Researchers recently investigated whether two distinct types of sexual knowledge predict sexual well-being in emerging adults. Their findings, published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapyindicate that knowing what one finds personally pleasurable tends to have a greater impact than general knowledge about sexuality.
Many previous studies have looked at predictors of sexual satisfaction. However, the authors of the new research argued that focusing solely on sexual satisfaction ignores several other important aspects of a person’s sex life.
“Sexual well-being is an important part of people’s lives. In much of the literature, sexual well-being is equated with sexual satisfaction. And absolutely – it matters! But we suspected that sexual well-being isn’t just about being satisfied, it’s multidimensional,” explained study authors Caitlin Shaw and C. Veronica Smith, graduate student and associate professor at the University of Mississippi, respectively.
“We wanted to use a definition of sexual wellbeing that could tap into this multidimensionality. We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel and so relied on the work of the World Health Organization which had already provided a solid definition that goes beyond sexual satisfaction. In short, we became interested in this subject because we saw in it an opportunity to shed additional light on research on sexuality.
For their study, the researchers interviewed a sample of 484 undergraduate students (aged 18 to 23). About 58% of students said they were involved in a relationship, while 58.8% said they had attended a sex education class.
To evaluate general sexual health knowledge, participants completed a 56-item questionnaire on reproduction, contraception, condoms, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS. To evaluate personal sexual knowledge, participants indicated the extent to which they agreed with the statements “I know what types of behaviors lead me to orgasm”, “I know the types of touching that turn me on sexually”, “I know what turns me on “sexually” and “I can identify the things that satisfy me sexually”. Finally, participants also completed measures of sexual satisfaction, sexual assertiveness, and sexual competence.
The researchers found that sexual satisfaction, sexual assertiveness, and sexual competence were all positively related to each other, with moderately strong effect sizes. In other words, those with high levels of sexual satisfaction tend to also have high levels of sexual assertiveness and sexual competence, while those with low levels of sexual assertiveness tend to have also low levels of sexual satisfaction and sexual competence, and so on.
The results indicate that “sexual well-being is not just about being satisfied. It involves being sexually competent and sexually empowered,” Shaw and Smith explained.
Participants had an average of 58.98% correct answers to the general sexual health knowledge questionnaire, with scores ranging from 11 to 49. But no relationship was found between general sexual health knowledge and sexual knowledge. personal. Additionally, personal sexual knowledge appeared to be a stronger predictor of sexual well-being than general sexual health knowledge.
“Sexual knowledge isn’t limited to what you might have learned in a ‘sex ed’ class — sexual anatomy, STIs, pregnancy prevention, condom use,” Shaw and Smith told PsyPost. “That knowledge is, of course, good to have, but it’s important to have knowledge about your own sexuality – what you like, what you don’t like.”
“While health literacy is important, learning about individual sexual preferences has benefits that go beyond health literacy when it comes to sexual well-being. Moreover, this relationship – between knowledge and well-being – exists for both men and women, but is particularly important for women.
The researchers said future research should examine specific sexual behaviors and seek to replicate findings with more varied methodologies, such as longitudinal designs.
“This research is a good start to understanding the relationship between sexual knowledge and sexual well-being, but we looked at sexuality more broadly and did not distinguish between partnered or solo sexual behaviors” , Shaw and Smith said.
“Additionally, our sample comprised mostly white and heterosexual emerging adults, so more work needs to be done using more diverse samples. We understand that sexual wellness is a broad concept and we encourage other researchers to continue to study this topic using the World Health Organization conceptualization as a guide.
“This is a good example of collaborative research – the research team was a collaboration of professors and graduate students in social psychology and clinical psychology,” the researchers added.
The study, “The More You Know: Sexual Knowledge as a Predictor of Sexual Well-Being,” was authored by Tanja Seifen, Caitlin M. Shaw, C. Veronica Smith, and Laura R. Johnson.