Sexual Impairments and Subjective Sexual Well-Being

Psychologists have long assumed that sexual impairments (problems with desire, arousal, orgasm, and sexual pain) are strongly tied to negative outcomes, but recent research suggests that these difficulties are weakly related to levels of sexual satisfaction and distress. Given the importance of subjective well-being in the diagnosis of sexual dysfunction, it is important to explore the relationship between sexual impairments and an individual’s satisfaction with his/her sex life. We (Stephenson & Meston) performed a series of studies assessing factors that moderate this association including emotional intimacy, attachment style, age, and history of childhood sexual abuse.

By improving our understanding of the link between sexual problems and more general distress, we hope to not only identify potential mechanisms of current treatments for sexual dysfunction, but also increase the specificity with which these treatments can target factors that most important to the individual.

Recommended papers:

Stephenson, KR, & Meston, CM (2015). Why is impaired sexual function distressing to women? The primacy of pleasure in female sexual dysfunction. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 12(3): 728–737. PDF (196 KB)

Stephenson, K. R., Rellini, A. H., & Meston, C. M. (2013). Relationship satisfaction as a predictor of treatment response during cognitive behavioral sex therapy. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 42(1), 143-152. (PDF 258 KB) 

Stephenson, K. R., Hughan, C. P., & Meston, C. M. (2012). Childhood sexual abuse moderates the association between sexual functioning and sexual distress in women. Child Abuse & Neglect, 36(2), 180-189.(PDF 478 KB)

Stephenson, K. R., & Meston, C. M. (2012). The young and the restless? Age as a moderator of the association between sexual desire and sexual distress in women. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 38(5), 445-457. (PDF 181 KB) 

Stephenson, K. R., & Meston, C. M. (2010). When are sexual difficulties distressing for women? The selective protective value of intimate relationships. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 7(11), 3683-3694. (PDF 329 KB)