Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, Volume 5, Jan. 15, 2002



Lilka Woodward Areton

Chapter 8


A questionnaire-based survey design was employed to develop data which would assess the relationship between sexual satisfaction and other variable factors among obese women in long-term relationships, which is the hypothesis of this dissertation. This chapter describes the participant recruitment process, the instrumentation, and the procedures employed to obtain the data.

Participants and Sample Development

A sample of volunteers was developed by a variety of methods. Announcements of the study were placed on the World Wide Web, in magazine articles, and on bulletin boards. A modified "snowball" approach was initiated in which volunteers agreed to recruit additional participants. (For breakdown of sources, see Appendix C.)

Inclusion criteria included: experience in a prior or current sexual relationship of at least 6 months, a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or greater and female.

Exclusion criteria included: obvious psychopathology.


The principal survey instrument was the Factors in the Satisfactory Sexual Relationship Survey (FASSRS), a self-report instrument designed by the author for utilization in the present research (contact the author for a copy). Items were selected from a variety of previously developed questionnaires and augmented by items developed by the author. Eight broad categories of sexuality in relationships were operationalized by items in a variety of formats (e.g., Likert scales, true/false, fill-ins). The categories taken from the various sections of the questionnaire included: demographics, body image, sexual satisfaction, sexual self-confidence, communication and assertiveness, participant sexual enjoyment, partner's sexual enjoyment, perceived partner's attitudes on weight, participants weight negativity. (For the exact questions used in forming the tables and scales, see Appendix F.) Only one member of the couple was questioned so that the study does not reflect the actual opinions of the partner, only the perceived opinions by the FASSRS participant.

The demographic section included items relating to age, weight, height, BMI, length of relationship, marital status, occupation, income, religion of parents, present religion, religious activity, diet history, abuse history, and therapy experience.


Survey questionnaire packets were distributed by hand, were mailed to participants or were sent via the Internet. Participants completed the form online and e-mailed the completed document to the researcher or returned the completed instrument to the author using an enclosed envelope. Each questionnaire contained a cover letter explaining the purpose of the study and the participants' role in it, a consent form, and when appropriate, a stamped self-addressed return envelope. A number of responses were obtained through an article written by the author for oooO baby Baby fashion magazine for large women (Appendix E). Respondents were invited to become participants in this research after reading the article.


The dependent variable of interest in this study was the sexual satisfaction of the female participant as measured by a number of questions, and the direct queries that asked her, on a scale of 1-5 with 1 the lowest and 5 the highest, how satisfied she was with her sexual relationship. The independent variables that were indicated in previous studies were used in the analyses that followed. The mean in these cases is simply the percentage of the sample for which the variable in question was present.

The independent variables are the demographics, the number of diets, the long term success of the diets, body image, sexual attitudes, self-confidence, sexual communication, enjoyment of sex from the point of view of the participant and the partner and the partner's attitudes on weight. (For a complete list, see the scales in Appendix F.)


The primary threat to the internal validity of the survey arises from the possible presence of social desirability concerns influencing the respondents' answers. Without an independent assessment of this threat its effects are unknown.

Another threat concerns instrumentation. The survey questionnaire is an original instrument that was developed for the purpose of the study. No previously published instruments were employed. The reliability of the overall instrument and its sub-scales is unknown. The instrument may be presumed to have construct validity as each of the items was selected to be relevant to sexual relationships and the collection of items was adjudged satisfactory by three experts in sexology.

Another threat to external validity arises from the non-random, self-selected nature of the sample. Since most of the respondents came from the Internet, we can assume a higher level of education among them with knowledge of the resources and technology that are associated with Internet use. The respondents were associated with the fat-acceptance movement, through the Internet, the oooO baby Baby magazine, and through the lists associated with Radiance magazine, to which I was referred. A related limitation stems from the BMI inclusion criteria; females with BMI values which did not meet the criteria were not included in the study, hence the results cannot be generalized to that portion of the female population.

Go to Chapter 9