Public Release: 

When women feel their partner demands perfection, sex life suffers

University of Kent

Women who perceive that their sexual partner is imposing perfectionist standards on them may suffer sexual dysfunction as a result, psychologists at the University of Kent have found.

In the first in-depth study of how different types of sexual perfectionism affect women over a period of time, researchers also found that 'partner-prescribed' sexual perfectionism contributed to negative self-image.

Perfectionism is defined as a 'striving for flawlessness and the setting of exceedingly high standards for performance, accompanied by tendencies for overly critical self-evaluations and concerns about negative evaluations by others'. It is a common personality characteristic that may affect all domains of life. However, the longer term consequences of how it affects people's sex life had previously not been explored.

The research, led by Professor Joachim Stoeber at the University's School of Psychology, considered the response of 366 women who completed two surveys in the period December 2013 to February 2014. These women, comprising 230 students and 136 internet users, had mean ages of 19.7 and 30 years respectively. Those recruited to the study were told that the online survey was investigating whether 'personal and interpersonal expectations and beliefs affect one's sexuality and sexual function'.

Researchers differentiated between four forms of sexual perfectionism: self-oriented, partner-oriented, partner-prescribed and socially prescribed. They found that partner-prescribed sexual perfectionism contributed to woman's negative sexual self-concept and female sexual dysfunction. In particular, partner-prescribed sexual perfectionism predicted decreases in female sexual function regarding arousal.

They further found that partner-prescribed sexual perfectionism predicted decreases in sexual esteem and increases in sexual anxiety, suggesting that it is a psychological factor that may contribute to sexual self-concept problems in woman. The study is therefore likely to be of interest to clinicians, therapists and counsellors working to help woman in this area.

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The study, entitled Multidimensional Sexual Perfectionism and Female Sexual function: A Longitudinal Investigation, is published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior. Its authors are Professor Joachim Stoeber and Laura Harvey MSc. See: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-016-0721-7

For further information or interview requests contact Martin Herrema at the University of Kent Press Office.
Tel: 01227 823581/01634 888879
Email: M.J.Herrema@kent.ac.uk
News releases can also be found at http://www.kent.ac.uk/news
University of Kent on Twitter: http://twitter.com/UniKent

Note to editors

Established in 1965, the University of Kent - the UK's European university - now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome.

It has been ranked: third for overall student satisfaction in the 2014 National Student Survey; 16th in the Guardian University Guide 2016; 23rd in the Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2016; and 22nd in the Complete University Guide 2015.

In the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2015-16, Kent is in the top 10% of the world's leading universities for international outlook and 66th in its table of the most international universities in the world. The THE also ranked the University as 20th in its 'Table of Tables' 2016.

Kent is ranked 17th in the UK for research intensity (REF 2014). It has world-leading research in all subjects and 97% of its research is deemed by the REF to be of international quality.

Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, Kent is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium (http://www.kent.ac.uk/about/partnerships/eastern-arc.html).

The University is worth £0.7 billion to the economy of the south east and supports more than 7,800 jobs in the region. Student off-campus spend contributes £293.3m and 2,532 full-time-equivalent jobs to those totals.

In 2014, Kent received its second Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.

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