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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Dating practices : the influence of context and the gendered nature of heterosexual relationships on women's sexual well-being Masaro, Cindy Louise


Limited attention has been paid to adult women’s sexual well-being despite their steadily rising rates of sexually-transmitted infections (STI) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Two understudied areas that may affect women's sexual well-being are the changing context of dating and the gendered nature of heterosexual relationships. Internet technologies have become popular, yet little is known about how these technologies influence women's sexual risk. Additionally, few studies have addressed how conformity to gendered norms related to sexual activity and the expression of pleasure (i.e., orgasm during sex) influence women's sexual risk and well-being. Analyses were undertaken of data collected from an online survey of 1,266 adult women living in the United States. Two models of sexual risk were hypothesized with associations between: (a) the modality and time spent communicating, the motivations and the pressure for sexual activity, and sexual risk and (b) sexual self-disclosure and communication about sexual risk. Multinomial logistic regression was used for the analyses. A third model examined women's sexual well-being in terms of faking orgasm. Binary logistic regression was used to examine predictors of faking orgasm including the importance of, and pressure to achieve orgasm, and the frequency of, and satisfaction with, orgasm. Neither the modality nor time spent communicating was associated with sexual risk, however, the expectation to communicate trust and adherence to sexual scripts were associated. Discussion about past sexual behaviour (e.g., sexual positions, experiences) increased risk; yet, communication about STIs and HIV did not. The majority of women reported that they had faked orgasm during penile-vaginal intercourse. Perceived pressure to achieve an orgasm during this activity predicted the faking of orgasm. The findings of this study indicate that women's sexual risk does not appear to be influenced by how they meet partners or by the modality and time spent communicating. Communication about STIs and HIV, does appear to decrease sexual risk. The gendered nature of heterosexual relationships is of particular importance for women's sexual well-being. Given the results of this study, women conforming to gendered expectations about sex are less likely to express what they find sexually pleasing.

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