An Examination of the Sexual Double Standard Pertaining to Masturbation and the Impact of Assumed Motives

Katherine R. Haus, Ashley E. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Research reveals that masturbation is a highly stigmatized behavior for which people are harshly judged. Stigmatized sexual behaviors often result in discrepancies in social judgment such as the Sexual Double Standard (SDS; the tendency to judge women’s sexual behavior more harshly than men’s). However, no research has experimentally examined the SDS with respect to masturbation or the assumed motives influencing the potential SDS. Thus, in study one, a total of 496 U.S. adults (246 women, 250 men) were required to read one of four vignettes depicting a hypothetical man or woman engaged in masturbation. After reading the vignette, the endorsement of the SDS was assessed by asking participants to rate the perceived partner quality of the hypothetical masturbator. In study two, a total of 264 U.S. adults (115 women, 149 men) were again required to read vignettes, rate the target’s perceived partner quality, and report on the assumed pleasure and intimacy-focused motives of the target. The results of both studies revealed a reverse SDS, in which women were viewed as higher quality partners than men. Study two further demonstrated that women were assumed to have masturbated for both pleasure and intimacy-focused motives to a greater extent than men and that these motives helped to explain the reverse SDS. Overall, these findings highlight the need to equalize double standards in Western cultures to reduce potentially harmful effects on sexual health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)809-834
Number of pages26
JournalSexuality and Culture
Issue number3
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019


  • Masturbation
  • Motives
  • Perceived gender differences
  • Sexual double standard

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