The role of intimacy in the sexual experience and behaviour of men and women living in steady relationships is considered important in several theoretical accounts (e.g., (Schnarch, 1991), specifically in models of female sexual functioning (Basson, 2000), indicating an important role of gender in this respect. Empirical research into the causal and directional association of partners’ experienced levels of emotional intimacy and their sexual activity (both partnered and individual) is scarce. Therefore, it is unclear whether intimacy and sexual activity function as a cause or as an effect within this association. A circular process can also be hypothesized to exist here. Studies on intimacy and sexual behaviour have thus far been either cross-sectional or experimental.
The presented study has adopted a longitudinal approach for data collection. To enhance the ecological validity, while preserving the possibility of strong causal inferences, an experience-sampling method (ESM; Myin-Germeys et al., 2009) will be used. In a sample of sexually healthy functioning women and men (N = 38; Nfemale = 24), participants completed a 39-item questionnaire at 10 moments during their waking hours for 7 consecutive days. They wore a specially programmed wristwatch that provided prompts (‘beep’) at variable time intervals to indicate when a questionnaire needed to be completed. This yielded maximally 70 data points per participant, and enabled us to examine whether data at one point in time were predicted by data at preceding time points, thus to investigate temporal associations suggestive of causal relationships between the investigated concepts.
Data were analysed using multilevel analysis to account for the nested design (participants, days, beeps). Among other results, we found that:
1) Compared to women, men experience more sexual desire in the flow of daily life;
2) Positive intimacy predicts sexual desire at subsequent time points in women, not in men;
3) Sexual desire in women does not predict experienced intimacy at subsequent time points.
References: Basson, R. (2000). The female sexual response: A different model. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 26, 51–65. Myin-Germeys, I., Oorschot, M., Collip, D., Lataster, J., Delespaul, P., & Os, van J. (2009). Experience sampling research in psychopathology: Opening the black box of daily life, Psychological Medicine, 39, 1533–1547. Schnarch, D. M. (1991). Constructing the sexual crucible: An integration of sexual and marital therapy. New York, W. W. Norton & Co.
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