Academic journal article Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality

Predictors of Sexual Satisfaction: The Role of Body Image and Fitness

Academic journal article Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality

Predictors of Sexual Satisfaction: The Role of Body Image and Fitness

Article excerpt

A satisfying sex life is an important element of overall health and quality of life. The media plays an important role in shaping adolescents' physical appearance ideals and promoting a "perfect body" to the young as a means to achieve sexual success. The purpose of the study was to determine if a set of body image and fitness variables could be identified that would account for a significant amount of variation in sexual satisfaction.

Data were collected from a convenience sample of undergraduate students. Results indicated that body image and fitness variables were significant predictors of sexual satisfaction. These findings may have implications for those working to help individuals and couples enhance the quality of their sexual relationships.

Introduction

Sexuality is an integral part of human existence and plays an important role in sustaining and improving quality of life and wellness for a large proportion of the population. A satisfying sex life is a critical element of overall health and happiness for many individuals, as sexuality plays a considerable role in intimate relationships and is an important aspect of overall emotional and physical health (Bridges, Lease, & Ellison, 2004 ). The National Commission on Adolescent Health states that a major developmental task of young adulthood is to achieve a healthy sense of sexuality, which includes positive feelings toward sexuality (sexual satisfaction) and encouraging mature, consensual relationships, while at the same time developing healthy sexual decision-making (Auslander, Rosenthal, Fortenberry, Biro, Bernstein, & Zimet, 2007; Haffner, 1995). Research exists on young adult sexual behaviors, however, a paucity of research has been conducted relative to sexual satisfaction within these sexual relationships.

Sexual satisfaction is defined as a multidimensional experience involving thoughts, feelings, personal and socio-cultural attitudes and beliefs, combined with biological factors (Gil, 2007). The sense of enjoyment with one's sexual life varies given that sexual satisfaction may be related to prior sexual experiences, current expectations, and future intentions. The literature reveals that the strongest predictors of sexual satisfaction include overall relationship satisfaction (Byers, Demmon, & Lawrance, 1998; Sprecher, 2002) , commitment, stability (Perrone & Worthington, 2001), marital quality (Young, Denny, Luquis, & Young, 1998; Young, Denny, Young, & Luquis, 2000), partner initiation, and communication (Bridges et al., 2004).

An area of study previously neglected in the research literature is the relationship between sexual satisfaction and body image for both males and females. Body image is defined as a multidimensional construct of the self, consisting of how individuals think, feel, and behave relative to their own physical attributes (Gil, 2007). In modern society, the body is considered a representation of oneself, and thus appearance allows for individual social meaning, such as young or old, ugly or beautiful. A person's body image is constructed throughout one's lifetime through interactions with processes taking place within one's own body and the outside world (Haavio-Mannila & Purhonen, 2001). Body image is created by society and determined by values and socio-cultural norms. The media plays an important role in shaping young adults' physical appearance ideals and promoting a "perfect body" to the young as a means to achieve sexual success.

Previous research has linked body image attitudes to self-esteem, interpersonal confidence, eating and exercise behaviors, grooming activities, sexual behaviors and experiences, and emotional stability (Auslander et al., 2007; Cash & Fleming, 2002; Russell, 2002; Weaver & Byers, 2006; Wiederman, 2000). A negative body image impacts an individual's entire sense of self and one's global self-evaluation. A number of studies have identified a negative relationship between body dissatisfaction and self-concept (Tiggemann & Lynch, 2001; Tiggemann & Williamson, 2000; Webster & Tiggemann, 2003). …

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