Body Image and Sexual Functioning
Angela Weaver, my former doctoral student, and I have been
researching the relationship between women's body image and their
sexual functioning. So far, we have conducted three studies. In
our first study, we examined the associations between various aspects
of women’s sexual functioning and their body image, body mass
index, and exercise levels. We found that body image was related to
sexual functioning. Specifically, women with low situational body image
dysphoria and low body image avoidance reported higher levels of sexual
assertiveness and sexual self-esteem, and lower levels of sexual
anxiety and fewer sexual problems. Further, body image uniquely
predicted these areas of sexual functioning even after equating women
on exercise levels and body mass index. However, contrary to past
research, we found that body mass index and exercise were not
associated with women's sexual functioning. This study
was published in Psychology of Women Quarterly.
Our second study expanded on
this research by exploring socio-cultural factors in the
relationship between body image and sexual well-being among 149
heterosexual women who
were in a romantic relationship. We found that women who believed that
they do not match their male partner's ideal for their body reported
poorer body image which, in turn, was associated with poorer sexual
well-being. The results suggest that heterosexual women's beliefs about
how their partner views them are important to their sexual
well-being. This study was published in the International Journal of Sexual Health.
third study involves a
qualitative exploration of women's experiences of body image in
the context of their relationship with male partners; there has been
little reserach on women's experiences of body image within the
interpersonal domain. This study involved conducting semi-structured
interviews with 17 women. Preliminary thematic analysis revealed that
women tend to report a mix of positive and negative body image
experiences within their relationships. We are currently preparing a manuscript based on these data.
In a related study, my
graduate student Kaitlyn Goldsmith along with
my former Honours student Nicole Johnston are investigating the types of
verbal and nonverbal of
messages young adults have received about their appearance from their
partners. We are also examining their perception of how these
messages affect their body image and
sexuality. We have one manuscript under review and another in preparation based on these data.
Here are our publications and recent presentations based on this work:
Weaver, A. D., & Byers, E. S. (2013). Eye
of the beholder? Sociocultural factor in the body image and sexual well-being of heterosexual
women. International Journal of Sexual Health, 25, 128-147. doi: 10.1080/19317611.2012.737446
Weaver, A. D., & Byers, E. S.
(2006). The relationship between body image, body mass index, and exercise and heterosexual
women’s sexual functioning. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 30, 333-339.
Goldsmith, K. M., & Byers, E. S. (2014, June). Do you think I look sexy? A qualitiatve exploration of messages from romantic partners. Poster presented at the meeting of the International Academy of Sex Research, Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Goldsmith, K. M., & Byers, E. S. (2014, October). Body image, sexual satisfaction, and the impact of partner messages on women. Poster presented at the meeting of the Canadian Sex Research Forum, Kingston, ON.
Goldsmith, K. M., & Byers, E. S. (2013, October). Sex, relationships, and body image: Exploring the impact of messages from romantic partners. Poster presented at the meeting of the Canadian Sex Research Forum, Charlottetown.
Weaver, A. D., Byers, E. S., & Eatmon, J. (2012, June). Women's
exerience of body image in the context of sexual
relationships with men: A qualitative study. Paper
presented at the Section on Women and Psychology, Canadian Psychological
Association, Halifax, N.S.