Sex Differences in Attributions to Positive and Negative Sexual Scenarios in Men and Women With and Without Sexual Problems: Reconsidering Stereotypes

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Archives of Sexual Behavior






People with sexual problems are more likely to attribute negative sexual experiences to themselves, in contrast to sexually functional individuals who attribute negative sexual experiences to external factors such as the circumstance or partner. We investigated attribution patterns in 820 men and 753 women, some of whom reported an orgasmic problem, to assess differences between the sexes and those with and without an orgasmic difficulty. Specifically, using an Internet-based approach, we compared attribution responses to four sexual scenarios, one representing a positive sexual experience and three representing negative sexual experiences. Women were more likely to attribute positive outcomes to their partner than men. Women were also more likely to attribute negative outcomes to themselves than men, but they more readily blamed their partner and circumstances for negative outcomes than men as well. Those with orgasmic problems were less willing to take credit for positive outcomes and more willing to accept blame for negative outcomes. Interaction effects between sex and orgasmic problems further highlighted differences between men’s and women’s attribution patterns. These results are interpreted in the context of traditional notions that men’s attributions tend to be more self-serving and women’s attributions more self-derogatory.