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Mechanisms that underlie cultural disparities in women's sexual desire : the role of sex guilt and its treatment Woo, Jane Siu Tim


Research that has examined cultural influences on sexual functioning in women of East Asian (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) and European descent has consistently found significant differences between these two ethnic groups, such that those of European descent report higher sexual functioning than their East Asian counterparts. More recent research that has examined the effects of acculturation within East Asian samples has also found that higher mainstream acculturation is associated with higher sexual desire and arousal. Despite research showing significant cultural effects on sexual function, there has been a dearth of research on the mechanisms that underlie these cultural effects. Most studies have explained cultural effects on sexual functioning by referring to culture-linked differences in sexual conservatism. Studies 1 and 2 of the present dissertation are the first to examine the proposition that sexual conservatism mediates the relationship between culture and sexual desire, and to explore the role of sex guilt in Euro-Canadian and East Asian women. Study 1 found that sexual conservatism mediates the relationship between ethnicity and sexual desire in women in a university convenience sample. Sexual conservatism did not mediate the relationship between acculturation and sexual desire among the East Asians. In contrast, sex guilt mediated both the relationship between ethnicity and sexual desire, and the relationship between mainstream acculturation and sexual desire within the East Asians, suggesting that sex guilt has more utility than sexual conservatism in expanding the understanding of how culture affects sexual desire. Study 2, which used a community sample, replicated the key results of Study 1. Together, the findings of Studies 1 and 2 suggested that addressing sex guilt in psychological interventions for low sexual desire may augment the effectiveness of these interventions. Study 3 is the first known study to examine the effectiveness of a brief cognitive behavioural intervention in reducing sex guilt and increasing sexual desire. The intervention was effective in reducing sex guilt, but there was no effect on sexual desire. The clinical and research implications of this research for furthering the understanding of factors that underlie cultural differences in sexuality are discussed.

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