Women's masturbation: an exploration of the influence of shame, guilt, and religiosity

Hungrige, Angela
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Texas Woman's University

Though advancement has been made pertaining to acceptance regarding interpersonal sexual experiences during the last few decades, masturbation typically engenders feelings of shame and disdain despite its beneficial effects (Coleman, 2002; Pei & Ho, 2009), including a greater appreciation of one’s body (Bowman, 2014) and body satisfaction (Shulman & Horne, 2003). Historically, religion has had a prominent effect on sexuality (Davidson & Moore, 1994). Researchers have found that more religious women have less affirmative responses to masturbation and are more likely to experience remorse about their own masturbation (Davidson, Moore, & Ullstrup, 2004). The present study’s purpose was to examine the responses of shame and guilt among women related to their attitudes towards masturbation, while considering the impact of religious fundamentalism. Additionally, the potential impacts of age, ethnicity, and education were also examined as moderating variables. Two hundred forty-three women participated in an online survey via Mechanical Turk and PsychData. Participants completed the Test of Self-Conscious Affect-Version 3 (TOSCA-3) (Tangney, Dearing, Wagner, & Gramzow, 2000) to assess self-conscious emotions, such as shame and guilt; the Attitudes toward Masturbation Scale (ATMS) (Young & Muehlenhard, 2011) to assess thoughts and emotions regarding masturbation; and the Revised 12-Item Religious Fundamentalism scale (RRFS) (Altemeyer & Hunsberger, 2004) to assess mindsets about personal religious beliefs. Hypotheses were tested using a combination of Pearson’s r and multiple, hierarchical, and stepwise regressions. While there was limited support for the proposed hypotheses, some noteworthy outcomes were found. Results revealed that women who were younger, identified as non-White, and endorsed more religious fundamentalist beliefs were more likely to report negative feelings about masturbation. Education was not associated with feelings about masturbation. Additionally, contrary to the expectations of the present study, increased shame and guilt did not have a significant relationship with increased negative feelings about masturbation. However, unexpectedly, it was found that increased guilt was significantly connected with fewer negative feelings about masturbation. Masturbation across the lifespan was found to be a common behavior for the women of the current study. Implications of the findings conclude this dissertation.

Guilt, Masturbation, Religion, Sexuality, Shame, Women