Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Committee Member

Marta Meana

Second Committee Member

Stephen Benning

Third Committee Member

Christopher Heavey

Fourth Committee Member

Lynn Comella

Number of Pages



The construct of sexual desire has been notoriously difficult to capture and measure, in part as a function of questionable methods of sexual desire assessment. Due to problems finding an accurate, objective marker of sexual desire, research has relied on self-report. One notable difficulty with self-reported desire assessment is the lack of information on the context in which these assessments are made. The only available data focuses on relative assessment of sexual desire within couples, and ignores broader social and cultural contexts. The present study investigated men and women's perception of sexual desire discrepancies between themselves and other people and groups, and the extent to which these perceived desire discrepancies related to broader aspects of sexuality, personality traits, and life satisfaction. Heterosexual women (N = 407) and men (N = 178) were recruited from a university participant pool, and completed a series of questionnaires examining perceived sexual desire discrepancies, sexual function, sexual self-concept, sexual distress, sexual double-standard beliefs, personality traits, and life satisfaction. Desire discrepancy was calculated in two ways, to account for both the direction of discrepancy (higher or lower desire relative to the comparison group), and the magnitude of discrepancy regardless of direction. Results indicated that men generally perceive their desire to be higher than comparison groups, while women generally perceive their desire to be lower. For both men and women, peers exerted the strongest influence on the assessment of overall desire levels. In general, men and women who perceived their desire to be more discrepant from comparison groups were less satisfied and more distressed with their desire levels. In women, larger perceived discrepancy, regardless of direction, was associated with lower sexual function, sexual esteem, sexual satisfaction, sexual optimism, life satisfaction, and emotional stability, as well as with higher sexual monitoring, global sexual distress, and conscientiousness. In men, larger perceived discrepancies, regardless of direction, were associated with lower sexual esteem, sexual satisfaction, sexual optimism, life satisfaction, and higher global sexual distress. These relationships were primarily observed with desire that was discrepant from what men and women thought it should be or wanted it to be.


Perception; Self-esteem; Sex; Sex (Psychology); Sexual desire; Sexual desire assessment; Sexual desire discrepancy


Gender and Sexuality | Psychology

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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