Conference Abstracts & Posters 

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2019

“You could lose some weight”: How appearance-based partner transgressions predict body exposure avoidance during sex and sexual satisfaction.

Marissa L. Bowsfield, M.A., Jessica Ferreira, B.A., & Rebecca J. Cobb, Ph.D., Simon Fraser University

mlb9@sfu.ca

Negative feedback to a partner about their body may reduce their body satisfaction, which may cause body concealment during sex. This may then interfere with satisfying sexual interactions. We hypothesized that individual’s body dissatisfaction would mediate the association between partner’s expressions of dissatisfaction with individuals’ bodies (i.e., appearance-based transgressions) and individuals’ body exposure avoidance during sex. Next, we hypothesized that individuals’ body exposure avoidance would predict lower sexual satisfaction controlling for appearance-based partner transgressions and individuals’ body satisfaction. Participants (N = 125 couples) completed online questionnaires assessing appearance-based partner transgressions (Bowsfield & Cobb, 2019), body satisfaction (Bowsfield & Cobb, 2019), body exposure avoidance (Cash, 2004), and sexual satisfaction (Shaw & Rogge, 2016). Multi-level modelling controlling for BMI indicated that individuals’ reports of appearance-based partner transgressions positively predicted their body exposure avoidance (B = 0.19, p = .001) and negatively predicted their body satisfaction (B = -0.56, p < .001). Individuals’ body satisfaction was negatively associated with their body exposure avoidance (B = -0.13, p < .001). The association between appearance transgressions and body exposure avoidance was partially mediated by individuals’ body satisfaction (B = 0.07, 95% CI [.03, .12]). The significant effects of appearance-based partner transgressions (marginal, p < .100) and body satisfaction on sexual satisfaction became non-significant when body exposure avoidance was included in the model (B = -2.29, p = .010). Results suggest that the degree to which negative body image manifests in behavioural avoidance during sex is critical in predicting sexual satisfaction. 

Self-compassion moderates associations between distress about sexual problems and sexual satisfaction in a daily diary study of married couples

Jessica S. Ferreira, Richard A. Rigby, Rebecca J. Cobb, Simon Fraser University 

jessica_ferreira@sfu.ca

Sexual problems, including problems with desire, subjective arousal, initial physiological arousal, maintenance of physiological arousal, pain, and orgasm are associated with personal distress and sexual dissatisfaction. Self-compassion facilitates psychological adjustment to distressing events, and therefore we predicted that self-compassion would buffer negative effects of distress about sexual problems on sexual satisfaction in 125 mixed-sex married couples over 21 days. Individuals’ daily distress about sexual problems was negatively associated with their own and partner’s daily sexual satisfaction. Individuals’ baseline self-compassion was positively associated with their own daily sexual satisfaction, and husbands’ (but not wives’) self-compassion was positively associated with their partner’s daily sexual satisfaction. Only husbands’ self-compassion moderated associations; specifically, husbands’ distress about sexual problems was negatively associated with their daily sexual satisfaction when self-compassion was low and there was no association when self-compassion was high. The same pattern of results was observed for husbands’ distress about desire, subjective arousal, and orgasm. A different pattern emerged for cross-partner effects; there was no association between husbands’ distress about sexual problems and wives’ daily satisfaction when husbands’ self-compassion was low, but there was a negative association when husbands’ self-compassion was high. The same pattern was observed for husbands’ distress about subjective arousal, pain, initial physiological arousal, and maintaining physiological arousal. Thus, husbands’ self-compassion buffers the negative effects of distress about sexual problems on their own sexual satisfaction but potentiates the negative effects of distress on partner outcomes.

To Talk or not to Talk? Discussing Relationship Boundaries in Newlywed Marriage

Lauren D. McRae & Rebecca J. Cobb

Discussing relationship boundaries (i.e., the extent to which emotional and sexual involvements outside of the relationship are acceptable) is related to sexual and relational benefits, at least in male same-sex partnerships (Hoff & Beougher, 2010; Mitchell et al., 2012). The relationship literature is replete with evidence of the benefits of open communication between partners (e.g., Montesi et al., 2010; Timm & Keiley, 2011), and sexual self-disclosure is positive for couples (Laurenceau et al., 2005; MacNeil & Byers, 2005); however, little is known about the role of relationship boundary discussions in the context of mixed-sex relationships. Mixed-sex newlywed couples (N = 149) recruited from the community completed measures of marital satisfaction (QMI; Norton, 1983), relationship boundary discussion (e.g., "Since you and your spouse began your relationship, have you two ever discussed whether romantic and/or sexual involvements with other people were acceptable?"), and acceptability of extra-dyadic involvement (EDI; e.g., "How acceptable is it for your partner to have a sexual involvement with another person?"). Regression analysis indicated that discussing relationship boundaries predicted increases in wives' relationship satisfaction over one year when husbands rated extradyadic involvements as relatively acceptable. However, discussing relationship boundaries predicted declines in husbands’ and wives' relationship satisfaction when husbands rated extradyadic involvements as relatively unacceptable. Results suggest that interpersonal contexts can change the role of boundary discussions in romantic relationships. When partners are strongly adherent to monogamy norms and are less accepting of EDI, discussing boundaries might be inherently uncomfortable, might instill a sense of insecurity or jealousy, and could be detrimental to partner's satisfaction with the relationship over time compared to when partners less strongly adhere to monogamy norms. This suggests that relationship boundary discussions may benefit some relationships but should be approached with caution because of their inherently sensitive nature and potential for disrupting positive evaluations of the relationship. 

2018

Sexual Communication Mediates the Association Between Emotion Dysregulation and Daily Sexual Satisfaction

Jessica S. Ferreira, B.A. & Rebecca J. Cobb, Ph.D.

Emotion regulation is positively associated with constructive communication (e.g., Richards et al., 2003), and constructive sexual communication is associated with sexual satisfaction (e.g., MacNeil & Byers, 2009). Moreover, difficulties regulating emotions is negatively associated with sexual satisfaction (e.g., Pepping et al., 2018). Thus, we predicted that poor sexual communication would mediate the association between emotion dysregulation and spouses and partners’ daily sexual satisfaction.

Mediation hypotheses were tested in 125 mixed-sex married couples (Mage = 30.58, SD = 4.98) who completed a 21-day daily diary study. Couples completed the Difficulties with Emotion Regulation Scale – Short Form (Kaufman et al., 2016), the Dyadic Sexual Communication Scale (Catania, 1986), and a 3-item measure of daily sexual satisfaction adapted from Shaw and Rogge (2016).

Multi-level modelling indicated that there was a significant indirect effect of emotion dysregulation on daily sexual satisfaction through poor sexual communication for men (B = -.04, 95% CI [-.05, -.03]), but not for women (B = -.02, 95% CI [-.06, .02]). Cross-partner analyses revealed a significant indirect effect of husband’s emotion dysregulation on wives’ daily sexual satisfaction through husband’s poor sexual communication (B = -.02, 95% CI [-.02, -.01]) and a significant indirect effect of wives’ emotion dysregulation on husband’s daily sexual satisfaction through wives’ poor sexual communication (B = -.02, 95% CI [-.02, -.01]). Therefore, spouses’ emotion regulation has implications for their own and their partner’s sexual satisfaction through the quality of spouses’ sexual communication.

Poor emotion regulation impedes couples from constructive communication during discussions of sexual issues, and in turn spouses and their partners are less sexually satisfied. Thus, teaching couples emotion regulation skills may improve sexual communication and thereby contribute to sexual satisfaction. 

How I Think You See Me Matters: Body Satisfaction Perceptions and Sexual Satisfaction

Marissa L. Bowsfield, M.A., Rebecca J. Cobb, Ph.D., Simon Fraser University

mlb9@sfu.ca

Many women and men are unsatisfied with their bodies (e.g., Tiggeman et al., 2008) and body satisfaction predicts sexual satisfaction (e.g., Pujols et al., 2010). However, individuals’ perceptions of their romantic partner’s satisfaction with their body may positively influence their body satisfaction, and in turn, their sexual satisfaction. We hypothesized that actors’ (individuals’) perceptions of partners’ satisfaction with actors’ bodies would predict actors’ sexual satisfaction over one year and that associations would be mediated by actors’ body satisfaction. Participants (N = 124 couples) completed online questionnaires every four months for one year assessing satisfaction with own body, satisfaction with partner’s body, perceptions of partner’s satisfaction with own body (BIQ; Williams, 2007), and sexual satisfaction (QSI-12; Shaw & Rogge, 2013). Multilevel modelling using the APIM framework was conducted in SPSS. Actors’ perceptions of partners’ satisfaction with actors’ bodies were positively related to actors’ (B = 1.19, p < .001) and partners’ (B = 0.56, p = .01) sexual satisfaction over one year. Associations between actors’ perceptions of partners’ satisfaction with actors’ bodies and actors’ sexual satisfaction were partially mediated by actors’ own body satisfaction, controlling for actors’ BMI and partners’ actual satisfaction with actors’ bodies (B = 0.50, 95% CI [.30, .71]). The degree to which people perceive that their partner is satisfied with their body has positive implications for their own body satisfaction and sexual satisfaction, and their partner’s sexual satisfaction. Thus, helping couples to enhance positive body perceptions may influence their sexual satisfaction. 

Rigby, R. A., & Cobb R. J. (2018, October). A longitudinal and dyadic examination of attachment security and sexual functioning [Paper Presentation]Canadian Sex Research Forum 2018 Conference, Toronto, ON.

2017

Bowsfield, M. L., Pink, J. C., & Cobb, R. J. (2017, November). Associations between body satisfaction and sexual satisfaction over one year in mixed-sex couples [Poster Presentation]. Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies 2017 Conference, San Diego, CA.

McRae, L. D., & Cobb, R. J. (June, 2017). Is agreeing about sexual agreements in newlywed marriage associated to relationship satisfaction? [Poster Presentation]. Canadian Psychological Association 2017 Convention, Toronto, ON.

Is Agreeing about Sexual Agreements in Newlywed Marriage Associated to Relationship

Satisfaction?

Lauren D. McRae & Rebecca J. Cobb

Sexual agreements in male same-sex relationships are related to sexual satisfaction (Hoff &Beougher, 2010), emotional openness, and relationship satisfaction (Modesto Ramirez & Brown, 2010), but the predictors of sexual agreements in mixed-sex couples are understudied. A sexual agreement is any explicit agreement between partners that specifies

exactly which sexual behaviours are acceptable both within and outside of the relationship (Hoff & Beougher, 2010). We are investigating whether relationship satisfaction is associated with having a sexual agreement and partner consensus about the nature of the agreement over six months in newlywed couples. Data has been collected and we are now analyzing the hypotheses. Participants (N =117couples) completed measures of sexual agreement (e.g., "Since you and your spouse began your relationship, have you two ever discussed whether romantic and/or sexual involvements with other people were acceptable?"), relationship satisfaction (QMI; Norton, 1983) one of year marriage (Time 1), and 12months later (Time 2). Partner consensus is represented with a residual score, created by regressing one partner's score onto the other

and taking the absolute value, and regression analysis is being used to predict relationship satisfaction from sexual agreement and partner consensus. More research is needed to understand how sexual agreements function in intimate relationships. If associations exist in mixed-sex samples, sexual agreements may be encouraged by practitioners as tools for mixed-sex couples to mitigate sexual health risks, prevent relationship transgressions, and foster relationship satisfaction.

2016

The Role of Perceived Partner Sexual Satisfaction in Individual Sexual Satisfaction

Marissa L. Bowsfield,

Jennifer C. Pink

Rebecca J. Cobb, Simon Fraser University

Relationship satisfaction and sex frequency are robustly related to sexual satisfaction (e.g., Impett et al., 2014), and recent work suggests that they are bidirectionally related to sexual satisfaction in couples (McNulty et al., 2014).  However, the role of perceptions of partner’s sexual satisfaction in individuals’ own sexual satisfaction has received little empirical attention. Perceptions of partner sexual satisfaction may be important in committed relationships because couples adopt dyadic sexual scripts to meet the needs of both partners (Cupach & Metts, 1991).  In 162 heterosexual newlywed couples, we examined spouses’ perceptions of partner’s sexual satisfaction as a predictor of spouses’ sexual satisfaction, controlling for sexual frequency and marital satisfaction. Perceptions of partner’s sexual satisfaction positively predicted husbands (β= .40, t (154) = 5.52, p < .01, d= .62) and wives (β= .45, t (154) = 6.29, p < .01, d= .70) sexual satisfaction, controlling for both spouses’ reports of sexual frequency and marital satisfaction. Spouses who believe their partner is sexually satisfied are more likely to feel sexually satisfied themselves, perhaps because feeling able to meet a partner’s needs functions as a reward for the individual and thus interacts with perceived costs to influence sexual satisfaction.

2015

To Talk or Not To Talk? The Role of Communication During Sexual Activity

Roanne D. Millman, Jennifer C. Pink, & Rebecca J. Cobb

How openly and constructively couples share their sexual desires, needs, and preferences is important for sexual satisfaction and functioning (e.g., Theiss, 2011), and relationship satisfaction more generally (e.g., Montesi et al., 2011). However, an almost exclusive focus on verbal sexual communication outside of sexual encounters (e.g., MacNeil & Byers, 2005) ignores the potential importance of nonverbal behaviour during sexual activity. The aim of this study was to investigate how individuals’ verbal and nonverbal communication during sexual activity predict their own and partner’s relationship and sexual satisfaction, in 127 heterosexual couples.

Couples completed measures of sexual satisfaction (QSI; Shaw & Rogge, 2013), relationship satisfaction (CSI; Funk & Rogge, 2007), and sexual communication (SCSS; Brogan et al., 2009), which assessed perceptions of partner’s frequency of verbal and nonverbal expression during sexual activity.

Path analysis using an actor-partner interdependence framework was used to test the model, and the model provided a good fit to the data: χ 2 (2) = 1.10, p = .58, CFI = 1.00, RMSEA = .000, SRMR = .01. Individuals’ perceptions of partner’s nonverbal communication during sexual activity predicted their own and partner’s sexual satisfaction. However, mixed findings for verbal communication emerged. Women’s perceptions of partner’s verbal communication were positively associated with their own sexual and relationship satisfaction, but men’s perceptions of partners’ verbal communication were negatively associated with women’s relationship satisfaction and not associated with their own sexual or relationship satisfaction. To determine whether verbal and nonverbal communication differentially predicted sexual and relationship satisfaction, we constrained the verbal and nonverbal paths to be equal and compared the constrained model to the model with no constraints. Results of χ 2 difference tests indicated that the unconstrained model fit the data significantly better, suggesting that verbal and nonverbal communication differentially contribute to relationship and sexual satisfaction.

Generally, nonverbal communication seems to play a larger role in sexual satisfaction than verbal communication during sexual activity. It may be that verbal communication during sex is distracting, taking individuals out of the moment, whereas nonverbal sexual communication (e.g., shifting a partner’s hand, muscle tension) feels more natural and is experienced as less threatening. Results suggest that women perceive men’s verbal communication during sex as positive, whereas they see their own verbal communication during sexual activity in a less positive light. Specifically, it may be that women interpret their partner’s verbal communication as an indicator of intimacy and closeness, which in turn enhances their relationship satisfaction. On the other hand, when women talk during sexual activity, they may take this as an indication that they are having to “coach” their male partners, who are not “in tune” with their sexual needs and desires, ultimately, leading to a reduction in relationship satisfaction. These results suggest that clinicians should be wary of encouraging clients to engage in verbal communication during sexual encounters (as is often done in later stages of sensate focus). Instead, identifying deficits in and improving nonverbal communication may be a more fruitful avenue to improving sexual and relationship quality.

Communicating in the Bedroom: How Verbal and Nonverbal Expression Relate to Sexual Quality

Roanne D. Millman, Jennifer C. Pink, Jill M. Logan, Marissa Bowsfield, Rebecca J. Cobb

Background: Satisfying conversations about sexual pleasure often occur during sexual activity (Faulkner & Lanutti, 2010). However, research has almost exclusively focused on sexual communication occurring outside of sexual encounters (e.g., MacNeil & Byers, 2005). Furthermore, most research on communication about sexual pleasure has focused on verbal communication, which can be challenging for individuals (Byers, 2011).

Research Questions: We examined associations between verbal and nonverbal communication during sexual activity and self and partner sexual satisfaction and dissatisfaction in committed relationships.

Methods: Heterosexual couples (N = 127) completed the Quality of Sex Inventory (Shaw & Rogge, 2013) that yields subscales of sexual satisfaction and dissatisfaction and the Sexual Communication Style Scale (Brogan et al., 2009), which assesses perceptions of partner’s frequency of verbal and nonverbal expression during sexual activity.

Results: Structural equation modelling using an actor-partner interdependence framework indicated that perceptions of partner’s nonverbal communication were positively associated with own and partner’s sexual satisfaction and negatively associated with own and partner’s sexual dissatisfaction. However, perceptions of partner’s verbal communication were generally not associated with own or partner’s sexual satisfaction or sexual dissatisfaction, and all paths with verbal communication were weaker than paths with verbal communication as the predictor. The model provided a good fit to the data: χ 2 (1) = 0.003, p = .96, CFI = 1.00, RMSEA ˂ .001, SRMR = .001.

Conclusions: Verbal communication may not matter to the same extent as nonverbal communication during sexual activity. Verbal communication during sex may be perceived as less genuine than nonverbal communication, or may be more susceptible to a “desirability bias” than nonverbal expression for a number of reasons. For example, people may communicate verbally in ways that they believe will be pleasing for their partner, or in ways that are dictated by social norms (e.g., “talking dirty”), which may not be consistent with their sexual experience. Verbal expression may also be more threatening, while nonverbal expression may allow individuals to remain “in the moment,” therefore making a more salient contribution to sexual quality.

Implications: This study highlights the importance of examining nonverbal and verbal communication during sexual encounters. Although causal claims cannot be made, results suggest that clinicians should be wary of encouraging clients to engage in verbal communication during sexual encounters. Rather, a more fruitful avenue may be pursued by identifying deficits in and improving nonverbal sexual communication. 

Pink, J. C., Millman, R. D., Logan, J. M., Bowsfield, M. L., & Cobb, R. J. (October, 2015). “Our sex life isn’t great, but it’s not so bad”: Sexual satisfaction and dissatisfaction uniquely contribute to relationship quality [Poster Presentation]. Canadian Sex Research Forum 2015 Conference, Kelowna, BC.