Relationships between purity culture, disgust sensitivity, and women’s sexual satisfaction
Rhetoric of shame, fear, and defilement are rife in teachings of the Evangelical Purity Movement (EPM) and abstinence-only-until-marriage (AOUM) sex education. There is a proliferation of purity messages in the U.S. that attempt to promote the preservation of girls’ and women’s chastity by endorsing harm-based narratives and withholding accurate information about sexuality. However, the extant literature has focused more on relationships between purity culture or AOUM sex education and consequences of shame and adolescent sexual behavior, possibly to the exclusion of developmental considerations and the longer-term impact on women’s sexual and relational well-being. Recent research has also acknowledged associations between religiosity and gender inequality, religious fundamentalism and disgust sensitivity, as well as gender inequality and female sexual dysfunction; however, less is known regarding the impact of purity culture beliefs on women’s disgust sensitivity and sexual satisfaction. The researcher utilized measures of sexual satisfaction, comprised of five domains; disgust sensitivity; self-disgust; and purity culture beliefs; and assessed for relevant demographic factors and participation in purity culture rituals. The researcher recruited women who currently or previously identified as Christian (n = 491) and conducted correlational and multiple regression analyses to test their hypotheses. The data generally did not support the predicted positive relationship between purity culture beliefs and disgust sensitivity (Hypothesis 1), instead revealing a small, unexpected negative association. As expected, the data confirmed significant negative relationships between purity culture beliefs and sexual satisfaction (Hypothesis 2). The results indicated a small, positive relationship between disgust sensitivity and sexual satisfaction, contrary to Hypothesis 3, whereas the predicted negative association between self-directed disgust and sexual satisfaction (Hypothesis 4) was confirmed. The data also provided evidence for a significant interaction between sexual communication and disgust (Hypothesis 5); both predictors also independently exhibited significant associations with sexual satisfaction. Additional findings, limitations, and implications are discussed.