Sensuality   ( lcsh )
Psychology thesis Ph. D   ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- Psychology -- UF   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Thesis: Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1982.
Bibliography: Bibliography: leaves 98-104.
Statement of Responsibility: by David N. Bernstein.
General Note: Typescript.
General Note: Vita.
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Bibliographic ID: UF00098268
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 000318041
oclc - 08910290
notis - ABU4871


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Copyright 1982


David N. Bernstein

Dedicated to my father for his support
in this venture and to my mother who
would have been very proud.


I would like to thank my committee chairperson, Dr. Harry Grater,

whose provocative questions and insightful comments continually

challenged me to reach the upper limits of my creative potential. His

friendship and sense of humor were a constant source of encouragement

and enjoyment.

I would also like to thank my other committee members, Drs. Algina,

Froming, Miller, and Nevill for their helpful suggestions. I am very

grateful for their support. The ideas contributed by Nina Issenberg

were also greatly appreciated as were the time and energy she spent

typing the data cards. To Cheryl Phillips, who always seemed to

know what was going on, I owe more favors that I can ever repay. I

am grateful for her kindness, cheerful outlook, and genuine willing-

ness to listen. Somehow she was always able to smooth the roughest

parts of this journey.

There is probably no way to endure in a difficult graduate

program without good friends. I have been very lucky in this regard.

I especially want to thank Jim Ansel, whose warmth and laughter I

will miss. To Jim Huber, my alter ego since the beginning, go my

sincerest thanks for allowing me to adopt his family as my own. I

cannot imagine what the graduate school experience would have been

like without him.



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS. ..... . . . . . . . iv

ABSTRACT . . . . . . . . . . . . . vii



A. Historical Overview . . . . . . . 3
Recent Research on Sex . . . . . . . 8
Research on the Interpersonal Meaning of Sexual
Experience . . . . . . . . . . 12
Theories on the Meaning of Sexual Experience . .. 19
Instrument Development: Factor Analysis . . . 27
Instrument Development: Assessing Reliability and
Validity . . . . . . . .. .. 28
Hypotheses . . . . . . . . . . 31

II METHOD . . . . . . . . . . . . 33

Subjects . . . . . . . .... . . 33
Procedure . . . . . . . . . . 33
iInstruments... . . . . . . . . 35

III RESULTS .. .... .. .. ... .. . .. . . 38

Analysis of the Meaning of Sexual Experience
Questionnaire--Il ..... . . . . 38
Analysis of the Meaning of Sexual Experience
Questionnaire--III .. . .. .... . 42
Sex Differences in the Meaning of Sexual Experience. 56
Summary . . . . . . . . . . ... 63

IV DISCUSSION . . . . . . . . . . . 65

The Interpersonal Meanings of Sexual Experience. . 66
Sex Differences in the Meanings of Sexual Experience 72
Generalizability of the Results . . . . ... 79
Counseling and Clinical Applications . . . .. 80
Directions for Future Research . . . . .. 81



QUESTIONNAIRE--III . . . . . . . . 88

C SEXUAL FUNCTIONS MEASURE . . . . . . .... 90

SCALE . . . . . . . . ... . . . 94

REFERENCES . . . . . . . . ... ...... 98

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH . . . . . . . .... .... .10

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



David N. Bernstein

May 1982

Chairman: Harry Grater
Major Department: Psychology

This research attempted to validate an instrument devised to

assess interpersonal meanings of sexual experience. Little empirical

research has been conducted in this area but there is a consensus in

the theoretical literature that dimensions of meaning such as affilia-

tion, dominance, and pleasure do exist for sexual experience, and that

they are differentially salient for males and females. It has been

suggested that an individual's sexual attitudes and behaviors would

be more comprehensible if the meaning that sexual experience has for

the person were known as well.

The Meaning of Sexual Experience (MOSE) adjective list includes

seventy adjectives that are scored on a seven-point scale depending

on how descriptive the adjective is of the individual's meaning of

sexual experience. A factor analysis of the .data collected from 326

undergraduates at the University of Florida yielded five statistically

and conceptually valid dimensions of meaning which were labeled

affiliation, inadequate/undesirable, achievement, moral, and erotic

dominance. Males' and females' average factor scores were compared

and significant differences were found with males scoring higher on

achievement and erotic dominance, and females scoring higher on

affiliation and moral. No significant difference was found on the

inadequate/undesirable dimension..

Another sample, including thirty males and thirty females,

completed the MOSE adjective list twice, once for themselves and

once as they believed a typical member of the opposite sex would.

The self-reports yielded relatively small sex differences on the

five meaning dimensions, but substantial differences were found

between the self-report perceptions and the perceptions reported by

the opposite sex. Both sexes scored themselves higher on the

affiliation dimension, for example, than they were scored by the

opposite sex. Females scored males highest on erotic dominance and

achievement followed by affiliation whereas males scored themselves

highest on affiliation followed by achievement and erotic dominance.

It was concluded that the validity and reliability of the MOSE

were supported. Several research investigations using the newly

devised instrument were suggested to provide further support for its

validity and to accumulate more information on between group

differences with respect to the meanings that emerged in this study.


Only in the last hundred years has research in human sexuality

become firmly established. The accumulation of knowledge has been

punctuated by major breakthroughs such as the works of Ellis (1936,

1942), Freud (1963), Kinsey (1948), Masters and Johnson (1956), all

of whom had in common their willingness to challenge social mores by

delving into forbidden realms. An area that has not been empirically

researched is the interpersonal meaning of the sexual experience.

"Meaning" is defined here as the "why" of sex. It describes the

needs that an individual satisfies by participating in sexual experi-

ences, and the personality styles adopted in pursuing sexual experi-

ence. Terms such as dominance, aggression, and affiliation will

describe some of the meanings that may be ascribed to sexual experience.

Although some authors have stressed the importance of understanding

the meaning that the sexual experience holds for the individual involved,

and although many authors list dimensions of meaning, there have been

practically no studies validating the various theories. The present

study seeks to provide confirming or disconfirming evidence for the

existence of some of these hypothesized meanings of sexual experience

through: (1) the construction and validation of an instrument designed

to elicit the meanings, and (2) an examination of male-female differ-

ences with respect to the instrument.


Due to the paucity of research on this issue, a literature review

that focused solely on studies determining the meaning of the sexual

experience would be exceedingly brief and not very helpful- It is

instructive, however, to review the literature on sexuality for the

purpose of inferring the meanings. This can be accomplished in two

ways. First, the role that sexuality played in people's lives during

any particular historical period can imply dimensions of meaning.

Secondly, and especially useful more recently, the types of studies

being conducted at any time implyes both what was deemed important

about sexuality and what was deemed permissible to study.

The following review combines these types of evidence for the

dual purposes of examining how the meaning of sexual experience has

changed or remained the same historically, and theorizing what it

might be today. The review begins with an historical overview because

it is the author's belief that sexual experience can only be meaning-

fully understood within the context of societal evolution. Following

this review, the more recent literature will be discussed to illuminate

the types of questions prevalent in today's research and, therefore,

to infer the meaning of the sexual experience in today's scientific

community. The third section will review theories and hypotheses

with respect to the interpersonal meaning of the sexual experience,

some of which will form the theoretical underpinnings for this study.

As this study focuses on the design and validation of an instrument,

the fourth section of this review will discuss literature pertaining

to factor analysis, reliability, and validity.

A.i Historical Overview

Early in history, love was not a crucial part of sexual experi-

ence. J. McCary (1976) 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). Sex was for the purposes of

procreation only.

Later, the relationship between a knight and a lady whose husband

was off at the Crusades was perceived as romantic love but tended not

to include sexual intercourse. Chivalry and chastity were the rules.

During the Renaissance, love as an aspect of marriage occurred only

accidentally. Not until the 1800's were romantic love and marriage

and, therefore, romantic love and sex, gradually blended. McCary

cites the Industrial Revolution as the period during which 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.

During the 1800's the meaning of sex changed, especially for

women, as the Puritan view of the female as sexual temptress gave way

to the Victorian view of her inherent purity and innocence (Wilson,

Strong, Robbins, & Johns, 1980). Chastity wasiimportant for both

males and females but the males' chastity resulted from an internal

struggle while females simply had no sexual feelings. As scientific

materialism replaced religious authority, moral codes were enforced

by scientific proof of inevitable disease and insanity rather than


religious warnings of mortal sin. In the 1830's, marriage manuals

and books on sexual physiology began to appear. Shade (1978) describes

the Victorian's emphasis on the female's role as guardians of the

morals of society but adds that the late Victorians were not quite as

repressed as pictured. Evidently, then, the meaning of sexual experi-

ence remained different for males and females. It was thought that

part of the male's nature was to seek sex whereas the female's role

was to allow sex when it was appropriate. Here the dominance and

submission themes of sexuality with strong overarching moral themes

can be inferred. As will be seen, current theories of the interpersonal

meaning of sexual experience often continue to echo these sex differ-


The Victorian decency wave lasted through the nineteenth century

suppressing information about sexuality and leaving many people unin-

formed and anxious. Havelock Ellis was among them and his studies on the

psychology of sex (Ellis, 1936, 1942) resulted from his discomfort. He

states: "I determined that I would make it the main business of my life

to get to the real natural facts of sex apart from all would-be moral-

istic or sentimental notions, and so spare the youth of future genera-

tions the trouble and perplexity which this ignorance has caused me"

(1936, p. ix). He reasoned that the study of sex should properly be

within the domain of science: "Now I do not consider that sexual matters

concern the theologian alone, and I deny altogether that he is compe-

tent to deal with them" (1936, p. xxix). Ellis' work created a furor

and resulted in the arrest, in 1898, of one George Bedborough for

selling Ellis' works. Interestingly, Ellis himself was not arrested.


Despite the outcry, the doors to the scientific study of sex had

been opened and sexual experience was no longer solely confined to

the purview of the moralists.

During the early 1900's, Freud (1963) caused changes in the

meaning of sexuality by proclaiming it as one of the primary human

motivations. He discussed the existence of sexuality in infancy and

childhood, and its role in adult emotional problems. He dismissed

the Victorian notion that females did not have sexual feelings. The

meaning of sexual experience for females could nolonger be restricted

to submission and procreation. Although Freud was a benefactor of

women in the sense that he supported their sexual feelings, his theories

of male-female differences (especially penis envy) were not well re-

ceived by female theorists and are still a sore spot among today's

feminists, with many male theorists concurring. Clara Thompson (1950)

wrote that the problems of women's sexual life is not penis envy but

cultural attitudes of the unimportance of the female sex drive.

Despite the arguments over the validity of Freud's claims, the meaning

of sexuality, especially for females, was changed. The sex drive was

no longer restricted to men. Freud's theories led to much discussion

but, unfortunately, prompted little research, and, although sexuality

was now appropriate for scientific study, it was not until 1947 that

sexology, the study of sex, truly emerged with the publication of

Kinsey's data on sexual behavior and attitudes (Kinsey et al., 1948,

1953). Kinsey's work illuminated what was actually occurring and

legitimized, by sheer weight of numbers, much ongoing sexual experience.

Gecas and Libby (1976) note, however, that one of the greatest shortcomings


in Kinsey's work was his failure to take into account the meanings

that sexual activity has for people. Nevertheless, the meaning of

sexual experience in the society was again changed, especially the

notion that one rarely, if ever, discusses these matters.

Bringing sex further into the open seemed to lead inevitably to

the cultural demand for competence. LoPiccolo and Herman (1977) write

that earlier societalmessages were that sex is good, but only for men,

while the post-1940's message was that sex is okay for both males

and females, and you had better be good at it. They add that "Over

time a number of negative themes regarding sexual conduct have emerged;

it was seen first as sinful, then as physically dangerous, next as a

symptom of psychological immaturity, and finally as a required ability"

(p. 182). To the interpersonal meanings of sexual experience previously

described we now add competence, mastery, or achievement.

Kinsey's research spurred many others to study sexual attitudes

and behaviors and the meaning of the sexual experience for the scientific

community be: What do people do and under what circumstances

do they believe it is proper to do it? As the research grew, sexology

gave rise to its own journals, further establishing sex as a scientific

field of inquiry. The Journal of Sex Education, edited by Norman Haire,

and the International Journal of Sexology, edited by A.R. Pillay, ceased

publication with the death of their editors in the 1950's. In 1957,

the Society for the Scientific Study of Sex was founded by Hugo Beigel,

Albert Ellis, Henry Guze, Robert V. Sherman, and Hans Lehfeldt, leading

to the publication, in 1965, of the first issue of The Journal of Sex

Research. Money (1976) describes four current branches of sexology:


experimental and investigative, clinical and therapeutic, education

and training, and standards and certification.

Closely following the inception of the new journal, Masters and

Johnson (1966) published their studies of the physiological and ana-

tomical aspects of sexual response. They presented a case for the

similarity of male and female sexual response. By scientifically

validating females! ability to have orgasms, they extended the perfor-

mance and achievement meanings of sex to women. Women had gained

the right to orgasm, but with the right came the obligation.

Through the 1960's the scientific community was attempting to

understand the how, what, where, and when of sex. The acceptance of

sex as a valid topic for scientific study helped change the meaning

of sexual experience to a more natural and acceptable aspect of life

for both men and women. But science had also helped create the

current atmosphere wherein people are overly concerned about their

performance. Witness Masters and Johnson (1970): "It should be

restated that fear of inadequacy is the greatest known deterrent to

effective sexual functioning, simply because it so completely distracts

the fearful individual from his or her natural responsivity by blocking

recognition of sexual stimuli either created by or reflected from the

sexual partner" (p. 12-13). The position taken here is not that

science caused this performance anxiety but, rather, that there is

an interaction between sex as perceived by society and sex as studied

by science. Given this assumption, it is important to be aware of how

science is studying sex. The following section examines some of the

types of research currently being published.


Recent Research on Sex

A great number of studies have been published as an outgrowth

of Kinsey's (1948) work representing a continuing focus on the sexual

beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors of the culture. The simplest

research design is the tabulation of activities or attitudes. Bentler

(1968a, 1968b) describes scales which assess the extent to which a

male or female has engaged in heterosexual behavior, and Podell and

Perkins (1957) use a similar scale to ascertain whether heterosexual

experiences can be ordered along a unidimensional, cumulative scale.

Similar studies are still being published today. McBride and Ender

(1977) sampled college students' sexual behaviors and their attitudes

as to which sex is responsible for birth control, initiation of sexual

activity, and sexual satisfaction. Mancini and Orthner (1978) com-

puted husbands' and wives' preferences for sexual and affectional

activity at different stages in marriage. Attitude data have been

compiled for a sufficient amount of time now so that research can

examine changes in sex behaviors and attitudes over twenty-five years

(Finger, 1975).

Related to this line of research are studies which questioned who

is responsible for influencing sexual encounters (McCormick, 1979;

LaPlante, McCormick, & Brannigan, 1980). Generally the stereotypic

beliefs that males are expected to use influence strategies for having

sex, and females are expected to use strategies for avoiding sex,

were supported.


A more complex research design attempts to correlate the above-

mentioned behaviors and attitudes with other psychological constructs.

Androgyny is a commonly used variable analyzed in research such as

Walfish and Myerson's (1980) study relating sex-role identity to

sexual attitudes. Jurich and Jurich (1974) had limited success In

their attempt to relate cognitive moral development to premarital

sexual standards, and Jurich (1979) was unsuccessful in determining

which of several demographic, personality, and environmental variables

was the best predictor of premarital sexual standards.

Another outgrowth of Kinsey has been the development of assessment

scales. A scale for the comparison of attitudes of couples was

devised by Foster (1977) in an attempt to determine sexual compatibil-

ity. LoPiccolo and Steger (1974) created the Sexual Interaction

Inventory using behavior-based items to assess sexual dysfunction.

Although this scale has since been used often in other studies, it has

been criticized by McCoy and D'Agostino (1977) who report that their

factor analysis of the items yields."factor sets which are multiple and

essentially psychologically meaningless" (p. 30).

Another variable that has been related to sexual attitudes and

behaviors is sex guilt. Mosher (1968) reported that it was possible

to discriminate subcomponents of guilt such as sexi:guilt, and D'Augelli

and Cross (1975) found some indications of relationships among sex

guilt, moral reasoning, and premarital sex. Gerrard (1980) and Mercer

and Kohn (1979) published similar studies again comparing sex guilt

to premarital sex.


The attention paid to attitudes and behaviors has uncovered

important information, but when attitudes and behaviors become the

sole basis for understanding sexuality it is misleading. Kelley

(1978), for example, presents a theory of human sexuality that relies

on attitudes and behaviors, to the total neglect of the interpersonal

meaning of the sexual experience. Using a five-point scale, items

such as "I really enjoy sex" and "Strictly from the physical point of

view, sex isn't all that enjoyable" are presented. The author, while

correctly questioning whether sex is enjoyable to the individual,

neglects to ascertain what it is about sex that makes it enjoyable:

What does it mean to the individual? Hornick (1978) creates a complex

path diagram of a theoretical model of premarital sexual attitudes

and behavior including background variables, family and peer group

variables, psychological variables such as religiosity and self-esteem,

and attitudinal and behavioral variables but, again, omits variables

relating to the meaning of sexual experience.

The concern with attitudes and behaviors has also led,' to studies

examining family dynamics that may lead to sexual activity in adolescents

(Young-Hyman, 1977). Kristal (1979) looked at the influence of father-

daughter relationships in particular. Attitudes toward sexuality

have been further studied in research designed to test the efficacy

of intervention. Changes in attitudes resulting from courses in human

sexuality were assessed by Dearth and Cassell (1976), Zuckerman, Tushup,

and Finner (1976), and Story (1979). Changes in attitudes resulting

from sex therapy werestudied by Clement and Pfafflin (1980). In the

latter study, both the men:and women became less sex-role stereotyped


in their attitudes. Perhaps the attitude change resulted from or

parallelled a change in the interpersonal meaning.

Despite a distinct emphasis, sex research has not been confined

to attitudes and behaviors. Attempts to understand what stimulates us

sexually have led to the study of slide presentations (Sigushi, Schmidt,

Reinfeld, and Wiedermann-Sutor, 1970) and fantasies (Hariton and Singer,

1974). Personality variables have also been examined with respect to

sexuality. Eysenck (1971a) found extraverts to have earlier and more

diverse sexual experiences. In other personality research, the MMPI

was used by Husted and Edwards (1976) to correlate personality dimen-

sions with sexual arousal and behavior. They found the important MMPI

scales to be depression, social introversion, defensiveness, and

experience seeking. Self-actualization has also been studied with

respect to sexual enjoyment (Paxton & Turner, 1978; Waterman, Chiauzzi,

& Gruenbaum, 1979).

Sexual arousal has also been related to aggression. Barclay (1971)

reported that sexual arousal led to increases both in sex motivation

and in aggression motivation. Gelles (1975) found men more likely

than women to associate sex and violence in fantasies.

The above studies represent a sampling of types of research in

the field today. The focus is clearly on the what, when, where, and

how of sex. But studies of attitudes, behaviors, and physiology,

while important, are all somewhat reductionistic in their approach to

sex. It is felt by this author that these approaches could become

more three-dimensional with the addition of "meaning," the "why" of

sex, to our knowledge of attitudes, behaviors, and physiology. Eysenck


(1971b) pointed out that taking part in a sexual activity is not the

same as enjoying it. Certainly ittcould be important to know whether

an individual partakes in kissing.due to submissiveness or due to


The studies that follow have been sifted out because they do, to

differing degrees, begin to examine the meaning dimension. Since the

interpersonal meaning of sexual experience has not often been directly

studied, it has been difficult to differentiate between those studies

that do touch on this issue and those that do not. Therefore, no

implication is intended that the following studies are clearly discrete

from those already discussed.

Research on the Interpersonal Meaning of Sexual Experience

Schildmyer (1977) combined reports from college students with

those from members of community organizations. Over two hundred and

fifty subjects were interviewed, ranging in age from sixteen to sixty-

four, in an attempt to identify variables relating to the positive

sexual experience. The psychological components, not the physical

components, were found to be the most frequently reported aspect of

the positive sexual experience with the primary factor being the

quality of the relationship between the two people. In light of current

concerns about expertise in technique, it is noteworthy that the physical

components were not primary. It also confirms the importance of

attending to the psychological variables in research.on sex.

Hessellund (1971) attempted to understand the meaning of sex for

men and women by questioning the individual's motivations for involving


themselves in coital acts. Hessellund reasoned that this motivation

could not simply be relief from physiological tension for, if it was,

masturbation would suffice, and it could not be reproduction except

in a small fraction of the cases. This reasoning again points to

psychological motives. Open-ended questions were used such as "Give

a brief characteristic of your reactions to your first coitus"'" Females

responded negatively to this question much more frequently than did

males. By using questions such as the above, the author could only

indirectly judge the meaning of the sexual experience, but it was

possible to support some sex differences. For example, males more

often felt that their first coitus had a great effect on their lives.

In another study of male-female differences, Kanin, Davidson,

and Scheck (1970) examined the experience of love. The romanticism

studied has relevance to the meaning of sexual experience. Males

were found to be more romantic in that they tended to experience the

feeling of being in love; earlier in the relationship. Once in love,

however, the stereotyped romantic reactions such as "floating on a

cloud" or "having trouble concentrating" were associated more with

the females. Although the authors in this study were not examining

sexual experience, anpanalogy may be drawn if the meaning of the

sexual experience is found to change over the course of a relationship

as did the experiences of love. Perhaps, for example, sexual experi-

ences have one meaning for males when they aremot in love and another

when they are.

The following two studies questioned peoples' reasons for having

or avoiding sex, and are therefore closer to being precursors to the


current research. Finger's (1975) study has been mentioned previously

as a comparison of attitudes and behaviors of males over a twenty-five

year period (1943 to 1967). In additionto attitudes and behaviors,

Finger looked at the reasons given for justifying premarital sex.

In 1943, male college students gave "acquisition of knowledge and

skill" as a justification, believing that sexual skill would increase

the likelihood of success of the marriage. Interestingly, those

abstaining also justified their behavior as increasing the likelihood

of success in marriage but, in this case, due to trust and respect.

The students in 1967 added to the earlier justifications the belief

that the success of the marriage depends on sexual compatibility which

therefore should be evaluated in advance. They also added that sex is

a pleasant experience, so why wait? Finger notes that although some

moral and religious grounds were mentioned in 1943 as reasons for

abstinence, almost none were mentioned in 1967. These justifications

imply meanings of sexual experience such as competence, trust, pleasure,

andlmorality. Peplau, Rubin, and Hill (1977) found females more likely

than males to mention ethical standards (morality) as justifying

abstention: from sex. Sex was a more important component of a relationship

for males and was also more important as a dating goal. This implies

some gender differences in the meaning of sex. Interestingly, although

the ;authors had hypothesized that sexual satisfaction would be more

closely associated with love for females than for males, this difference

was not supported.

The interpersonal meaning of sexual experience is also important

to understand in::cases of sexual dysfunction. Kaufman and Krupka (1973),


reporting on a sexual therapy group program at Michigan State University,

discuss six dynamic interpersonal processes which produced sexual dys-

function in their clients: (1) Early deprivation of affectional needs

leading to the sexualization of the need for intimacy. This might

correspond to a highly affectional meaning of sexual experience.

(2) Guilt: In many cases the parents had not given their opposite-sex

children permission to seek sexual gratification. Sexual experience

had highly moral meanings to these clients. (3) Power struggles: In

this situation winning or being right becomes more important than being

close. The authors believe this meaning to be rooted in earlier parental

relationships. (4) Hostility: Unexpressed anger can lead to impotence,

avoidance of sex, lack of orgasm, or a retreat into helplessness.

(5) Expectations: A competency meaning of sexual experience can lead

to debilitating anxiety. This has been previously noted in a quotation

from Masters and Johnson (1970). (6) Adequacy and potency: Closely

related to expectations, a feeling of potency may lead to fear of

reprisals. People may have not only a fear of adequacy, but also fears

of potency. These categories are based on case studies and clinical

reports from the groups that were run. They highlight different meanings

of sexuality such as morality and affiliation that have becomecover-

emphasized to the point of dysfunction.

Previously mentioned studies examined ties between sexuality and

violence. Libby and Straus (1980) hypothesized that the relationship

varies depending on the meaning of sex to the individual. For example,

if the meaning of sex is warm and affectionate, the authors believe

that high levels of sexual activity will be associated with low levels

of violence, whereas if sex means exploitation and dominance, sex

and violence will vary directly. The meanings of sexual experience

were determined here by factor analyzing sex items in a questionnaire

to create three indices: a Sexual Activity Index, an Affectionate

Sex Index, and a Dominant Sex Index. These scores were then combined

so as to yield a "net warmth" measure called the Warm Sexual Activity

Index. Their own comparison of the Sexual Activity Index with the

Violent Acts Index did not yield a correlation coefficient different

from zero, but when they used the Warm Sexual Activity Index they were

able to plot a nearly linear relationship, especially for men. They

had too few women in their study to achieve any meaningful results.

The authors concluded that neglecting the meaning of sexual experience

could account for the mixed evidence in the literature about the

relationship between sex and violence.

Factor analysis has been used in two other studies to identify

or confirm dimensions related to sexual experience. Farley, Nelson,

Knight, and Garcia-Colberg (1977) collected data on sexual attitudes

and behaviors, individual differences in stimulation-seeking, personality,

and political orientation. A factor analysis yielded six factors for

the females and five for the males. Three of the female factors related

to sexuality: (1) a "sick" factor, including neurotic conflict over

sex, sexual frustration, loss of sex controls; (2) a "Victorian"

factor including sexual repression and frigidity; and (3) a "homosexuality"

factor. (The names of these factors are written as described by the

authors.) The three male factors that related to sexuality were:

(1) a "sick" factor almost identical to that for females; (2) an

unrepressedd, heterosexual experience-seeking" factor; and (3) an

"ambivalent homosexual extrovert" factor. Interestingly, the intravert-

extrovert personality variable did not load on the sex factors contra-

dicting Eysenck's (1971a) results discussed earlier. Meanings of

sexual experience such as morality, control or lack of control, and

pleasure can be inferred from these factors.

Nelson (1978) asked students to respond to fifty-six reasons for

having sexual relations. Items included "Because it's a way of proving

yourself," and "Because sex allows me to feel vulnerable,' and subjects

responded on a four-point scale from "Not important at all" to "Very

important"' A factor analysis of the data yielded five factors:

pleasurable stimulation, conformity-acceptance, personal love and

affection, power, and recognition-competition. Four of these categories

correspond closely to those listed by Apperson (1974); deference

(conformity-acceptance), dominance (recognition-competition), affilia-

tion (personal love and affection), and aggression (power).

The final study to be reviewed here was the springboard for the
current study. Grater and Downing (currently under review) selected

five meaning dimensions of sexual experience: morality, affiliation,

pleasure, achievement, and dominance. They selected 476 adjectives

from the Adjective Checklist (Gough, 1952), the Semantic Differential

(Osgood, Suci, and Tannenbaum, 1957), and the Bem Sex-Role Inventory

(Bem, 1974) and supplemented these by use of a thesaurus. The adjectives

were scored by 302 unmarried college students as to.,whether or not each

adjective described the students' personal meaning of sexual experience

using the categories "yes," "no.' or "maybe~' In addition, at least


two of three trained judges agreed on which of the dimensions was

represented by each adjective. Sixteen adjectives for each of the

five dimensions were found to be useful in discriminating among the

students. That is, they tended not to fall substantially in either the

"yes" or "no" category. The Meaning of Sexual Experience Questionnaire--

II included these 80 adjectives. Four additional words that were

uniformly scored "yes" were also included to be used as a "lie" scale

for detecting invalid response sets. It was'hypothesized that males

would tend to rate words in the pleasure, achievement and dominance

categories as descriptive, while females would tend to choose words

in the morality and affiliation categories. Other variables studied

included experienced versus non-experienced, and sex role (masculinity,

femininity, and androgyny). The results confirmed the males' greater

use of achievement adjectives and the females' greater use of affilia-

tion adjectives although the other expected differences were not

confirmed. Experienced subjects also tended to use more achievement

adjectives whereas, for the non-experienced, sexual experience had a

greater moral meaning. This study begins to provide evidence for the

existence and utility of these categories, but the authors note that

the adjectives must be more carefully evaluated to determine empirically

if they are actually tapping the hypothesized meaning dimensions. It

is from this suggestion that the current research evolved.

Although inferences from some studies are possible, the meaning

of sexual experience has rarely been directly assessed as can be judged

by the limited number of related studies discussed here. It is therefore

necessary to rely more heavily on theories rather than research to


provide a foundation for this study. The following section reviews

literature relating different conceptualizations of the interpersonal

meaning of sexual experience after which it will be possible to clearly

delineate the current research.

Theories on the Meaning of Sexual Experience

To review the preceding sections, it has been shown that sexology,

as a research field, has appeared relatively recently. The history of

sexuality indicates a shifting of meanings from early religious tradi-

tions, through the age of chivalry, the Victorian age, and the current

scientific age. Research to this point has focused to a great extent

on sexual attitudes and behaviors, and on the physiology of the human

sexual response. Only in the past few years have attempts been made to

study, empirically, the meaning of sexual experience. At the Nebraska

Symposium on Motivation in 1973, William Simon (1974) said: "In no way

that I can see is there a way of establishing the meaning of sexual

pleasure . ." (p. 77). Yet he felt that this meaning had been wrong-

fully neglected and was very important. He listed aggression, affection,

competence, and eroticism as possible meanings.

Despite the paucity of research in this area, theorizing has long

been active. Havelock Ellis (1936, 1942) wrote at the turn of the

century that the sexual emotions of females are more closely associated

with the level of the relationship than those of males. In addition he

wrote: "The masculine tendency is to delight in domination, the

feminine tendency is to delight in submission" (Ellis, 1942; p. 82).

Whether this remains valid today or not is an empirical question that


can be answered by examining a dominance/submission meaning of sexual


Gagnon (1977) describes sexual scripts, a construct that relates

easily to meanings of sexual experience. The components of a sexual

script include who one does sex with, what one does sexually, when

(age or time of day), where, and why humans do approved or disapproved

sexual things. All the components of scripts save the last have been

included in the attitude and behavior studies. As for the "why,"

Gagnon lists the following reasons for having sex: having kids,

pleasure, lust, fun, passion, love, variety, intimacy, rebellion,

degradation, instinct/needs, exploitation, relaxation; achievement,

and service. Of these, the first, "having kids," pertains relatively

infrequently. The others are psychological meanings, and it remains

to be verified whether they are all separate or somewhat intercorrelated.

Gagnon notes that "in less than a century we have moved from sexuality

as reproduction and a pivotal form of conduct in our judgements of good

and evil to . sex as an expression of emotional intimacy, sex as

interpersonal competence, and sex as passion and rebellion" (p. 408).

In brief, he has included morality, affection, competence, and rebellion

as meanings of sexual experience.

In an earlier article on sexual scripts, Gagnon (1974) notes that

personal motives are embedded in these scripts. Young males, according

to Gagnon, learn that their sexual script calls for male initiation

and dominance. Gagnon and Simon (1973) include aggressiveness, achieve-

ment, conquest, and potency in the male script, and romance and attrac-

tiveness in the female script. They state, "Rarely do we turn from a


consideration of the organs themselves to the sources 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).

Sexual scripts can also be applied to Mosher's (1980) theoretical

discussion of dimensions of involvement in human sexual response. He

views involvement as a complex of psychological processes including

the interaction of emotions, cognition, and actions described by

three dimensions: sexual role enactment, sexual trance, and engage-

ment with sex partner. The script here depends on the preferred

dimension of involvement. Preference for sex role enactment results

in playful, adventurous sexual experiences; preference for sexual trance

results in very private, self-absorbed sexual experiences; and preference

for engagement with partner results in romantic, affectionate sexual

experiences. Mosher's theory is very complex and purposefully written

to provoke research.

Using transactional analysis to examine life scripts, Steiner (1974)

writes that sex role scripting creates gaps that limit our potential

to become whole human beings. He concludes that men and women therefore

feel incomplete without a partner of the opposite sex, implying an

interpersonal meaning of sexual experience that might be termed fulfill-

ment or completion. This notion of incompleteness leads Schwartz (1979)

to conclude that androgynous humans, as described by Bem (1974), are

healthier emotionally. Schwartz believes fulfilling sexual relationships

require androgyny but she adds pessimistically that this will require a

significant cognitive restructuring in this society.

Looking further at sex differences, Tavris and Offir (1977)

argue that "the.sexual gap between men and women..... is a matter of

the two sexes-attaching somewhat different meanings to the sexual act"

(p. 60). One-difference:;they note is that: "Women, more often than

men, use sex to get love; men use love to get sex" (p. 68). Bardwick

(1971) discovered that college women admitted accepting sex as the

price of a romantic relationship, not participating in it because they

physically enjoyed it. It is, in fact, rather common for the inter-

personal meaning of sexual experience to be viewed as different for

males than for females. Morris (1978) claims that females are more

deeply committed to the relational aspects of sex, males to the recrea-

tional aspects. The author adds that this may explain some marital

conflict. Gross (1978) writes that "Compared to women, men tend . .

to isolate sex from other aspects of heterosexual relating" (p. 92),

and adds that men are socialized to goal-orientation, control and

power, and aggression and violence as meanings of sex. Pleck (1976)

states that two fundamental themes in the male sex role are stress on

achievement and suppression of affect.

Reik (1960) contends that those who analyze heterosexual relations
often fail to distinguish needs for affection fiom sexual desire and

recognize that the first is stronger in women and the second is stronger

in men. Meanings of sexual experience for men derive from the fact

that "the sexual urge of the male has an aggressive and even a sadistic

character, and the wish to intrude the female body amounts to a kind

of forceful incursion......" (p. 118).


Several other authors have theorized on the interpersonal meanings

of sexual experience. Wilson, Strong, Robbins, and Johns (1980) write

that "sexual intercourse can be used to: show love, have children,

give pleasure, receive pleasure, show tenderness, gain revenge, make a

commitment, end an argument, gain acceptance, show rejection, prove

masculinity/femininity, degrade someone, degrade yourself, touch or be

touched. Sex can be used to keep a person interested in you, to relieve

loneliness, to dominate another, to make yourself or another feel guilty,

to relieve physical tension,to express liking or love" (p. 333-334).

They make the claim that, with marriage, the motivation for a sexual

relationship changes from ego gratification, including motives of con-

quest, aggression, and power, to a motivation for mutual personal grati-

fication. They do not explain what it is about marriage that foments

this change.

Observing the sexual revolution from a psychoanalytic viewpoint,

Gershman (1978) laments that the "sex revolution is placing too much

emphasis on achieving physiological-mechanical success" (p. 149) and

adds "In healthy sexuality.;. the relationship is characterized by

a measure of affection and mutuality, and a desire to obtain, as well

as to give, pleasure" (p. 151). Here the competence, affiliation, and

pleasure meanings of sexual experience are expressed in somewhat judge-

mental terms. Another psychoanalytical viewpoint, expressed by Chodorow

(1976), is that "females' apparent romanticism is an emotional and

ideological mask for their very real economic dependency" (p. 462).

The masculine personality, resulting from much greater cross-parent

feelings, comes to be founded more on repression of affect and denial

of relational needs.


Gershman (1978) above put forth healthy sexuality as representa-

tive of mental health. Reich (1973) goes onestep further regarding

healthy sexuality as necessary to physiological health. He therefore

decries the moralistic appraisal that views sexuality as an unfortunate

concomitant of the preservation of the species. Rather than sexuality

being a fucntion of procreation, Reich contends that procreation is

only one function of sexuality. Reich's contention that orgasms lead

to tension reduction and are therefore necessary to physical health

does not necessarily explain why intercourse is different from mastur-

bation, but he presents a strong case for sexual gratification as

opposed to sexual repression.

Operating from the constructs of symbolic interactionism, Gecas

and Libby (1976) see sexual experiences as being created by sexual

symbolism. They use the language of sexual interaction as symbolic

evidence for four "identifiable and coherent philosophies or codes

regarding sexual behavior: the traditional-religious, romantic, recrea-

tional, and utilitarian-predatory" (p. 37). The authors remark on the

paradox that freeing sex from the constraints of religion and romance

has elevated enjoyment to the role of primary requirement-. Thus our

attention has been focused on technique and mechanics, causing the

character of sexual experience to be more like work than play. By

freeing sex we are no longer able to take it lightly. Slater (1976)

concurs, writing that "the use of an engineering term like 'adequacy'

in relation to an-act of pleasure exemplifies the American gift for

turning everything into a task" (p. 85). The author's position becomes

even more cynical with the argument that whereas women are able to love

older, ugly men, men tend to favor only specific females types which

is interpreted as evidencethat men do not really like women. Whether

these rather negative espousals are valid, they raise the issue of

sex as work as opposed to sex as play. Comfort (1976) describes the

three human uses of sex as: sex for procreation, sex for intimacy,

and sex as physical play. He refers to the latter two as relational

sex and recreational sex respectively, and contends that contraception

has, for the first time, separated the three. Foote (1976) further

supports the notion of sex as play, adding that this meaning is not

necessarily amoral because any kind of play generates its own morality

and values.

One of the clearest, most cohesive lists of psychological dimensions

of sexuality has been formulated by Mitchell (1972) for adolescents.

Included are: (1) The need for intimacy: Sex behavior fosters an

openness which facilitates intimacy at other levels, not the reverse

as commonly believed. (2) The need for belonging: Included in Maslow's

hierarchy and Murray's list of psychological needs, the need for belonging

differs from the need for intimacy in that it does not have to be

experienced directly. (3) The desire for dominance: This refers both

to Fromm's need for dominance in daily living, and Adler's compensatory

strivings resulting from feelings of inferiority. (4) The desire for

submissiveness: Being submissive allows other needs such as intimacy

to be met, especially for women. (5) Curiosity and competency motives.

(6) Desire for passion and intensity: Everything about an adolescent's

style is intense. Nothing is paced. (7) Identification and imitation:

Exposure to the media not only presents models but can also be sexually


arousing in itself. (8) Rebelliousness and negative identity:

Although not believed by the author to be a major motive in adolescent

sex, negative identity, as used by Erikson, describes a type of drive

satisfaction obtained by engaging in behavior that is contrary to what

is desired or expected.

The above model is excellent but it must be added that adolescents

are in a transitory phase of life and their sexual motives may be very

changeable. Schoof-Tams, Schlaegel, and Walczak (1976) present a

cognitive-developmental model of sexual morality between 11 and 16

years of age. They believe that eleven year olds tend to be more

traditional, viewing:sexuality as mainly for procreation and not to be

engaged in until after marriage. By fifteen or sixteen, adolescents

are much more permissive, seeing sexuality as governed by love and

fidelity. The authors relate this to the transition from Kohlberg's

conventional to post-conventional stage of morality which is also

believed to rely on cognitive development. One wonders, however, if

this might also be related to some biological changes occurring during

this period making sexual needs and desires more a reality and less of

a philosophical issue.

The above theories all hypothesize meanings of sexual experience,

but Heath (1978) notes that few scientific studies of the psychological

meaning of sexuality have been published. Heath goes on to challenge:

"Not until researchers are willing to explore more systematically and

as conscientiously the subjective psychological meanings of different

sexual experiences, and not just their frequency or physiology, will we

secure the information necessary to understand more objectively the


significance of sexuality to the psychological health and continued

maturing of a person" (p. 475). This study begins to respond to that

challenge. It attempts to lend supporting evidence to some of the

psychological meanings of sexual experience that have been the focus

of the above theories by devising an instrument to measure a person's

preference for the different meanings. In addition, sex differences

are examined in terms of whether males and females differentially

describe their personal meanings of sexual experience.

Since the greatest portion of this study is the development of an

instrument to measure the interpersonal meaning of sexual experience,

it is important to review theories of instrument design and validation.

The following sections outline relevant literature on factor analysis,

the procedure to be used in designing the instrument, and on assessing

reliability and validity of instruments.

Instrument Development: Factor Analysis

A major issue that arises in the literature on factor analysis is

the number of subjects needed for a stable analysis. Comrey (1978)

suggests using at least five times the number of variables as expected

factors and at least 200 subjects. Other sources vary in the recommended

number of subjects between five and ten subjects per item (Nunnally,

1978). As for the scale itself, Comrey (1978) suggests that a seven-

point scale is most appropriate for factor analysis, and that the items

should be selected to fit the hypothesized factor structure. There is

some disagreement as to whether factor analysis is the best technique

for data analysis. Loevinger (1948) prefers a technique of homogeneous


tests, claiming that it involvesless work and more plausible hypoth-

eses, and Nunnally (1978) warns that "one important reason for not

beginning test construction with factor analysis,is that such analyses

are seldom highly successful" (p. 275). The advent of computer programs

has nullified at least one of Loevinger's objections and has increased

the popularity of factor analysis.

Instrument Development: Assessing Reliability and Validity

The form of reliability test to be used will be Cronbach's (1951)

alpha which is the mean of the distribution of split-half reliability

coefficients resulting from differentisplittings of a test. Cronbach

criticized a simple split-half approach because the reliability coeffi-

cient obtained depends on how the test is split. He describes coeffi-

cient alpha as a lower bound to the "true reliability." Nunnally (1978)

and Stanley (1971) support the use of coefficient alpha as a measure

of internal consistency. Nunnally adds that reliability estimated from

internal consistency is usually very close to reliability tested in

other ways such as test-retest, and, for the early stages of research,

suggests .70 as the criterion level for alpha.

Although most authors separate the issues of reliability and

validity, Campbell and Fiske (1959) prefer to conceptualize them as

lying along a continuum depending on the degree of independence of

approaches used to define the coefficient. Validity requires the

convergence of independent measures while reliability, as in the test-

retest method, requires the convergence of non-independent measures

(a test with itself). In this context, the split-half method of


reliability assessment is closer to validity than the test-retest


There is general agreement on the four types of validity described

by the American Psychological Association (1954): content, predictive,

concurrent, and construct. Some authors such as Cronbach (1971) prefer

to join predictive and concurrent validity in their discussions since

both are criterion-oriented validities differing only in their time

frame. Predictive validity relies on the correlation that the test

scores will have with subsequent criterion measures, while concurrent

validity examines the relationship between the test score and criterion

scores obtained at the same time.

Content validity indicates the basis for claiming the representa-

tiveness of the test content. Nunnally (1978) sees a successful factor

analysis as providing evidence for content validity. Construct validity

has received a lot of attention in the literature, and is critical to

groundbreaking research such as this. The APA (1954) defines construct

validity as investigating what psychological qualities an instrument

measures. Cronbach (1971) gives three procedures for confirming con-

struct validity: (1) Correlational: Determine how people with high or

low scores differ in everyday life or in the lab; (2) Experimental:

Attempt to.alter test performance by some controlled procedure; and

(3) Logical analysis of content and scoring. Cronbach and Meehl (1955)

regard factor analysis as a most important type of construct validation

since it can be used explicitly to test hypotheses about constructs.

Other procedures suggested by those authors include identifying differences

between groups on the instrumentand, again, studies of change after

experimental intervention, for example, a sex education class.


Nunnally (1978) suggests three steps in construct'validation to

be followed in the given order. First, the domain of observables

related to the construct should be specified. Second, the extent to

which the observables:tend to measure the same thing or several

different things should be determined from empirical research and

statistical analysis. Finally, studies of individual differences and/or

controlled experiments should be performed to determine the extent to

which supposed measures of the construct produce results which are

predictable from highly accepted theoretical hypotheses concerning

the construct. These suggestions will be followed in the proposed


The most comprehensive design for construct validation is

Campbell and Fiske's (1959) multitrait-multimethod matrix wherein

both convergent and discriminant validity are assessed. The authors

explain that "any conceptual formulation of trait will usually include

implicitly the proposition that this trait is a response tendency which

can be observed under more than one experimental condition and that

this trait can be meaningfully differentiated from other traits"

(p. 100). Convergent validity is represented as the tendency to be

observed under more than one condition and discriminant validity is

represented as the ability to be meaningfully differentiated from other

traits. Discriminant validity is, of course, impossible to prove as

one can never test a presumed trait against all other traits.

The issue of construct validity ends here with a quote from

Nunnally (1978): ". . all this fuss about construct validity really

boils down teosomething rather homespun--namely,' circumstantial

evidence for the usefulness of a new measurement method" (p. 109).

This study provides some evidence to support the usefulness of an

instrument that assesses interpersonal meanings of sexual experience.

The review of the literature having been concluded, the following

section delineates the hypotheses that were tested in this study.


The following hypotheses were examined in this research:

(1) The interpersonal meaning of the sexual experience for

college students can be categorized along the following

dimensions: morality, dominance/submission, aggression,

affiliation, and pleasure.

(2) Males, on the average, score higher on the meaning dimensions

of dominance/submission, aggression, and pleasure, while

females, on the average, score higher on the dimensions of

morality and affiliation.

(3) When males and females are asked to rate the interpersonal

meaning of the sexual experience for a typical member of the

opposite sex, the resulting dimension scores will again yield

higher average scores for males (as judged by females) on

dominance/submission, aggression, and pleasure, and higher

average scores for females (as judged by males) on morality

and affiliation. These stereotypical views are expected to

show greater differences in this cross-sex experiment than

will be yielded by the results for hypothesis (2).


In addition to testing the above hypotheses, the reliability and

validity of the newly devised instrument is assessed. The next

chapter will more precisely explain the steps taken in creating and

validating the instrument, and in testing the hypotheses listed above.



All subjects in this research were students in General Psychology

classes at the University of Florida who were expected to participate

in psychological experiments as part of their course requirements.

A total of over 700 students participated in the various stages of

this research. Further demographic information about the students

appears in the following chapter.


Factor Analysis--Stage I

The first stage in this research was an attempt to confirm the

existence of the hypothesized dimensions of meanings of sexual experi-

ence. The 84 adjectives identified by Grater and Downing (currently

under review) as appropriate to the meaning of dimensions of morality,

affiliation, pleasure, achievement, and dominance were adopted for use

here. These adjectives were administered to 256 students who were

directed to score each adjective along a seven-point scale. (See

Appendix A for the Meaning of Sexual Experience Questionnaire--II.)

Due to the number of subjects needed, the administration of the adjective

list was conducted in large groups. This procedure was advantageous


in that it created an atmosphere of anonymity and increased confidentiality

so that the students could feel more comfortable responding truthfully

to the adjectives. The students were given the Meaning of Sexual

Experience Questionnaire--II and were instructed to answer the three

demographic questions. The directions for the adjective list were then

read and students were given the opportunity to ask questions. They

were then instructed to complete the adjective list. They were told to

ask the administrator about any adjectives that they did not understand.

The data collected were then submitted to several factor analyses

with the author manipulating the inclusion or exclusion of adjectives

in the analysis and the number of factors requested in order to find

the most meaningful factors both statistically and conceptually. The

criteria levels for maintaining items were factor loadings 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.

The specific results of these analyses are discussed in the next chapter.

Factor Analysis--Stage 2

After factor analyzing the data from the Meaning of Sexual Experience

Questionnaire--II, a new list of adjectives was prepared using the

retained items from that form and new ones that the author judged as

fitting the emerging factors. The new questionnaire, the Meaning of

Sexual Experience Questionnaire--III (MOSE), includes 70 adjectives.

(See Appendix B for the MOSE adjective list.) The directions were

retained from the Meaning of Sexual Experience Questionnaire--II.

The MOSE was administered to 326 students following the same procedure


as was outlined above, and the data were again submitted to a factor

analysis. The criteria described above for acceptability of items

was once again applied. The factors that emerged were then analyzed

as to male-female differences on the factor scores.

Validity Studies

Three studies were conducted to elicit data with regard to the

validity of the MOSE adjective list. First, to ensure that students

understood the meanings of the words being used, a sample of 67 students

was asked to indicate for each adjective whether they didn't understand

it at all, had some idearas to what it meant, or knew what it meant.

A second study was conducted to test the MOSE's sensitivity to

experimental intervention, and also to examine stereotyping of views

of the opposite sex. Thirty males and thirty females were instructed

to complete the MOSE. After they finished, they were given a second

copy of the instrument and asked to complete it as they believed an

average or typical member of the opposite sex would.

A final study was then conducted to compare scores on the MOSE

with those on another instrument which purports to measure similar

constructs. In this study, 37 males and 33 females completedithe MOSE

and Nelson's (1978) Sexual Functions Measure (SFM). (See Appendix C

for the complete SFM.)


The Meaning of Sexual Experience Questionnaire, Forms II and III,

were constructed for the purpose of this study. Both forms list a

series of adjectives and ask the subject to indicate'how closely each

adjective describes his or her personal meaning of sexual experience

on a scale from 1 to 7. (See Appendices A and B.) As the analysis

and validation of this instrument is the primary goal of this research,

data pertaining to the reliability and validity of the final form,

the Meaning of Sexual Experience Questionnaire--IIIi (MOSE), will be-

detailed in the next chapter.

Nelson's (1978) Sexual Functions Measure (SFM) lists 56 reasons

that people have given for having sexual relations. (See Appendix C.)'

The subject is asked to indicate, on a four-point scale, how important

each reason is or would be to him or herself. Nelson's factor analysis

yielded five factors which he labeled pleasurable stimulation, conformity-

acceptance, personal love and affection, power, and recognition-

competition. Forty-seven of the 56 reasons loaded acceptably on these

factors, having loadings of at least .40 on one factor. Only seven

reasons had additional loadings greater than .30 on any other factor.

There are some weaknesses in the factor analysis of Nelson's

scale. First, a four-point scale is not considered sufficient for an

adequate factor analysis. As noted previously, Comrey (1978) suggests

the use of a seven-point scale. Comrey also suggests using at least

five times the number of items as expected factors and at least 200

subjects. Nelson clearly meets the sample size criterion, testing 180

males and 215 females. He does not, however, meet the item number

criterion. Although he begins with 56 items which would be acceptable

for five factors, his final analysis includes only 47 of these. As a

result, his last factor, recognition-competition, is fairly weak. It

includes only four items, three of which load between .36 and .39 on a

factor other than recognition-competition.


Despite these weaknesses, Nelson's scale will be used to assess

the convergent validity of the MOSE. It appears to be the only

instrument available which measures constructs similar to those of the

MOSE, and Nelson's sample of college students is very similar to the

sample used for the factor analysis of the MOSE in terms of sex, age,

and ethnic group. Nelson's sample was comprised of 45.6 percent males

as opposed to 38.0 percent for the MOSE. Both samples included a high

proportion of college age students. The MOSE sample had 85.5 percent

of the males and 94.6 percent of the females below age 22. For Nelson's

sample the figures were 78.9 percent of the males and 90.7 percent of

the females. For the MOSE, 93.6 percent of the males and 88.7 percent

of the females were white. Nelson reported 89.4 percent of males and

87.4 percent of females as being white. Finally, as both samples were

drawn from General Psychology classes at the University of Florida,

they are probably similar in many other characteristics such as

cultural values.


Analysis of the Meaning of Sexual Experience Questionnaire--II.

The preliminary stage in the development of the final MOSE adjective

list was the analysis of the data collected dn the Meaning of Sexual

Experience Questionnaire--II., A total of 256 subjects completed the

questionnaire and the data were submitted to a principal components

analysis using a statistical package from the Biomedical Computer

Programs: P-Series 1979 (Dixon and Brown, 1979). The hypothesis to

be tested was that five factors would emerge matching the hypothesized

dimensions of morality, affiliation, pleasure, achievement, and domi-

nance. Several computer runs were used to vary the adjectives included

in the analyses and to specify different numbers of factors so that a

final analysis might provide the best fit of the adjectives into stati-

stically and conceptually meaningful factors. A direct quartimin

rotation, which is the oblique rotation recommended for this statistical

package, was employed.

The analysis yielded four factors including 53 adjectives. The

adjectives with their factor loadings appears in Table 1. The criteria

used for acceptability of adjectives were that they (1) load on their

primary factor at a level no less than .40, and (2) load on every other

factor at a level lower than .30. In addition, an oblique rotation was

Oblique Factor Loadings for the
Meaning of Sexual Experience Questionnaire--II.

Adjectives 1 2 3 4

inept .67 .07 -.03 .19
frigid .66 -.09 -.14 .06
timid .64 .23 -.12 -.18
awkward .62 -.05 -.28 -.07
inhibited .62 .02 -.13 -.11
inadequate .61 -.01 -.15 -.09
submissive .60 -.07 .05 .30
futile .57 .07 .19 -.19
infantile .53 .07 .03 .08
flat .51 -.07 -.00 -.12
evasive .51 .02 .16 -.23
muted .49 .10 .12 -.08
distant .47 -.05 .10 -.40
distrustful .48 -.13 .12 .00
offensive .43 -.05 .23 -.23

honorable -.08 .71 .08 -.08
proper -.04 .70 .08 -.05
moral .20 .69 -.21 .09
pure .17 .65 -.16 .08
sincere -.07 .64 -.14 .28
dignified .08 .62 .28 -.13
righteous .16 .62 .13 -.18
clean -.09 .54 .19 .04
virtuous .33 .52 .04 .08
correct -.21 .50 .36 -.08
appropriate -.28 .47 .12 .01
unselfish -.11 .42 .03 .29

masterful .05 -.06 .70 .14
victorious .09 .04 .66 -.07
dominant .07 -.23 .66 .15
winning .07 .26 .63 -.06
mighty -.14 .14 .62 -.14
demanding .07 .25 .59 -.00
forceful .27 -.25 .52 .18
capable -.22 .21 .51 .17
potent .02 .08 .51 .40
successful -.21 .38 .50 .15
outgoing -.09 .08 .50 .30
aggressive .02 -.27 .44 .39

TABLE 1--Continued

Adjectives 1 2 3 4

titillating .04 .15 .27 .63
erotic .00 -.13 .31 .61
affectionate -.10 .21 -.10 .60
ecstatic .01 .18 .09 .60
amorous .05 .14 -.01 .59
hot -.02 -.21 .29 .42
uninhibited -.22 -.17 .15 .39
fond -.14 .35 .06 .38
remote .41 .04 .16 -.46

imperfect* .36 -.06 .05 -.32
contented* -.26 .25 -.08 .35
demanding* .44 -.02 .47 .07
fussy* .45 .18 .26 -.17
yielding* .25 .09 .22 .16

*Adjectives not

retained for the Meaning of Sexual

Experience Question-


permitted with the restriction that no two factors correlate at a

level substantially higher than .30. The factor intercorrelations

are presented in Table 2. The criteria were not applied rigidly to

Factor Intercorrelations for the
Meaning of Sexual Experience Questionnaire--IIl

Factors 1 2 3 4

1 1.00

2 -.04 1.00

3 .12 .14 1.00

4 -.26 .07 .23 1.00

this list of adjectives since it was a first analysis. The word

"aggressive," for example, was retained because of its highiloading on

Factor 3 (.44) despite a higher than desired loading on Factor 4 (.39).

Five adjectives of the 53 that remained in the final computer run

were dropped. "Imperfect," "contented;" and "yielding" were eliminated

as they did not load highly enough on any factor. "Demanding" was

eliminated since it loaded too closely on two factors; .44 on Factor 1

and .47 on Factor 3. "Fussy" was eliminated,=although it met the

criteria, because its factor had more than sufficient number of adjec-

tives. The remaining list of 48 adjectives was then augmented by 22

new adjectives selected from Grater and Downing's original list of 476

words. Adjectives were added if they appeared, in the authors judgement,

to conceptually fit one of the four factors. More adjectives were added


to the smaller factors than to the larger ones in an attempt to

equalize the number of adjectives in each factor. These 70 adjectives

make up the current Meaning of Sexual Experience Questionnaire--Ill

and their analysis is described below.

Analysis of the Meaning of Sexual Experience Questionnaire--Ill

Sample Characteristics

The Meaning of Sexual Experience Questionnaire--III (MOSE) was

administered to 326 students. Table 3 gives the distribution of the

sample by age for each sex. Table 4 gives the distribution of the sample

by ethnic group for each sex. The majority of the sample was in the

MOSE Factor Analysis Sample:









or Older


(M) (F)





Frequency Distribution--Age,

(M) (F)



















(M) (F)















100.0 100.0


MOSE Factor Analysis Sample:
Frequency Distribution-- Ethnic Group

Absolute Kelative Cumulative
Frequency Frequency* Frequency*
Category (M) (F) (M) (F) (M) (F)

White 110 189 88.7 93.6 88.7 93.6

Black 6 6 4.8 3.0 93.5 96.5

Spanish 5 3 4.0 1.5 97.6 98.0

Other 3 4 2.4 2.0 100.0 100.0

Totals 124 202 100.0 100.0


typical college age level of 18 to 21 years, the male population being

slightly older than the female. The ethnic group distribution shows

that most of the subjects were white with a very small proportion

representing Black, Spanish, and other groups.

Factor Analysis

The analysis involved here was the same as that described previously

for the Meaning of Sexual Experience Questionnaire--II;. After several

computer runs, factor groupings were achieved that almost completely

fit the desired criteria as described above. Fifty-four of the 70

adjectives were included in this final analysis and five factors

emerged. Table 5 gives the oblique factor loadings of the 54 adjectives

on the five factors and Table 6 gives the factor intercorrelations.

All the adjectives fit the criteria of loading at least at the .40

level on their primary factor and only three load at more than .30 on a


q m D


Oblique Factor Loadings for the
MOSE Adjective List

Adjectives 1 2 3 4 5

caring .85 .06 -.01 -.02 -.07
warm .83 .05 -.02 -.04 .04
kind .81 .08 .10 .01 -.09
loving .77 .03 -.01 .01 .06
sincere .75 .05 -.05 .15 -.09
gentle .70 .12 -.00 .11 -.11
affectionate .64 -.13 -.04 -.04 .20
fond .63 .04 .05 .11 .06
intimate .59 -.17 -.03 .03 .28
trusting .50 -.25 .21 .06 -.06
mature .48 -.10 .24 .17 -.06

distant -.05 .60 -.02 .00 .02
futile .01 .59 .22 .04 -.19
evasive -.07 .59 .15 .01 -.01
inadequate .13 .58 -.26 -.23 .12
resentful -.17 .58 .12 -.05 -.06
timid .14 .57 -.36 .05 -.01
inhibited -.01 .56 -.24 .15 .01
remote .02 .55 .04 .16 -.01
disagreeable -.02 .54 .18 -.08 -.13
flat -.15 .54 -.03 .07 -.07
infantile .03 .54 .04 -.10 .08
awkward -.09 .53 -.37 .00 .15
frigid -.18 .51 -.18 .07 -.05
inept .09 .50 .04 -.10 -.22
distrustful -.26 .48 -.02 -.10 .09
undesirable -.26 .43 -.16 -.04 .07

daring .08 .04 .70 -.18 .07
imaginative .19 -.03 .64 -.15 .05
inventive .06 -.13 .60 -.14 .13
determined -.04 .25 .55 .11 .10
outgoing .13 -.10 .54 .13 .01
victorious -.12 .16 .53 .20 .28
assertive -.00 -.03 .53 -.04 .07
capable .14 -.27 .52 .09 -.10
winning .03 .18 .49 .22 .25
mighty -.06 .16 .49 .28 .35
successful .06 -.17 .49 .25 .11


TABLE 5--Continued

Adjectives 1 2 3 4 5

proper -.03 -.00 -.02 .79 -.09
moral .07 -.13 -.27 .72 .06
pure .11 -.04 -.24 .68 .14
dignified .03 -.01 .07 .62 -.05
righteous -.07 .14 .17 .62 -.02
clean .18 -.13 .03 .59 -.04
correct .09 -.19 .23 .59 -.13
honorable .19 -.05 -.05 .56 -.09
virtuous .10 .17 .03 .56 .05

hot .11 -.10 .17 -.05 .59
forceful -.08 .22 .19 -.11 .57
titillating .10 -.14 -.12 .05 .57
erotic -.00 -.21 .02 -.13 .52
aggressive -.07 -.08 .128 -.16 .48
demanding -.10 .22 .11 .06 .48
ecstatic .15 .22 ..21 .13 .46


second factor (intimate, timid, and awkward). .Of the factor inter-

correlations, only Factors 1 and 2, and Factors 1 and 4 correlate

Factor Intercorrelations for the
MOSE Adjective List

Factors 1 2 3 4 5

1 1.00

2 -.32 1.00

3 .13 -.09 1.00

4 .32 -.03 .12 1.00

5 .01 -.08 .24 -.01 1.00

higher than .30. The analysis is judged successful in that it so

closely meets the pre-determined criteria and also in that the groups

of adjectives are conceptually as well as statistically meaningful.

In addition to the oblique analysis, an orthogonal analysis was

run to determine how well the factors would be maintained with no inter-

correlations. The results, presented in Table 7, are very similar to

those obtained in the oblique analysis. None of the words loads

primarily on a factor that is different from the one ascertained in

the oblique analysis. Although the factors are not as clearly differ-

entiated as in the oblique analysis, an outcome that was anticipated due

to the more restricted nature of the rotation, the differentiation is

stronger than expected. Once again all the adjectives load at least at

the .40 level on their primary factor, and only ten of the adjectives

Orthogonal Factor Loadings for the
MOSE Adjective List

Adjectives 1 2 3 4 5

caring .81 -.11 .03 .12 -.06
warm .79 -.11 .04 .10 .05
kind .79 -.09 .13 .15 -.09
loving .74 -.13 .06 .13 .06
sincere .74 -.10 -.00 .27 -.08
gentle .68 -.02 .02 .22 -.11
fond .62 -.09 .11 .21 .06
affectionate .62 -.26 .05 .06 .21
intimate .59 -.30 .07 .12 .28
trusting .53 -.35 .24 .15 -.04
mature .52 -.21 .27 .26 -.04

distant -.12 .61 -.04 -.02 -.00
resentful -.24 .60 .08 -.07 -.07
evasive -.13 .59 .13 -.00 -.02
futile -.04 .58 .17 .04 -.19
flat -.20 .57 -.07 .04 -.09
inhibited -.06 .57 -.24 .14 -.02
awkward -.17 .56 -.36 -.03 .11
timid .06 .56 -.36 .06 -.04
frigid -.23 .56 -.21 .03 -.07
inadequate .01 .55 -.26 -.22 .09
remote .02 .54 .04 .16 -.02
disagreeable -.08 .54 .13 -.08 -.13
infantile -.05 .52 .03 -.10 .06
distrustful -.32 .52 -.04 -.15 .07
inept .02 .49 -.03 -.09 -.23
undesirable -.32 .48 -.18 -.09 .04

daring .08 -.01 .70 -.15 .10
imaginative .20 -.10 .65 -.10 .08
inventive .09 -.18 .62 -.11 .16
victorious -.07 .14 .59 .19 .30
mighty -.01 .13 .57 .27 .36
determined -.02 .22 .56 .11 -.12
outgoing .19 -.16 .56 .17 .03
winning .06 .13 .56 .23 .26
assertive .02 -.06 .54 -.03 .10
successful .15 -.22 .54 .27 .13
capable .21 -.32 .53 .13 -.06


TABLE 7--Continued

Adjectives 1 2 3

proper .10 .01 .03
moral .18 -.13 -.19
pure .20 -.05 -.15
dignified .13 -.02 .12
clean .29 -.16 .08
correct .22 -.22 .27
righteous .03 .15 .21
honorable .28 -.08 -.01
virtuous .17 .15 .09

hot .11 -.15 .29
forceful -.13 .19 .28.
titillating .11 -.18 .01
erotic -.01 -.23 .12
aggressive -.08 .11 .36
demanding -.12 .21 .20
ecstatic .19 .28 .32




load above .30 on a second factor. This provides further evidence

for the statistical meaningfulness of the factors. The explained

variances, shown in Table 7, indicate that four of the five factors

are approximately equal in the amount of variance they explain, with

the fifth factor being relatively less explanatory. Means, standard

deviations, and maximum and minimum values for each of the 54 adjectives

are given in Table 8. These data were used to determine whether any

adjectives should be discarded as not useful in differentiating among

people. For example, any adjective scored with all ones or all sevens

would not have discriminated between people.

The five conceptually and statistically meaningful factors that

emerged in this analysis coincided with several of the hypothesized

factors of morality, affiliation, pleasure, achievement, and dominance.

Factor 1 describes an "affiliation" dimension and was predicted as was

Factor 3, the "achievement" dimension, and Factor 4, the "moral"

dimension. Factor 2, as it emerged in this study, contains adjectives

with a very negative tone. It is labeled "inadequate/undesirable" and

it does not coincide with any of the hypothesized factors. Factor 5,

the least strong of the factors in terms of number of items and the

amount of variance explained, is the most difficult to label. It appears

to be somewhat of a combination of the hypothesized pleasure and dominance

dimensions and, as such, is tentatively labeled "erotic dominance'."

Reliability and Validity Analysis

Before a new instrument can be acceptable, evidence must be

accumulated as to its reliability and validity. Reliability of the

factors that emerged from the analysis of the MOSE data was assessed

Descriptive Statistics for the
MOSE Adjective List

Adjectives Mean Deviation Minimum Maximum

caring 6.3 1.0 2 7
warm 6.3 1.0 1 7
kind 6.1 1.0 1 7
loving 6.3 1.0 1 7
sincere 6.1 1.2 1 7
gentle 6.0 1.0 2 7
affectionate 6.4 0.8 3 7
fond 5.8 1.3 1 7
intimate 6.0 1.2 2 7
trusting 5.9 1.2 1 7
mature 5.9 1.0 2 7

distant 2.4 1.3 1 7
futile 2.3 1.3 1 6
evasive 2.8 1.4 1 7
inadequate 2.3 1.2 1 7
resentful 2.1 1.2 1 7
timid 3.0 1.3 1 7
inhibited 2.8 1.5 1 7
remote 2.8 1.6 1 7
disagreeable 2.3 1.2 1 7
flat .2 2.2 1.2 1 7
infantile 2.2 1.3 1 7
awkward 2.5 1.2 1 6
frigid 2.1 1.3 1 7
inept 2.2 1.2 1 7
distrustful 2.3 1.3 1 7
undesirable 1.9 1.1 1 7

daring 4.8 1.5 1 7
imaginative 5.2 1.4 1 7
inventive 4.6 1.5 1 7
determined 4.8 1.6 1 7
outgoing 5.1 1.4 1 7
victorious 3.7 1.9 1 7
assertive 4.5 1.4 1 7
capable 5.9 1.1 1 7
winning 4.2 1.8 1 7
mighty 3.8 1.7 1 7
successful 5.4 1.4 1 7


TABLE 8--Continued


Minimum Maximum






by use of Cronbach's (1951) coefficient alpha, the average of all

possible split-half reliability coefficients. The reliability coeffi-

cients calculated for the factors are .91 for affiliation, .86 for

inadequate/undesirable, .84 for achievement, .85 for moral, and .69

for erotic dominance. With the exception of the last dimension, all

the factors easily meet Nunnally's (1978) suggested criterion level of


The issue of validity was approached from several directions. A

preliminary step was the administration of the list of 70 adjectives

to 67 students who were asked to categorize the words as "don't under-

stand at all,"' "have some idea," and "know what it means Only two

of the 70 words were scored as "don't understand at all" by more than

two students. "Amorous" was not understood by six of the students and

"titillating" was not understood by nine of the students. This survey

indicates that the adjective list does not present definitional problems

that would be severe enough to interfere with the validity of the in-


Evidence for the content validity comes from the fact that the

adjectives themselves were selected according to conceptual guidelines.

In addition, the factor analysis supports three of the five hypothesized

dimensions: affiliation, morality, and achievement. The other two

factors, although not predicted, provide some evidence of their validity

in the conceptual cohesiveness of the adjectives they include. There-

fore it can be concluded that the factor analysis supports the content

validity and, to some extent, the construct validity of the instrument.

Further experimentation was conducted to assess convergent

validity. Convergent validity is an element of construct validity

described by Campbell and Fiske (1959) as relating to the tendency of

a trait to be observed under more than one condition. Seventy students,

37 males and 33 females, completed both the MOSE adjective list and
Nelson's (1978) Sexual Functions Measure (SFM) which appears to measure

some of the same constructs as the MOSE adjective list. Nelson's

factor analysis of the SFM yielded five factors which he labeled

pleasurable stimulation, conformity and acceptance, personal love and

affection, power, and recognition and competition. To support the

convergent validity of each of these instruments the following corre-

lations between MOSE and SFM dimensions were predicted: affiliation
(MOSE) with personal love and affection (SFM), achievement (MOSE) with
power (SFM), achievement (MOSE) with recognition and competition (SFM),

and erotic dominance (MOSE) with pleasurable stimulation (SFM). The
SFM does not appear to have any factors that are analogous to the
MOSE's moral factor. Also, while the MOSE's inadequate/undesirable

factor may be related to the SFM's conformity and acceptance factor,

the relationship does not appear to be straightforward enoughtto be

hypothesized here. The correlation coefficients between the factor

scores from the two measures appear in Table 9Vas they were calculated
for the entire sample. The correlations for males alone appear in

Table 10, and those for females alone appear in Table 11.

The affiliation (MOSE) and personal love and affection (SFM) factors
correlate highly for the entire sample but this is apparently due mostly

to the extremely high correlation for males (.77). The females'

N = 20

MOSE and SFM Factor Correlations-- Entire Sample

Inadequate/ Erotic
Affiliation Undesirable Achievement Moral Dominance

Pleasurable .34**
PlStimulaon -.24* .04 .25* -.32** 34**

Conformity & -.42*** .24* .07 -.21 .10
Personal Love 57*** -.12 11 44*** 14
& Affection

Power -.04 .20:' .30* .10 .30*

Recognition & -.23 -.11 .30* -.16 .32**

*R <.05
**p <.01
***R <.001

MOSE and SFM Factor Correlations-- Males Only

Inadequate/ Erotic
N = 37 Affiliation Undesirable Achievement Moral Dominance

Pleasurable -.30 .26 .07 -.39* .16

Conformity & .43** .25 -.01 -.26 .11
Personal Love 77*** -.16 .24 56*** .24
& Affection

Power -.10 .43** .22 .13 .25

Recognition & -.07 -.01 .25 -.20 .29

*p < .05
**B < .01
***p < .001

MOSE and SFM Factor Correlations-- Females Only

Inadequate/ Erotic
N = 33 Affiliation Undesirable Achievement Moral Dominance

Pleasurable -.04 -.14 .32 -.17 .42*

Conformity & -.28 .31 .01 .00 .02
Personal Love 24 -.10 07 .22 .15
& Affection

Power .02 .01 .38* .06 .34

Recognition & -.31 .24 .28 -.00 .33

*_ < .05

correlation does not approach significance. The second predicted

correlation between achievement (MOSE) and power (SFM) is supported for

females at a moderate level but not for males. The correlation between

achievement (MOSE) and recognition and competition (SFM) is statistically

significant but not very strong for the entire sample and the correlations

for males and females are about equal to that of the entire sample

although the statistical significance does not hold for either subgroup.

The correlation between erotic dominance (MOSE) and pleasurable stimu-

lation (SFM) is supported for females but not for males. Of all the

correlations computed between factors of the MOSE and SFM, none is-

significant for both males and females. These results offer only weak

support for the convergent validity of the MOSE except in certain cases

for subsets of the sample.


Two other analyses aimed at supporting the construct validity of

the MOSE were a comparison of between group differences on the instru-

ment and a study of change related to experimental intervention. Both

of these approaches to construct validation are suggested by Cronbach

and Meehl (1955), and the results of these experiments follow.

Sex Differences in the Meaning of-Sexual Experience

The data from the 326 subjects participating in the factor analysis

study were examined as to the male-female differences in the mean values

for the five factor scores. It was hypothesized that males would score

higher on the achievement and erotic dominance dimensions while females

would score higher on the affiliation, inadequate/undesirable, and

moral dimensions. T-tests were performed and the results are presented

in Table 12. A significant difference between variances of the two

groups occurs on the inadequate/undesirable dimension. Therefore, the

t-statistic used in this case was a two-sample statistic. For the

other dimensions, the t-statistic was computed using a pooled variance

estimate from the two groups as their variances were assumed to be equal.

The differences between the factor scores of males and females are signi-

ficant for two of the dimensions, affiliation and erotic dominance.

The difference between the mean scores on the achievement dimension

approaches significance, while the inadequate/undesirable and moral

dimensions yield insignificant differences. In all the dimensions, with

the exception of inadequate/undesirable, the differences are in the

predicted direction. Note that due to the large number of statistical

tests being conducted, .01 has been adopted as the criterion level for

Sex Differences

for MOSE Factor Analysis Sample

Factor Sex Mean t-Statistic Deviation Minimum Maximum

Male 64.6 8.8 27 77
Affiliation -4.09**
Female 68.4 7.8 37 77

Inadequate/ Male 38.3 10.0 16 70
Inadequate/ 0.21
Undesirable Female 38.0 12.7 16 78

Male 53.9 9.7 31 76
Achievement 2.39*
Female 51.0 10.9 19 72

Male 40.8 9.5 10 57
Moral -1.75
Female 42.8 10.4 11 63

Erotic Male 34.0 5.7 21 48
Dominance Female 31.7 6.3 14 48
Dominance male 31.7 6.3 14 48

Note: N =

*P < .05
**B < .001

124 males, 202 females


statistical significance throughout the research to avoid interpreting

chance differences as significant.

Sex differences were also analyzed for the data resulting from the

comparison of the MOSE and the SFM. A MANOVA was performed to examine

the effect due to sex on the ten dimensions of the two instruments.

Using Pillai's Trace as the F approximation, the MANOVA is found to be

significant; F(10,59) = 2.70, p < .01. The results of the ten ANOVA's

appear in Table 13. No male-female significant differences are supported

on the MOSE dimensions. The magnitude of these differences are almost

identical to those computed for the factor analysis sample and the

differences are in the same direction for all five dimensions. The

E-values are lower for this sample due to the smaller sample size. On

the SFM factors, males score significantly higher on the pleasurable

stimulation, conformity and acceptance, and recognition-competition

dimensions. The females' higher score on the personal love and affection

dimension approaches significance (F = 4.47, p = .045).

For the final experiment in this research program, 30 males and

30 female students completed the MOSE adjective list. After they had

finished they were given another copy and asked to complete it again

but this time as they believed an average or typical member of the

opposite sex would. The purposes of this study were twofold. First,

it was a further study of construct validation in the sense of deter-

mining whether the instrument was sensitive to experimental intervention.

Secondly, this was an attempt to ascertain whether the hypothesized

male-female differences, which were-only weakly supported by the

previous data, might be amplified in people's perceptions of the

opposite sex.

Sex Differences

for MOSE and SFM Comparison Study

Factor Sex Mean F-Statistic p-value

Male 63.7
Affiliation 3.71 .058
Female 67.7

Male 38.4
Inadequate/ 0.00 .990
Undesirable Female 38.4

Male 51.7
Achievement 2.29 .135
Female 47.8

Male 40.3
Moral 1.24 .269
Female 43.4

Erotic Male 32.01.39 .243
Erotic 1.39 .243
Dominance Female 30.1

Pleasurable Mae 36 11.30 .001
Stimulation Female 29.7

Male 17.8
Conformity & 13.37 .001
Acceptance Female 14.2

Male 28.0
Personal Love e 284.17 .045
& Affection Female 30.2

Male 17.1
Power .02 .885
Female 16.9

Male 7.8
Recognition- Mae 8.36 .005
Competition Female 6.3

Note: N = 37 males, 33 females

Table 14 presents the male and female means both for self-reports

and for perceptions of the opposite sex, and Table 15 presents the

results of MANOVA's used to test fbr significant differences between

the means. The first MANOVA compares males and females as they scored

themselves. The results are completely analogous to the male-female

Mean Scores for Self and
Perception of Opposite Sex Study

Inadequate/ Erotic
Affiliation Undesirable Achievement Moral Dominance

Males' views
Males' views 65.6 38.1 53.4 42.4 34.9
of selves

Maleemaviews 60.2 49.2 48.8 42.7 32.4
of females

Females' view
ofselves'v s 70.5 36.5 50.8 46.9 27.1

Females' view
o males v 52.8 48.5 61.0 36.8 39.4

Note: N = 30 males, 30 females

comparisons reported in the earlier analyses. (See Tables 12 and 13.)

All the differences found here are in the same direction as those re-

ported previously. The magnitude of these differences also tends to

parallel those reported above with the exception of the erotic dominance

factor where there is a larger difference. Again the only dimension

where the differences do not occur in the predicted direction is the

inadequate/undesirable dimension and, as before, the difference here

is the least of any dimension.

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A second MANOVA analyzes the differences between the males'

perceptions of females and the females' perceptions of males. Somewhat

more meaningful differences are noted here. In all cases except,

once again, for inadequate/undesirable, differences in perceptions

of the opposite sex are in the same direction as differences in self-

reports. The "view of opposite sex" differences are greater than the

self-report differences for three of the dimensions, however, and at

least in one case, achievement, the difference is substantially greater.

The next two MANOVA's compare self-reports to perceptions of the

opposite sex to ascertain how much difference people perceive between

the opposite sex and themselves. Some large differences appear. Males

score themselves significantly higher on affiliation and somewhat higher

on achievement and erotic dominance. They score females as substantially

higher on inadequate/undesirable. There is no difference on the moral

dimension. Females score themselves and typical males substantially

differently on all dimensions. They score themselves higher on

affiliation and moral, and they score males higher on inadequate/

undesirable, achievement, and erotic dominance.

The last two MANOVA's in Table 14 compare the scores males and

females gave themselves to the scores given them by the opposite sex.

Substantial differences occur on the affiliation and inadequate/undesirable

dimensions. Males perceive themselves as very much higher on affiliation

and much lower on inadequate/undesirable than females perceive them to

be. Females, likewise, perceive themselves as much higher on affiliation

and much lower on inadequate/undesirable than males perceive them to be.

Several other significant differences appear in this MANOVA although


the magnitude is not as great. Females perceive males higher on the

achievement and erotic dominance dimensions and lower on the moral

dimensions than the males perceive themselves. Males perceive females

higher on the erotic dominance dimension and somewhat lower on the moral

dimension than the females perceive themselves.

This study produced a great deal of supporting evidence for the

construct validity of the MOSE. Except for the inadequate/undesirable

dimension, male-female differences again occur in the predicted direc-

tion. Whereas differences in the self-reports may not be as great as

was expected, these predicted differences clearly occur in the students'

perceptions of the opposite sex. The results also support the sensiti-

vity of the instrument to experimental intervention. A summary of the

reliability and validity evidence follows.


The results of the analyses described above tend to support the

reliability and validity of the Meaning of Sexual Experience adjective

list. The validity of the five meaning dimensions is supported by

their frequent appearance in the theoretical literature and by the

conceptual cohesiveness of the adjectives within each dimension.

Statistically, the validity is supported by the factor analysis and by

the tendency of the sex differences in the factor scores to be very

consistent across different studies. For four out of the five factors,

the sex differences in the factor scores consistently occur in the

predicted direction. The validity is further supported by showing the

instrument to be sensitive to experimental manipulation. Students


completing the MOSE first as self-reports and then as their perception

of a typical member of the opposite sex changed their factor scores

significantly. The reliability of the instrument is supported by the

computation of Cronbach's coefficient alpha. These reliability coeffi-

cients easily meet the criterion level of .70 for four of the factors,

and fall just short of the criterion for the fifth. Other forms of

validity need to be assessed before the usefulness and meaningfulness

of this instrument is completely understood. The following chapter

reviews the empirical evidence described here and suggests future

directions in the continual process of evaluating the validity of the

MOSE adjective list.


This research was based on the premise that sexual experience

has different meanings to different people. The literature abounds

with essays theorizing about the nature of these meanings, how they

changed through historical eras, and how they are differentially salient

to males and females. These hypotheses appear to be accepted not only

by psychologists, but by the general populace. Witness the popularity
of literary works such as Erica Jong's Fear of Flying (Jong, 1973)

wherein the heroine attempts to fulfill her sexual fantasies by over-

coming the restrictive meaning that sexual experience has for her.

Then there is Norman Mailer's Prisoner of Sex (Mailer, 1971), a male's

graphic description of sexual experiences as war: ". . there was a

subterranean war of the will when a man and a woman made love.. ..."

(p. 151). The line of research begun here is important precisely because

attention is being focused on sexuality, perhaps to a greater extent

than ever before, and the meanings of sexual experience are changing

for males and females.

When the meaning of sexual experience for an individual can be

understood, the interpersonal transactions used to have or avoid the

experience and the motivations behind the individual's behaviors will

become clearer. Yet sexual experience is just one of numerous inter-

personal experiences that a human being encounters in a lifetime.


These other experiences may also have different meanings. The same

work experience may have an overarching meaning of competence or

achievement to one person and a meaning of submission to another. It

is possible that the meanings isolated in this research would be equally

applicable to other spheres of life and, if this is so, a person's

meaning of sexual experience may be only one outgrowth of an overall

personality trait. For example, a person who is largely motivated by

a need to achieve may experience every interpersonal encounter, sexual

or otherwise, in terms of achievement. If this is true then future

research may wish to focus more on the general interpersonal style

rather than focus specifically on the sexual experience. Until there

is evidence that meanings of one type of experience can be subsumed

under a more general category, however, it remains useful to focus on

the one specific type of experience.

What follows is a review of the empirical evidence for some

meanings of sexual experience as provided by this research. The initial

section discusses the dimensions that emerged from the principal com-

ponents analysis. This is followed by a discussion of the differential

descriptive power that these meanings have for males and females. The

sample characteristics are then reviewed to assess the generalizability

of the results. The final two sections present implications of this

research for counseling and clinical psychology, and suggestions for
future investigations into the meaning of sexual experience.

The Interpersonal Meanings of Sexual Experience

To gather data concerning people's behaviors and attitudes with

respect to sexual experiences is a relatively simple task. Of course,


due to the private nature of sexuality, complete confidentiality

must be assured but, once that issue is resolved, it is easy for

someone to delineate his or her behaviors due to their concrete and

observable nature, and almost as easy for them to delineate their atti-

tudes, which are less concrete but have usually been clarified in the

individual's own mind. It is not as easy for the individual to report

on the meanings of his or her sexual experience. Meanings are far

more abstract than attitudes or behaviors and more difficult to define

or delineate. The effort in this research has been to develop a con-

crete and relatively easy and nonthreatening task that would uncover

the subject's meaning of sexual experience. The approach chosen, scoring

adjectives on their descriptive accuracy, is a somewhat indirect method

for elucidating meanings but the results seem to indicate that meanings

can be derived in this manner.

Two disclaimers are necessary before the meanings that emerged in

this study are discussed. First, the meanings that emerged clearly

depended on the adjectives selected for use. It would seem unlikely

that all possible meanings have been exhausted by this list. Secondly,

no claim is being made that these meanings are stable or universal.

Meanings appear to be culture bound. The adoption of this methodology

for attempts at understanding meaning dimensions in other cultures

would be more useful than a rigid adherence to the dimensions supported


The five groups of adjectives that emerged from the MOSE adjective

list appear to represent five different meanings that sexual experience

may have for individuals. To simplify the discussion of these dimensions

each has been given a brief and hopefully descriptive label: affilia-

tion, inadequate/undesirable, achievement, moral, and erotic dominance.

Anyone using these labels is encouraged to refer often to the list

itself (Table 5) to retain a more complete understanding of the meaning

described by that list. It seems clear that one or two adjectives

cannot accurately describe ten.

The first dimension that emerged from the principal components

analysis has been labeled "affiliation."' It includes eleven adjectives:

caring, warm, kind, loving, sincere, gentle, fond, affectionate, inti-

mate, trusting, and mature. A person finding these adjectives descrip-

tive would appear to be receiving sexual experience as a very positive

interpersonal encounter. "Caring," "loving," and "affectionate"

describe an emotional tone, "gentle" and "kind" seem to describe the

physical interaction, while "intimate" and "trusting" imply a feeling

of safety and a level of respect for the other person. Sexual experi-

ence for this individual has a meaning of emotional and physical

responsiveness and involvement in the context of a trusting relationship.

One gets a clear picture of the type of sexual relationship described

by these adjectives and this picture, in addition to the statistical

cohesiveness of these words, supports a meaning dimension often

theorized in the literature.

The second dimension, labeled "inadequate/undesirable, includes

sixteen adjectives: distant, resentful, evasive, futile, flat, inhibited,

awkward, timid, frigid, inadequate, remote, disagreeable, infantile,

distrustful, inept, and undesirable. This meaning is almost diametrically

opposite to the first. Rather than the affiliation dimension's emotional

tone of "caring," "loving," and "affectionate," the tone here is

described as "distant," "resentful," "flat," and "disagreeable."

Physically, the experience is perceived as "futile," "inhibited,"

"awkward," "timid," "frigid," "inadequate," and "inept." Whereas the

affiliation factor includes "mature," this factor includes "infantile."

While the affiliation factor describes the experience as "trusting" and

"intimate," this factor describes it as "distrustful" and "remote."

A person using these adjectives to describe their meaning of sexual

experience is perceiving it very negatively. Such a person might have

great difficulty in developing close interpersonal relationships as

the sexual aspects of those relationships would more likely lead to

distance than intimacy.

The third dimension, labeled "achievement," includes eleven

adjectives: daring, imaginative, inventive, victorious, mighty, deter-

mined, outgoing, winning, assertive, successful, and capable. Concep-

tually, this is an extremely cohesive group of words. Taken out of

context they might be thought to describe a great athlete or highly

successful businessman. The person selecting these adjectives as highly

descriptive would appear to perceive sexual experiences as a game or a

competitive interpersonal encounter. Achievement is noted in adjectives

such as "successful" and "capable" but this dimension is more complex

than that. It includes a dominance facet suggested by "victorious,"

"mighty," and "winning." It also requires a creative and persevering

strategy described as "daring," "imaginative," "inventive," "determined,"

"outgoing," and "assertive." It would not be totally facetious to

describe this as the "football coach" meaning of sexual experience.

It is of note again how different this meaning is from the preceding

two. The first factor seemed to describe a closeness and a balance;

a perception of two people sharing an experience. The second factor

indicates a distance; a perception of two people losing closeness

through an experience. Thisithird factor does notlimply two people

moving together or apart but, rather, one person moving against another.

In essence, the first three factors could be viewed as analogous to

Karen Homey's three modes of interaction: moving towards others,

moving away from others, and moving against others.

The fourth dimension, labeled "moral includes nine adjectives:

proper, moral, pure, dignified, clean, correct, righteous, honorable,

and virtuous. This factor emerged early in the analysis of the first

form of the instrument and can be seen as being almost identical to

the second factor listed in Table 1. It was the most consistent and

persevering factor in the continual analysis of the adjective lists.

"Moral" was selected as the label for this factor because the adjectives

convey an image of a person with a very reserved, almost religious,

meaning of sexual experience. The element of play is not included in

this meaning and, in fact, neither is the element of affection. A

person with a strong commitment to participating in sexual experiences

only within the context of a marriage or long-term relationship might

score high on this factor.

The final factor, "erotic dominance," includes seven adjectives:

hot, forceful, titillating, erotic, aggressive, demanding, and ecstatic.

Since a principal components analysis extracts factors in diminishing

order of strength, this factor is statistically the weakest of the five.


Conceptually, this factor is also relatively weaker. Four of the

adjectives, "hot," "titillating,! "erotic," and "ecstatic" denote a

highly sensual and emotional meaning of sexual experience. The other

three, "forceful,' "demanding," and "aggressive,' were expected to load

on the achievement factor and yet their loadings on that factor are low

(.19, .11, and .28 respectively). Responding to the four sensual

adjectives alone, one gets a sense of sex as play or pleasure. But

the other three adjectives suggest that the pleasure is somewhat based

on dominance. What distinguishes this factor from the achievement

factor is the intense sensuality it includes. The dominance described

here is related to sensual pleasure whereas the dominance in the achieve-

ment factor is related to winning. Although one might hesitate to

interpret this factor with as much confidence as the others due to its

relative weakness, both conceptually and statistically, it is not clear

that it should be disregarded entirely. Future research may be able

to clarify this factor by adding more adjectives to the instrument,

possibly resulting in this factor splitting into two more cohesive~e


To this point the analysis has centered on an explication of the

adjectives within each factor. The images that have been drawn are

simplistic. A more complete understanding of a person's meaning of

sexual experience would result from an analysis of the profile of scores

on all five factors. For example, an individual scoring high on moral

and also scoring high on affiliation would have a very different meaning

of sexual experience compared to one who scores high on moral and high

on inadequate/undesirable. This is due to the non-emotional tone of


the moral factor being augmented by two factors of opposite emotional

tones. Similarly, a high score on erotic dominance would be inter-

preted differently if it were associated with a high affiliation score

than if it were associated with a high achievement score. Of course,

the complexity of interpretations multiplies as more factors are

included in the analysis.

It is concluded from this discussion that the instrument devised

for this research has successfully elicited several meanings of sexual

experience. Profiles of individuals' scores on the five dimensions can

yield clues as to their personal meanings. This leads to an examination

of average responses of males and females in an attempt to validate

theoretical differences.

Sex Differences in the Meanings of Sexual Experience

Male-female stereotypes would predict clear differences on the

dimensions of meaning being discussed. They would predict higher female

scores on the affiliation, inadequate/undesirable, and moral dimensions,

and higher male scores on the achievement and erotic dominance dimen-

sions. Three samples of college students have been compared in this

research. The factor analysis sample (Table 12) included 124 males and

202 females, the MOSE-SFM comparison sample (Table 13) included 37 males

and 33 females, and the self-perception versus perception by opposite

sex sample (Table 14) included 30 males and 30 females. Table 16 allows

for the comparison of mean differences in the three studies. Females

scored higher on affiliation and moral, males on inadequate/undesirable,

achievement, and erotic dominance. With the exception of inadequate/

Mean Differences Between Male and Female Factor Scores

Inadequate/ Erotic
Affiliation Undesirable Achievement Moral Dominance

Factor Analysis 3.8 0.3 2.9 2.0 2.3

MOSE-SFM 4.0 0.0 3.9 3.1 1.9

Perception of 4.9 1.6 2.6 4.5 7.8
Opposite Sex

Total/(Higher 4.0 0.4 2.8 2.3 2.8
scoring sex) (females) (males) (males) (females) (males)

undesirable these differences are in the predicted direction. The

differences on the inadequate/undesirable dimension were the smallest

and basically indicated no difference between the sexes. To some extent,

then, these results support theoretical differences. Not only are the

directions of the differences for the three samples completely consistent

within dimensions, but the magnitude of these differences is fairly

consistent as well.

To better understand the sex differences, a profile of scores on

all five factors should be examined. Since the factors include different

numbers of adjectives, it is not possible to compare scores across

factors unless they are standardized. This is accomplished by dividing

the scores by the number of adjectives in the factor. Table 17 shows

the results of this standardization. Affiliation is scored highest by

both sexes and inadequate/undesirable is scored lowest. The other

three factors seem to cluster somewhat although their ordering is

different for the two sexes. Overall, there appear to be as many

Standardized Mean Scores

Inadequate/ Erotic
Affiliation Undesirable Achievement Moral Dominance

Males 5.87 2.39 4.85 4.56 4.83

Females 6.24 2.37 4.60 4.81 4.43

Differences 0.37 0.02 0.25 0.25 0.40

Note: N = 191 males, 265 females

similarities as there are differences between the sexes in their factor

profiles. As these results were not submitted to a statistical analysis,

any inferences drawn from them would be highly tentative.

The most intriguing data in these studies are the perceptions of

the opposite sex. Table 18 includes the means for perception of the

opposite sex from Table 14 rewritten in standardized form. The differ-

ences between Table 17 and Table 18 are remarkable although, again,

inferences described here are speculative. Females appear to perceive

the male profile as placing the greatest importance on the erotic

dominance and achievement meanings, less importance on affiliation,

followed by moral and inadequate/undesirable. They score the males

higher than five and one-half on a seven-point scale on both erotic

dominance and achievement. Males appear to perceive affiliation as the

most important Imeaning to females, and score it at about the same level

as females score erotic dominance and achievement for males. The order

for the remaining dimensions is moral, erotic dominance, achievement,

Perception of the Opposite Sex

Inadequate/ Erotic
Affiliation Undesirable Achievement Moral Dominance

Males' View
MoFemales' 5.47 3.08 4.44 4.74 4.63
of Females

Females' View 4.80 3.03 5.55 4.09 5.63
of Males

Differences 0.67 0.05 1.11 0.65 1.00

Note: N = 30 males, 30 females

and inadequate/undesirable. The differences between the perceptions of

opposite sex scores (Table 18) seem to be far greater than differences

in the self-report scores (Table 17).

There is apparently a great difference between students' perceptions

of self and the opposite sexes' perceptions of them as evidenced by

Tables 14 and 15. Males and females each perceive themselves as being

higher on affiliation and each perceive the opposite sex as being higher

on inadequate/undesirable. They both perceive the males as being higher

on achievement and erotic dominance, and thecfemales as being higher on

moral. In terms of the agreement between self-report and perception of

the opposite sex, males score females similarly to females' self-reports

on the achievement, moral, and erotic dominance dimensions but strongly

disagree with females' self-reports on affiliation where they perceive

the opposite direction and on inadequate/undesirable where their per-

ception of the difference (11.1 points) is far in excess of the difference

between male and female self-reports (1.6). Females perceive far greater


differences on all dimensions than the self-report comparisons exhibit

although their perceived differences are in the same direction as the

differences between self-reports. Interestingly, the two dimensions

where the perceived differences do not concur with theoretical predictions

both show the "selves" looking emotionally healthier than the theories

would predict. That is to say, males see- themselves as more affiliative

than females despite the opposite stereotype and also in contrast to

the differences in self-reports. Females see themselves as much lower

on inadequate/undesirable relative to males than they actually are

despite the opposite stereotype. It would probably be considered

"healthier" to be high on affiliation and low on inadequate/undesirable.

It is important to note that these results may have been affected by

the fact that the subjects were comparing a real person, themselves,

to a composite person, the average or typical member of the opposite sex.

To draw the results of the perception of opposite sex study

together it is easiest to examine each dimension separately. On

affiliation, females score somewhat higher than males (4.9 points) but

not nearly as much higher as they believe (17.7 points). Their percep-

tion of male scores (52.8 points) is far lower than the males' self-

reports are (65.6 points). Males perceive themselves as higher on this

dimension, scoring females lower than the females score themselves

(60.2 versus 70.5). Although they both perceive the other as lower on

this dimension than the "others" perceive themselves, the amount of

underestimation is relatively equal for both sexes so that the difference

between perceived scores (7.4) is actually quite close to the actual

difference (4.9).


The second dimension, inadequate/undesirable, is interesting in

that the perceived differences are so great compared to the insigni-

ficant difference in self-reports. This is the factor on which males

and females scored almost identically not only in this study but in

all three studies (see Tables 12 and 13). Yet both males and females

score the other sex substantially higher (11 or 12 points) than they

score themselves. It may not be surprising to find the males responding

in this fashion as the stereotype would support them scoring females

higher than themselves. However, females scoring males higher than

themselves on a dimension that includes adjectives such as inadequate,

resentful, inhibited, disagreeable, frigid, and inept, lends support to

the notion thatssexual meanings are changing and casts doubt on theories

that sex has a far more negative meaning for females than for males.

On the achievement dimension the males' self-report score (53.4)

is slightly higher than that of the females (50.8). Males score females

quite similarly to the females' self-reports and so perceive a difference

between themselves and females similar to the difference between self-

reports. Females, however, perceive males as being much higher on

achievement than males perceive themselves to be (61.0 versus 53.4).

They score males substantially higher on achievement than they score

themselves (10.2 points), whereas males score females fairly close to

themselves (4.6 points). Both sexes support the stereotype that males

score higher than females on this dimension, but females judge the

difference as much greater than it appears from the self-reports (10.2

versus 2.6).


For the moral factor, the difference between self-reports (4.5

points) approaches significance in the predicted direction of higher

female scores. Males score females as about equal to themselves while

females score males substantially lower than themselves. Females'

perceptions are more in line with stereotypes than are male perceptions

and, in this case, the difference between self-reports of males and

females is greater than the males' perception of the difference but not

as great as the females' perception. The males' and females' perceptions

of the opposite sex both disagree (almost equally) with the opposite

sex' self-report. Both score the opposite sex lower than the opposite

sex scores itself."

The final dimension is erotic dominance. The hypothesized difference

was supported with males' self-reports significantly higher than females'

self-reports. Males and females both scored the opposite sex about

five points above the opposite sex' self-report. In so doing, males

perceived a smaller difference than the self-reports showed by perceiving

females' scores as closer to their own, while females perceived a greater

difference than the self-reports showed.

The examination of the differences in scores from Tables 14 and 15

and the difference in profiles from Table 17 and 18 leads to the most

intriguing question to arise from this research. Who is right? In an

interpersonal domain such as this, are self-perceptions or other's

perceptions more accurate? It is unlikely that either "self" or "others"

can be particularly objective. The current data cannot resolve this

issue, but clearly it has shown some significant and interesting


Generalizability of the Results

The hundreds of students sampled in th4s research were all

required to participate in experiments as part of their General Psychol-

ogy: course. Self-selection is an issue in that the students were free
to choose from many different experiments. Although the announcement

for this research stated that students would be scoring adjectives (as

opposed to responding to questions about their sexual experiences),

some students may have declined to participate due to the nature of

the topic under study. To whatever extent :this occurred, the sample

is biased, but the nature of this bias is unclear. The limitation that

is placed on all the preceding analyses results from the age and ethnic

group distribution as shown in Tables 3 and 4. Approximately 89 percent

of the males and 94 percent of the females were white. Also, approxi-

mately 84 percent of the males and 93 percent of the females were between

the ages of 18 and 21. All the interpretations that have been made and

all the conclusions drawn from the data can be said to apply to a white,

college-aged population. Whether they are applicable to other popula-

tions as well can be empirically determined in future research.

A second issue of generalizability arises from the issue of pre-

dictive and concurrent validity of the MOSE adjective list. Can a

MOSE profile be generalized to describe how an individual interacts

or will interact with a sex partner? Can the profile describe the types

of intimate relationships the individual will prefer or their style in

establishing these relationships. If a MOSE profile can provide some

information pertaining to these issues it will be far more useful than


if it has no applicability to a person's life. It is hoped that future

research will support the MOSE's ability to contribute to the under-

standing of a person's style of interaction.

Counseling and Clinical Applications

It was stated earlier that a method for gaining information about

the meaning of sexual experience for an individual would be a valuable

addition to our knowledge of sexual attitudes and behaviors. As meanings

are more abstract and internal than are attitudes or behaviors, they are

less visible to observers. An apparent result of this lack of visibility

has been significantly different perceptions of the opposite sex than

the opposite sex has of itself. It appears that, on a broad scale,

males and females have not accurately communicated to each other their

own personal meanings of sexual experience or their perceptions of their

partner's meanings. If further research supports the differences

between self-perceived and other-perceived meanings for males and females,

it will be important for Counseling Psychologists to work toward in-

creased communication and understanding.

The MOSE adjective list may prove to have several clinical applica-

tions. Psychological sexual dysfunctions may be better understood by

ascertaining the meaning of the sexual experience to the individual and

this may lead to more effective treatment. Kaufman and Krupka (1973)

found that in certain cases of sexual dysfunction, early deprivation

of affectional needs has led to the sexualization of the need for intimacy.

In other cases they noted issues such as guilt feelings, power struggles,

hostility, and perceived expectations of competency to be underlying


the dysfunction. As some of these issues relate closely to the meaning

dimensions discussed in this study, the MOSE might be useful in yielding

such information. Couples in marital therapy might reveal conflicting

MOSE profiles as to their meanings of sexual experience. Having them

complete the MOSE as they believe their spouse would might be an alter-

nate strategy for uncovering conflicts or miscommunications.

Another population for which the MOSE could prove useful is sex

offenders. Perhaps a typical rapist's or exhibitionist's profile might

be discovered. At the very least, gaining some insight as to the

individual's meaning of sexual experiences would be helpful in under-

standing his or her actions and might facilitate treatment.

It may be presumptuous to confer so much applicability on a new

instrument. Clearly research with the above populations needs to be

conducted first. Still, it would seem that the possibilities for

counseling and clinical applications of the MOSE are numerous.

Directions for Future Research

The studies presented here are a beginning. They represent the

first steps in the development of a methodology to empirically analyze

an issue that has only been theoretically analyzed before. Several

areas of research that were begun here are as yet incomplete and several

other areas are ripe for exploration. It might be useful, for example,

to devise an instrument using bipolar rather than unipolar dimensions.

The subject could be asked to respond to an adjective pair such as

hot-cold on a scale of 1 (hot) to 7 (cold). Bipolar adjective pairs

have both advantages and disadvantages compared to unipolar scales and

they might yield different information about the meanings of sexual

experience. In addition, to further examine male-female differences,

sufficient data should be collected to allow for separate factor

analyses for each sex to determine whether they tend to define sexual

experience along the same meaning dimensions.

Another research direction to be taken is a series of validity

studies to further confirm what has been reported above. The convergent

validity study previously discussed was unsuccessful in correlating

results of the MOSE with Nelson's (1978) Sexual Functions Measure.

The lack of significant correlations may have been due to the four-

point scale of the SFM reducing the possible range of scores. It may

also be true that the two sets of factors are simply not measuring the

same constructs. In any case it is left for future research to confirm

the convergent validity of the MOSE. In addition, other studies should

evaluate what the MOSE is not measuring in a continual process of pro-

viding evidence for the discriminant validity of the instrument.

Predictive and concurrent validity have been mentioned as other

research areas left open by the current studies. These would support

the usefulness of the MOSE as a clinical as well as a research instrument.

At some point research should begin to compare data from behavior,

attitude, and meaning scales to be able to incorporate all three

dimensions into a more complete understanding of human sexuality. It

would also be important to assess social desirability ratings to deter-

mine whether the adjectives on the one highly negativistic dimension,

inadequate/undesirable, are being responded to less candidly. It is

conceivable that these adjectives correlate with one another partially


because they are all negative. This would be a critical element in

understanding the clear delineation between the factors.

Several research studies are already being implemented. The

first major study is designed to assess the utility of a new set of

directions. This latest version of the MOSE (see Appendix D) attempts

to clarify and shorten the directions and also changes the scoring

categories. The adjectives on the older version were scored on a

frequency scale from "almost never" to "almost always" (see Appendix A).

It is believed that the ability of an adjective to describe a person's

meaning of sexual experience is directly related to the frequency with

which that adjective is descriptive. The new MOSE attempts to avoid

this inferential leap by supplying end point labels of "not descriptive"

and "highly descriptive." The data collected on the new-MOSE will be

factor analyzed and compared to the original data to determine whether

the new directions significantly alter the factors that have been

described here.

Other researchers may wish to look for factors other than those

reported in this study. The factors of affiliation, inadequate/

undesirable, achievement, moral, and erotic dominance are not presented

as the only meanings of sexual experience. Other adjectives may be

combined with those currently on the MOSE in attempts to elicit support

for other meanings or finer gradations of the meanings that emerged


Much of the research described above is intended to further clarify

and validate the MOSE adjective list. Another suggestion for future

research is the comparison of different populations as to their profiles


on the MOSE. Males and females are the groups compared here. The

suggestion has been raised previously that groups of sex offenders be

studied. Their profiles could be compared both between different

offender categories, and between offenders and non-offenders. Hetero-

sexuals and homosexuals could also be compared. Age groups could be

compared either to assess cohort differences or to begin to formulate

a developmental model of meanings of sexual experience.

Whenever the results of these studies have been presented, sugges-

tions have arisen for new studies or new groups to compare. There

appear to be numerous research possibilities for this instrument. The

results of the studies described above are intriguing to say/the least.

It is hoped that the results of future research will prove equally

meaningful and that the MOSE adjective list will make a worthwhile

contribution to the understanding of human sexuality.


Part I. Please answer the following questions.

1. AGE




Part II. On the following pages you will find a list of 84 adjectives.

We would like you to use these adjectives to describe the

personal meaning that sexual experience has for you. That is,

we would like you to indicate, on a scale from 1 to 7, how

descriptive these adjectives are of the unique meaning of

your sexual experiences. Please respond according to the

enduring and consistent meanings that you ascribe to sexual

experience rather than your immediate feelings about sexual

experience. The meaning you ascribe to sexual experience may

be derived from the range of your actual sexual experiences or

from your thoughts, fantasies, or readings about sexual

experience. Read these adjectives quickly and PLEASE DO NOT






Adjective list:

1. hot

2. contented

3. mighty

4. ambitious

5. appropriate

6. inhibited

7. aloof

8. inadequate

9. affectionate

10. lush

11. fond

12. aggressive

13. industrious

14. honorable

15. controlled

16. distant

17. imperfect

18. excitable

19. rapturous

20. unselfish

21. dominant

22. masterful

23. moral

24. frigid

.25. distrustful

26. awkward

27. unkind

28. uninhibited

29. attached

30. forceful

31. victorious

32. virtuous

33. cool

34. yielding

35. futile

36. ugly

37. titillating

38. sincere

39. accomplishing

40. clean

41. fussy

42. muted

43. obliging

44. inept

45. erotic

46. sociable

47. capable

48. dignified

49. infantile

50. flat

51. passive

52. devilish

53. ecstatic

54. strong .

55. persevering

56. correct

57. robust

58. wary

59. feminine

60. naughty

61. zany

62. demanding

63. successful

64. proper

65. complex

66. remote

67. dependent



















1. inept

2. honorable

3. masterful

4. titillating

5. demanding

6. muted

7. submissive

8. unselfish

9. dignified

10. remote

11. erotic'

12. aggressive

13. frigid

14. victorious

15. futile

16. proper

17. hot

18. forceful

19. righteous

20. offensive

21. dominant

22. moral

23. clean

24. infantile

25. timid

26. affectionate

27. capable

28. uninhibited

29. distrustful

30. appropriate

31. flat

32. potent

33. ecstatic

34. winning

35. distant

36. virtuous

37. inhibited

38. awkward

39. pure

40. outgoing

41. inadequate

42. correct

43. mighty

44. sincere

45. evasive

46. amorous

47. successful

48. fond

49. caring

50. exciting

51. gentle

52. discrete

53. disagreeable

54. assertive

55. intimate

56. mature

57. daring

58. loving

59. imaginative

60. kind

61. undesirable

62. sensual

63. sacred

64. tactful

65. resentful

66. inventive


67. trusting

68. determined

69. serious

70. warm


Directions: People have sexual relations (kissing, petting, oral

sex, intercourse, etc.) with others for many reasons. The following

list includes some of the reasons others have given for their sexual

behavior. Some of you will find that nearly all these reasons are

important in your own sexual behavior, and some of you will find only

a few important. We would like to know all the reasons that are

involved in your own sexual behavior, and how important each of these

reasons is to you. After considering each of the reasons listed below

carefully, indicate on the answer sheet how important that reason is

in your own sexual behavior.






1. Because

2. Because

3. Because

4. Because

5. Because

6. Because

7. Because

it gives me such a high feeling.

I want to be as good or better at it than other people.

I like the feeling that I have someone in my grasp.

I enjoy the feeling of being overwhelmed by my partner.

I want to fit in and be a part of what's happening.

it's the way I show that I really care about someone.

it's a good way to overcome boredom.


Because I really enjoy indulging my appetite.

Because it's a way of proving yourself.

Because like many people I enjoy the conquest.

Because sex allows me to feel vulnerable.

Because otherwise I would begin to feel like an outsider.

Because it makes me feel like someone cares about me.

Because it adds novelty to my life.

Because I am really a physical person.

Because a lot of men/women keep telling me how good I am in bed.

Because it makes me feel masterful.

Because after an argument it's a good way to let my partner know

that I don't want to fight anymore.

Because the expectations of one's partner and peers are hard to resist.

Because it makes me feel as one with another person.

Because I'm always seeking something different.

Because of rather demanding physical needs.

Because it adds to my feelings of competence.

Because I like the feeling of having another person submit to me.

Because I enjoy the feeling of giving in to my partner.

Because there's so much pressure to be sexually active nowadays.

Because sex and love are as one to me.

Because there is nothing better to do.

Because I am a pleasure seeker.

Because I'd like to be known as a good lover.

Because I like teaching less experienced people how to get off.

Because it makes my partner want to look after me and take care of me.

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