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One theoretical concept that has received modest attention in contemporary sexuality research is the sexual self, particularly focusing on sexual self-concept (SSC). While research on the sexual self has expanded over the past 20 years, there is a lack of cohesion within this research that has culminated in a collection of SSC models that, while sharing certain factors, are dissimilar from each other. Therefore a unified conceptual model of SSC needs to be empirically established. Additionally, little research has examined potential differences between genders in how SSC is expressed, as most SSC research focuses exclusively on women. Finally, understanding of human sexuality can be expanded by examining SSC models in a broader sexual context via its relationship with other aspects of sexuality, such as sexual behavior, intentions, and socialization. Using Buzwell and Rosenthal’s 1996 sexual selves model as a theoretical basis, a six-factor higher-order latent SSC model was tested using confirmatory factor analysis. Lower-order factors for this model included sexual self-esteem, sexual self-efficacy, arousal, anxiety, exploration, and commitment. A five-factor latent model, after removing commitment and one sexual self-efficacy factors, was the best-fitting model, such that a higher-order SSC latent factor accounted for the correlations between these lower-order factors. This model was then tested for measurement and structural invariance between genders. Results indicated that SSC was similar on a measurement level for both men and women. Finally, a structural equation model was estimated examining the relationship between the five-factor SSC model and previous sexual behavior, intended sexual behavior, and sexual socialization. When the three sexual dimensions were examined separately, all three sexual dimensions related to the latent SSC factor for both men and women. However, when all three sexual dimensions were entered together in the model, only intended sexual behavior was significantly related to a more positive SSC for both genders. Previous sexual behavior was only significantly related to SSC in women, and sexual socialization had no relationship for either gender. These findings have important implications for both sexual self-concept research, as well as contributing to better understanding human sexuality.
Adviser: Brian Wilcox