The Role Of Self Focus As A Function Of Siginficance In Sexual Dysfunction

It is a popular belief that being physically attractive is of greater importance for women than for men in today's society, particularly in attracting the opposite sex. Several studies have found support for this difference in the context of dating and mate selection. In an early study, Strauss (1946) asked what traits would be most critical in a marriage partner and found that males rated physical attractiveness significantly higher than females did. Coombs and Kenkel (1966) asked a similar question about potential dating partners and found a similar gender difference. Harrison and Saeed (1977) examined a series of advertisements and found that females were more likely than males to emphasize their physical attractiveness. In a study conducted by Nevid (1984), subjects were asked to rate various physical, social, and personality characteristics in terms of their importance in determining choice of romantic partners. The results of this study indicated that males placed greater importance on characteristics such as weight, body shape, and overall build, while females emphasized characteristics such as warmth, honesty, and fidelity.
On the basis of this frame of reasoning, it can be appropriate to infer that women are socialized to believe that to be an adequate sex partner, they must conform to societal norms regarding physical attractiveness. As a result, women are continually faced with meeting the demands prescribed on them through society. They are expected to present themselves as attractive, appealing, sexy individuals. Accordingly, the low sexual esteem that may ensue from the pressures of conforming to the dictates of society among women is an often overlooked phenomenon
It is abundantly clear that physical attractiveness among women serves a puissant element in sexual relationships. This emphasis on physical attributes continues as relationships become more solidified, and couples are married. (Margolin and White, 1987). Contrary to the belief that the component of physical attractiveness declines in value through years of marriage, it has been demonstrated that this is clearly not the case. As marriages and spouses age, women may live with the increasing likelihood of comparisons and competition from women who are much younger than themselves (Margolin and White, 1987). Consequently, the relationship of physical attractiveness to marital sexuality and its immediate impact on cognitive processes serves as a vital component in amalgamating a synthesis for sexual dysfunction in women.
Many factors have been identified in the development of sexual dysfunction, ranging from communication problems, sexual misinformation, deleterious relationships, and faulty learning processes. The focus of this paper, however, is directed to an expansion of the original concept of spectatoring, proposed by Masters and Johnson (1970). Upon acquiring a basic level of comprehension on sexuality and its impact on relationships, I found myself speculating about plausible contributing factors to sexual problems between couples. In becoming more familiar with Masters and Johnsons' (1970) work, I am motivated to unveil the affect of cognitive distractions (specifically, the impact of self-focus) on the level of satisfaction in sexual relationships.
The Concept of Spectatoring
Masters and Johnson (1970) originated the concept of spectatoring. Spectatoring, or excessive self-focus, refers to an inspection and monitoring of one's own sexual activity. According to Masters and Johnson (1970), ?when cognitive interference occurs, it leads to arousal of the autonomic nervous system, thereby producing a negative emotional state that is not usually synonymous with sexual arousal and pleasure.? Based on these fundamentals, it is postulated that anxiety about sexual performance, which may stem from an inward, self-focus on one's abilities and appearance, is the most important immediate cause of sexual dysfunction.
Carver (1979) conceptualized self-focus in the following way:
When attention is self-directed, it sometimes takes the form of focus on internal perceptual events,
that is, information from those sensory receptors that to react to changes in bodily activity.
Self-focus may also take the form of an enhanced awareness of one's present or past physical
behavior, that is, a heightened cognizance of what one is doing or what one is like.
Alternatively, self-attention can be an awareness of the more or less permanently encoded bits
of information that compromise, for example, one's attitudes. It can even be an enhanced
awareness of temporarily encoded bits of information that have been gleamed from previous
focus on the environment; subjectively, this would be experienced as a recollection or