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Wednesday, 30 September 2009 19:18

Positive attitude to sex good for women's health

An Indiana University study found that women with positive attitudes toward their genitals are more likely to take an active role in their sexual health, such as going to the doctor for regular gynecological examinations.

Dr. Debby Herbenick, an associate director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion in the School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation at Indiana University (Bloomington), performed the study.

According to the ScienceDaily.com article “Orgasms, Sexual Health And Attitudes About Female Genitals,” Dr. Herbenick is quoted to have said: "These are important findings about body image. Our culture often portrays women's genitals as dirty and in need of cleaning and grooming."

"Some women may have had greater exposure to such negative messages or may be more susceptible to their impact."


{Image of Dr. Debby Herbenick, author of "Because It Feels Good: A Woman’s Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction," is also a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction where she writes and hosts audio podcasts of the Kinsey Confidential column and coordinates educational programming. Image courtesy of https://www.mysexprofessor.com/}

The conclusions of the study were published in the September issue of the International Journal of Sexual Health.

It is entitled “The Development and Validation of a Scale to Measure Attitudes Toward Women's Genitals” (International Journal of Sexual Health 2009; 21 (3): 153 DOI: 10.1080/19317610903149692).

Dr. Herbenick performed her study because few measures have been generated in the past with regards to individual attitudes toward women’s genitals.

The abstract to her paper states, “Sexual behaviors may be related to or influenced by a range of factors including individuals' attitudes toward women's genitals."

Page two talks more in depth about the Herbenick study.

The scientific study used 362 women and 241 men between the ages of 18 and 23 years. The participants were asked such questions as “Women’s genitals are beautiful” and “Women’s genitals are ugly.”

Within the study, the “Attitudes Toward Women's Genitals Scale” (ATWGS) was developed. According to her journal abstract, it was created in three phases:

(1) “elicitation, which involved a comprehensive literature review and surveys completed by 370 men and women;”

(2) “development, review, and revision of an initial item pool; and”

(3) “survey administration and psychometric analysis, which involved an initial survey administration to 604 men and women and a second administration, for the purposes of establishing temporal stability of the scale, to 16 individuals.”

The scale resulted in ten items that correlated well with an already-existing five-item scale called the Sexual Opinion Survey. The ATWGS seemed to indicate that it could be used reliably in sexual therapy within a medical environment.

Dr. Herbenick stated within her abstract, “The ATWGS also showed evidence of predictive capacity in that women's scale scores differed significantly based on their history of cunnilingus, gynecological care, vibrator use, and orgasm.”

The study found that men had higher scores on the ATWGS than did women. Such higher scores indicate that men have more positive sexual attitudes than women.

The abstract stated, “For men, there were significant ATWGS score differences based on their experience with cunnilingus. Also, men scored significantly higher on the ATWGS than did women …, indicating more positive attitudes.”

Page three concludes with more conclusions from the Herbenick study.

The study also found that women much more critical of the look of their bodies than are men.

Herbenick stated, "Women are often more critical about their own bodies -- and other women's bodies -- than men are.” [Science Daily]

She added, “What we found in this study is that men generally feel positive about a variety of aspects of women's genitals including how they look, smell, taste and feel." [Science Daily]

Herbenick concluded, "Our study builds on previous research that demonstrates that the mind and body are highly connected in regard to sex. When women feel more positively about female genitals, they likely feel more relaxed in their own skin, more able to let go and thus more likely to experience pleasure and orgasm." [Science Daily]

The study found that women who have negative thoughts about female genitalia are less likely to have orgasms and are also less likely to have regular gynecological examiniations. The case is just the opposite for women who have positive thoughts about their genitalia.

Women who have just negative thoughts, according to Herbenick, have such feelings because of information portrayed in society (such as in advertisements for feminine-hygiene products) and from messages given to them by their parents earlier in their lives (such as “don’t touch yourselves down there”).

For additional information, check out the Globe and Mail News article “Women's genital self-esteem affects sex, health.”

Dr. Herbenick also has a website and blog titled “MySexProfessor.com.”

On the website, it states that its mission is "... to provide a forum for information and discussion about sexuality and sexual health topics. You won’t find porn here, but you will find lots of information about sex – fun stuff about sex, smart stuff about sex, and quirky stuff about sex."

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