ABSTRACT: Despite the fact that some individuals appraise their sexual cognitions negatively and/or experience negative affect in association with their sexual fantasies, sexuality researchers have not differentiated between positively and negatively experienced sexual cognitions. As part of a larger study, we investigated the frequency, diversity, and content of positive and negative sexual cognitions. Two-hundred and ninety-two (148 women and 144 men) heterosexual undergraduate students completed a sexual cognition checklist requiring them to report the frequency with which they experienced each of 56 sexual cognitions as positive and as negative. Results revealed that overall, respondents reported more frequent and more diverse positive sexual cognitions than negative sexual cognitions. However, men reported both more frequent and more diverse positive and negative sexual cognitions than did women. Although there was a significant relationship between the contents of positive and negative sexual cognitions, the most commonly reported positive sexual cognitions differed from the most commonly reported negative sexual cognitions. Men and women also differed in the frequencies with which they reported specific positive and negative sexual cognitions. These results are discussed within the context of the utility of differentiating between positive and negative sexual cognitions.
Key words: Sexual fantasy Sexual cognitions Positive sexual thoughts Negative sexual thoughts
Sexuality researchers have long been interested in sexual cognitions. In particular, sexual fantasy has received a considerable amount of research attention. Although research results have increased our understanding of sexual fantasy, much of the research in the area has suffered from methodological problems. Most notably, sex researchers have tended to subsume different types of sexual cognitions under the term "sexual fantasy". For example, although research has shown that the majority of individuals experience unwanted and intrusive sexual cognitions (e.g., Byers, Purdon, & Clark, 1998), sex researchers have not differentiated between sexual cognitions that are deliberately engaged in and sexual cognitions that are unwanted and intrusive. In addition, despite the fact that research has shown that many individuals experience negative affect in response to their sexual fantasies (e.g., Gil, 1990), sexuality researchers have not distinguished between sexual cognitions that are perceived as positive by respondents and those that are perceived as negative. However, such distinctions are crucial to our understanding of sexual cognitions in general, and sexual fantasy in particular. Therefore, the purpose of the current study was to compare sexual cognitions that are perceived as positive by individuals and sexual cognitions that are perceived as negative.
METHODOLOGICAL LIMITATIONS OF SEXUAL FANTASY RESEARCH
Sexual fantasy is not easily defined (Leitenberg & Henning, 1995). As a result, investigators often neglect to provide conceptual and operational definitions of sexual fantasy in their articles and in their research (e.g., Alfonso, Allison, & Dunn, 1992; Hsu et al., 1994). When conceptual definitions of sexual fantasy are given, they tend to be quite variable. For example, Plaud and Bigwood (1997) conceptualized sexual fantasy as "a private or covert experience in which the imagination of desirable sexual activity with a partner is sexually arousing to the individual" (p. 222). In contrast, in a...
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