FACTORS IN THE SEXUAL SATISFACTION
OBESE WOMEN IN RELATIONSHIPS
Lilka Woodward Areton
A sample of 119 obese women was obtained for the purpose of determining those factors that may lead to a sexually satisfying relationship. Each respondent completed a 17 page survey that focused on her self image and history related to her relationships, weight and diet, therapy and sexuality. This chapter presents the results of the data analyses performed and begins with a summary of the sample results, followed by a presentation of the results of the hypothesis testing. It concludes with a consideration of additional findings.
Scales were developed from sets of items so as to obtain satisfactory levels of reliability. (Item composition for each scale may be found in Appendix F.)
The sample was comprised of 119 women who had a mean age of approximately 38 years, 16 years of education and earned an average of $35,000 per year (see Table 1). The respondents were primarily Caucasian with a Protestant religious upbringing. Sixty- one percent of the sample indicated that they are not active in their current religion.
The mean body weight of the sample is 298 pounds and the mean Body Mass
Index (BMI) is 49. The weight of the women ranged from 180-524 pounds.
All of the respondents reported a BMI in excess of 30, which is considered
as "Obese" according to the National Institute of Health.
Sample Descriptive Statistics
Demographic Sample Statistics
|Body Mass Index||49.12||12.09|
|Years of Education||16.51||4.40|
|Current Relationship Length (months)||100||94.1||83.62|
|Length since Respondent was in Relationship (mo)||19||33.84||41.49|
|Length of last Relationship (mo)||18||51.61||87.94|
Family of Origin
Of the 100 women in the sample who reported that they are currently in a relationship, 52.49% are not married to their current sex partner (see Table 2). The average length of the long term relationship is approximately 7.5 years.
Overall, the respondents indicated that they have a sexually satisfying relation-ship with 65.6% of them indicating that they were "Quite Often to Almost Always" satisfied in their relationship. This is also indicated in the mean response of 3.32 in the ranking of sexual satisfaction. This item is considered critical as an indication of overall sexual satisfaction. Eighty-four percent of the respondents indicated that "as far as they knew" their partners were faithful to them. Sixty-six percent indicated that they have been faithful to their partner.
|Current Marital Status||N||%|
|Married or Committed||61||51.26|
|Married to current sex partner||N||%|
Length of Relationship (in months) 85.38 86.29
Satisfaction with Sexual Relationship 3.32 1.37
1 = not at all
2 = occasionally
3 = quite often
4 = very often
5 = almost always
Satisfaction with Sexual Relationship:
Quite Often to Almost Always 83 65.55
Not At All to Occasionally 41 34.45
Partner Faithful to You
Yes 100 84.03
No 19 15.97
You Faithful to Partner
Yes 79 66.39
No 40 33.61
Overall, the respondents indicated that in comparison with their peers, throughout their lives, they had always been "somewhat bigger". This trend continued to the present (see Table 3). There appears to be more variability during adolescence as noted by the standard deviation of 3.5. The respondents also indicated that their peers' attitudes were more negative and critical than their father or mother's attitudes.
The respondents reported "neutral" to "slight dissatisfaction" with their current weight.
Weight and Diet History
|Compared to your peers your size was|
|During last 5 years||3.8||1.1|
1 = a little bigger
2 = somewhat bigger
3 = much bigger
4 = very much bigger
|Attitudes toward your
appearance growing up
1 = very negative
2 = somewhat negative and critical
3 = neutral
4 = generally positive
5 = very positive
Satisfied with current weight: 2.4 1.2
1 = very dissatisfied
2 = somewhat dissatisfied
3 = neutral
4 = somewhat satisfied
5 = very satisfied
(The diet history of the respondents was reported per a multiple response mode. Some respondents repeated diets many times. Twenty-seven percent never dieted.)
Success Rate Scale:
0 = no weight loss
1 = very little weight loss
2 = average weight loss
3 = good weight loss
4 = reached goal
|% of||% of||Short Term||Long Term|
|Eating less with exercise||66||10.0||57.9||1.9||1.1||0.9||1.1|
|Overcoming Overeating method||16||2.4||14.0||0.5||0.7||0.4||1.1|
|Body acceptance classes||14||2.1||12.3||0.8||0.8||0.3||0.7|
|Geneen Roth method||12||1.8||10.5||0.7||0.8||0.0||0.0|
Counting calories was the most popular method of weight loss with women repeating this method many times. The greatest short-term success rate was achieved through surgery, however, there were only nine instances of this method of weight loss. Of more significance, the mean short-term success rate for diet clubs of 2.2 (average weight loss) was reported by fifty-one percent of the women. Overall, long-term diet success was not reported.
The abuse history of the respondents indicated that approximately 50%
were verbally abused and 30% were sexually abused (see Table 4). They reported
that the verbal abuse affected them emotionally "very much" (Mean 4.19)
and sexually affected them "some" (Mean 2.4). The sexual abuse affected
them emotionally "a medium amount" to "very much" (Mean 3.63) and sexually
affected them "a medium amount" (Mean 3.24). The women reported that the
abuse appears to have had a greater emotional rather than sexual aftereffect.
The variability in the subsequent sexual effects of sexual abuse is greater
per the higher Standard Deviations (SD).
|Affected emotionally by:||Mean||SD||N|
|Affected sexually by:|
0 = not at all
1 = once or very little
2 = some
3 = a medium amount
4 = very often / much
5 = severely
Fifty-four women indicated they had used counseling or therapy to assist
them in losing weight (see Table 3). Those who were involved in individual
therapy (see Table 5) reported the highest level of weight loss (42%),
body acceptance (28%) and other benefits (17%). Overall, seventy-eight
women indicated they had sought counseling for emotional issues. Only thirteen
had any specific sexual counseling, of these, seven provided effectiveness
information and it was said to be slightly effective (3.5 on a 5 point
|% lost weight||% gained
|Size acceptance seminar||9.9||9.2||9.2|
Sought Counseling for Emotional Issues:
Sexual History, Activities and Relationship
Forty-five percent of the women in the survey indicated that they were sexually attracted to "only men", whereas the remaining 55% of the women indicated that they had a orientation other than "only men." Eight percent said they were attracted to mostly or only women. Eighty-two percent of the women reported that their partners were only sexually attracted to those of a different gender (see Table 6).
The mean age of the first sexual activity for the women was 15 years and they engaged in sexual intercourse at the mean age of 17 years. The context of their first intercourse was reported to be of free will by 76% of the respondents. The remaining 24% of the respondents indicated that the context of their first intercourse involved either verbal, physical or violent pressure. Since their first sexual intercourse, forty-seven women (39%) reported that they had been forced into sexual intercourse. Thirteen of the women reported violent force and thirty-one reported coercion or date rape.
Overall, the women reported satisfaction with their sexual relationships as reflected in a mean satisfaction rating of 3.39 on a scale of one to five. Their non-sexual relationship satisfaction was reported as 3.84. The women reported that the factors they believed to have the most influence on feelings of satisfaction in their sexual relationship was their partner, their own positive sexual outlook, and their own positive body image. Similarly, they ranked their partner and their own negative body image as having the most influence on their feelings of dissatisfaction in their sexual relationship. The women did not feel counseling or diets had much influence on their reported satisfaction or dissatisfaction in their sexual relationships.
The women reported that they enjoyed cuddling, stroking, kissing, sexual
intercourse, oral sex, and mutual masturbation. Correspondingly, they reported
that their partners enjoyed these same sexual activities. They reported
favorable sexual positions of "partner on top", "rear entry", and "you
on top". "You on top" was reported as enjoyed by their partners by 90 of
the respondents, whereas a lesser number of the respondents (64) reported
enjoyment in this position. The women reported sexual dysfunction related
to orgasm difficulty (32%), physical pain (10%), feeling anxious about
ability to perform (13.4%), difficulty lubricating (3.0%), decreased interest
in sex due to medication(1.9%), arousal disorder, a decrease in interest
due to medication, or partner's erectile difficulty. They reported that
12% of their partners had difficulty experiencing orgasm, 16% came to a
climax too quickly, 18.% felt anxious about the ability to perform, 24%
have trouble achieving or maintaining an erection. Some persons have more
than one of these sexual dysfunctions.
Sexually attracted to:
|Both men and women||18||15.0|
|Age first petted (yrs)||15.01||3.78||114|
|Age first coitus (yrs)||17.24||3.26||96|
|Number of sex partners||21.64||30.84||111|
|Number of sex partners last year||1.64||1.35||118|
|Longest time with any partner (mos)||79.34||83.98||113|
Context of first sexual intercourse:
Since first intercourse, have you ever been forced into sexual intercourse:
How many times were you forced into sexual intercourse:
Is your partner sexually attracted to those of a different gender from
|Sexual relationship satisfaction||3.39||1.30||119|
|Non-sexual relationship satisfaction||3.84||1.13||119|
1 = least
5 = most
Of those participants who considered themselves sexually satisfied, the following factors were ranked as having the most influence on the feeling of satisfaction in the sexual relationship (ranked in descending order).
2. Positive sexual outlook
3. Positive body image
Of those participants who considered themselves sexually not satisfied, the following factors were ranked as having the most influence on the feeling of dissatisfaction in the sexual relationship (ranked in descending order).
1. Negative body image
2. Your partner
3. Negative sex attitudes
4. Lack of or poor counseling
|Receiving oral sex||3.32||1.13||117||3.47||1.13||117|
|Giving oral sex||2.85||1.32||117||2.75||1.48||117|
|Light S & M||1.63||1.57||109||1.18||1.50||10|
|Heavy S & M||0.62||1.29||104||0.53||1.13||104|
0 = not at all
1 = enjoy somewhat
2 = enjoy quite a bit
3 = enjoy very much
4 = enjoy completely
|Partner on top||96||20.1||86.5||90||18.2||81.8|
|You on top||64||13.4||57.7||90||18.2||81.8|
|Sides, rear entry||52||10.9||46.8||55||11.1||50.0|
|Legs over side of bed||50||10.5||45.0||46||9.3||41.8|
|Facing on sides||32||6.7||28.8||31||6.3||28.2|
|In a swing||10||2.1||9.0||9||1.8||8.2|
|Own orgasm difficulty||38||30.2||53.5||14||14.3||23.7|
|Decreased interest due to medication||23||18.3||32.4||14||14.3||23.7|
|Physical pain during coitus||12||9.5||16.9||2||2.0||3.4|
|Climax too quickly||1||0.8||1.4||19||19.4||32.2|
Weight and Relationship
The respondents indicated that they were "somewhat dissatisfied" with current weight (see Table 7). They were "often" to "sometimes" self-conscious about their appearance and felt similarly about themselves around potential sexual partners. They reported feeling "somewhat negative and critical" to "neutral" about their nude body when alone. When nude in sexual encounters, they reported feeling more "neutral."
In terms of sexual appeal, they rated themselves as "somewhat" to "quite sexually appealing." They indicated that their body image is "about the same" to "somewhat better" than 10 years ago.
Nearly half (44.8%) of the women reported that their weight had become a disability for them in their daily life. They further indicated that they would enjoy their sexual life more if they were thinner (52.4%) and that their weight affected their capacity to express themselves sexually (47.1%).
Eighty one percent of the respondents reported "rarely" to "never" that weight has been an issue in their relationships. 95.7% of the sample reported that "rarely" to "never" has their partner pressured them to lose weight.
The percentage of women who reported that their partners are "very much" to "quite" sexually attracted to them was 71%. Seventy-three percent of the women believed their partners would not find them less desirable if they gained weight.
Weight and Relationship
|Frequency weigh self||5.53||1=2x day; 6=rarely||0.94||119|
|Is body sexually appealing||3.44||1=not at all; 5=extremely||1.08||117|
|Current body image vs. 10 years ago||3.40||1=much worse; 5=much better||1.44||118|
|Nude in sex encounters||3.19||1=very negative; 5=very positive||1.31||118|
|Comfortable sharing true weight||3.00||1=never; 4=always||1.31||119|
|Self-conscious around sex partner||2.75||1=always; 5=never||1.28||119|
|Physically active||2.74||1=very inactive; 5=very active||1.09||119|
|Self-conscious about appearance||2.66||1=always; 5=never||0.98||119|
|Nude self-perception||2.55||1=very negative; 5=very positive||1.21||117|
|Satisfied with current weight||2.38||1=verydissatisfied;5= very satisfied||1.23||119|
If you were thinner, would you enjoy your sexual life more: Yes = 52.4%
Has your weight become a disability for you in your daily life: Yes = 44.8%
Are you physically disabled from any other cause: Yes = 28.8%
Does your weight affect your capacity to express yourself sexually: Yes = 47.1%
Weight influenced choice of sex partner: True = 46.7%
Weight interferes with sexual behavior: True = 33.6%
Weight interferes with sexual feelings: True = 24.4%
Your weight an issue in your relationship: Rarely to never = 80.9%
Does partner remind you gently to lose weight: Rarely to never = 90.4%
Has partner ever verbally abused you about your size: Rarely to never = 87.4%
Does partner pressure you to lose weight: Rarely to never = 95.7%
Does partner ask you to gain weight: Rarely to never = 98.3%
Does partner complain how much you are eating: Rarely to never = 93.2%
Do you believe your partner would find you less desirable if you gained weight: No = 73.0%
Would you be less interested in sex with your partner if you gained weight: No = 67.2%
Would you be more interested in sex with your partner if you lost weight: No = 55.9%
Would your partner find you more sexually desirable if you were thinner: No = 68.2%
In regards to your sexual desirability, who is more concerned about your weight:
Your partner 6 5.7
Do you believe your partner is sexually attracted to you: Very much to quite attracted = 71.4%
How would you describe the size of your partner:
Average 44 40.2
Thin 18 15.3
Does your partner's body size affect your attraction to him/her: Not much to not at all = 67.5%
Would you be more interested in sex with your partner if your partner lost weight: No = 85.5%
Subgroup Analysis of Minority Participants
Ten African-American women participated in the study. Their average number of years in school was 16. Of these 10 women, all but one were in a heterosexual relationship. One was in a lesbian relationship. Six claimed to be satisfied in their sexual relationship, 4 were not satisfied.
Five participants said they were only attracted to women, and 4 were attracted mostly to women. Their average number of years in school was 17. Of these 9, 5 were in committed relationships. One was in a heterosexual marriage. Three were not in committed relationships. Of the 9, 4 said they were satisfied with their sexual relationship, 5 said they were not.
Eighteen participants said they were attracted to both men and women. Their average number of years in school was 17.8. Of these 18 participants, one was in a committed lesbian relationship, 7 were single, and the remaining 10 reported that they were married or in committed heterosexual relationships. Of these 10, 2 were in a polygamous association. One of these 2 was in an intergendered relationship and the other one was married to a heterosexual with whom she was not satisfied, but had an additional transgendered relationship which was highly satisfactory. Of the 18 women, 11 were sexually satisfied and 7 were not.
Basic Research Question
The important question is "What are the significant factors in the satisfied sexual relationships of large women?" Table 8 summarizes the scale variables used in answering this question. Refer to Appendix F for a detailed listing of the questionnaire items included in each of the scales. These scales represent items in the questionnaire that are consistent in their content. For instance, the Sexual Attitudes - (SEXATT) scale was created from the following selection of questions from the questionnaire.
Scale: 1 = mostly true, 2 = mostly NOT true
1. Expressing your sexuality is important to you.
3. You are comfortable discussing sexual attitudes and activities with close friends.
4. You are comfortable discussing sexual attitudes and activities with your sexual partner.
5. You enjoy sharing your body during lovemaking.
10. You are comfortable with your own sexuality.
11. You enjoy trying something new sexually.
12. You are aware of your sexual desires.
13. You feel that you are a sensual person.
14. You are comfortable pleasuring yourself sexually.
15. Dressing in a manner that makes you feel sexually attractive is comfortable for you.
Reliability analysis was performed for each of the scale variables and the overall alpha calculated for these items indicating a significant relationship amongst themselves.
Two indexes have been created to provide further analysis of the sample data. These indexes are referred to as the Weight Negativity index and the Sexual Satisfaction index. These indexes contain questions with differing content that allow further examination of a diverse set of items. The Weight Negativity index refers to a combination of question items concerning the respondents' perceptions of their weight in the relationship. The Sexual Satisfaction index refers to a combination of question items concerning the respondents' perceptions of their sexual satisfaction.
The independent variable to be tested against the other variables is Sexual Satisfaction (SEXSAT). The overall alpha of the seven questions included in this scale was .92 indicating a high level of reliability.
Descriptive Statistics - Scale Variables
|Number of diets||DIETNUM||91||23.27||25.74|
|Months of dieting||DIETMOS||56||164.77||147.85|
|Short term success||SHORTSUC||111||9.49||5.65|
|Long term success||LONGSUC||110||2.13||3.08|
|Number of diet methods||DMETHODS||114||5.76||3.20|
|Counseling and Therapy||CTHELP||11||4.00||2.97|
|Body Image||BODYIMAG||119||23.20||7.00||8 to 40|
|Sexual Satisfaction||SEXSAT||119||22.51||7.77||7 to 35|
|Sexual Attitudes||SEXATT||119||11.25||1.84||10 to 20|
|Sexual Self-Confidence||SEXCONF||118||21.83||5.54||6 to 30|
|Sexual Communication||SEXCOM||119||46.50||9.22||18 to 72|
|Own Sexual Enjoyment||SEXJOY||117||27.37||6.78||10 to 50|
|Partner Sexual Enjoyment||PRTSXJOY||117||26.20||6.85||9 to 45|
|Partner on Weight||PRTONWT||119||29.04||4.36||7 to 28|
The correlation coefficients, depicting the basic relationship across these scale variables, were calculated for these items (see Table 9). Per review of the correlations of the dependent scales, it was noted that Sexual Satisfaction had a mid-level (greater than .2 but less than .5) negative correlation with Sexual Attitudes (-.494) and the Index of Weight Negativity (-.236). This indicates that the lower the index of weight negativity, the better the sexual satisfaction. These correlations may be attributed to the fact that the better one feels about one's own weight, the better one's sexual attitudes, hence higher level of sexual satisfaction. Sexual Satisfaction had mid-levels of positive correlation with Sexual Self-Confidence (.476), Body Image (.356), Partner Sexual Enjoyment (.347), Partner on Weight (.268) and Own Sexual Enjoyment (.258). These correlations indicate that the higher the sexual self-confidence, body image, and partner's sexual enjoyment and, to a lesser degree, partner's (perceived) positive attitude about participant's weight, coupled with participant's own sexual enjoyment, the higher the sexual satisfaction of the study participant. A high level of correlation (greater than .5) existed between Sexual Satisfaction and Sexual Communication (.642), Counseling and Therapy (.585), Sexual Counseling Effectiveness (.703) and the Sexual Satisfaction scale (.979). It is noted that there were only eleven respondents who reported on the Sexual Counseling Effectiveness and Counseling and Therapy. Consequently, less emphasis will be given to these items. Of greater importance, is the high level of correlation between Sexual Satisfaction and Sexual Communication. This indicates that the more communication with their partner, the better the women felt about their sexual relationship.
Intercorrelation of Dependent Scales
Note: N = 119.
* A mid-level of correlation is noted: the absolute value of correlation coefficient is greater than 0.2 but less than .5
** A high level of correlation is noted: the absolute value of the correlation coefficient is greater than 0.5 or less than -0.5
Of interest is the high level of correlation existing between Sexual Self-Confidence and Body Image (.771) and the Index of Weight Negativity (-.685). The Index of Weight Negativity shows that the worse a participant feels about her weight the less confidence she will feel in her sexuality and the less approval of her body image she will have.
Also of interest is the mid level of correlation existing between Sexual Attitudes and Sexual Self-Confidence (-.442), Sexual Communication (-.516), Own Sexual Enjoyment (-.485), Partner Sexual Enjoyment (-.437), Body Image (-.364) and Sexual Satisfaction (-.639). This indicates that the more comfortable she is in her own sexuality, sexual self-confidence, the more she asserts herself in sexual communication, the more enjoyment she feels in her sexual relationship, the more she perceives that her partner is enjoying the relationship, and the more positive her body image is, the more sexual satisfaction she will enjoy.
A mid-level of correlation exists between Partner on Weight and Body Image (.439). A partner's perceived positive attitude on the participant's weight is correlated to her own positive body image. In this questionnaire, it is the participants' belief about the partner's attitude on her weight, as the partner was not asked for his/her opinion. Additionally, the index of Weight Negativity has a high level of correlation between Body Image (-.780) and Sexual Self-Confidence (-.685). If a woman does not perceive her weight as a drawback, her body image will be positive and her sexual self-confidence will be high.
In order to determine what factors are most important in the satisfied sexual relationship of large women, multiple regression analysis was performed. This analysis was necessary as it has been determined that there are significant correlations as noted above. The question that continues to arise is: What is the most important factor or factors? Given a comparison of the beta weights in a multiple regression equation, one can determine what factors might predict sexual satisfaction. Additionally, this analysis allows a look at the relative importance of each of these factors.
In the linear regression analysis performed, the dependent variable was Sexual Satisfaction (SEXSAT). Three levels of testing were performed using blocks of independent variables that are otherwise known as predictors. The first level of independent variables included demographic items such as relationship length, education and age. The second level of independent variables included the demographic items and weight-related items such as body image, total diet months, short-term success in dieting and the index of weight negativity. The third level of independent variables included the demographic items, weight-related items and partner-related items such as partner's sexual enjoyment, partner's perceptions of weight and sexual communication (see Table 10).
|Model||R||R squared||Adjusted R
of the Estimate
Model 1: Demographic Predictors:
Relationship Length, Education, and Age
Model 2: Weight Related Predictors:
Relationship Length, Education, and Age
Body Image, Number of Diet Months, Short Term Diet Success, Index of Weight Negativity
Model 3: Partner Related Predictors:
Relationship Length, Education, and Age
Body Image, Number of Diet Months, Short Term Diet Success, Index of Weight Negativity
Partner Sexual Enjoyment, Partner on Weight, Sexual Communication
The first model involving demographic predictors correlated .213 (R) with sexual satisfaction and the R Square of .046 indicates that the demographic predictors account for about 5% of the variability in the Sexual Satisfaction. In the next model, Correlation (R) went up to .480 and the R Square indicated that the weight related predictors and demographic predictors together, account for about 23% of the variability in the Sexual Satisfaction. This is not a significant change from the first model. In the third model, Correlation (R) rose to .667 and R Square accounts for 45% and this is a significant change. The final model accounts for about 44% of sexual satisfaction. With a relative degree of confidence, these predictors indicate whether one will report that they are sexually satisfied or not.
To determine whether one predictor is more important than the other, the beta coefficients have been calculated (see Table 11).
Model 1 Coefficients - Beta
Relationship Length .117
Index of Weight Negativity .157
Relationship Length .075
Short Term Success .039
Diet Months .023
Body Image .322
Partner Sexual Enjoyment .243
Index of Weight Negativity .091
Diet Months -.004
Relationship Length -.018
Short Term Success -.020
Partner on Weight -.069
Per review of the coefficients in the first model, it should be noted that education is a more important predictor of sexual satisfaction than any of the other items. That is, the more education, the more sexual satisfaction. This may be attributed to the idea that more education lends itself to more sex-positive attitudes.
The second model adds weight related predictors to the demographic predictors seen in Model 1. It is apparent that body image with a co-efficient of .557 is by far the most significant predictor of sexual satisfaction compared to all the other elements listed in Model 2. The next predictor is education, with low predictor value of .186. The Index of Weight Negativity scores only .157 as a predictor. All the other predictors of sexual satisfaction in Model 2 are insignificant.
In Model 3, the beta for education is still high (.135), but is not as significant in comparison with sexual communication (.363), body image (.322), and partner sexual enjoyment (.243). On the entire list, sexual communication is the most important attribute.
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