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Associations between sexually submissive and dominant behaviors and sexual function in men and women


The current study investigated the associations between sexually submissive and dominant behaviors and sexual dysfunction in Finnish men and women. We analyzed three population-based data sets from 2006, 2009, and 2021–2022, including 29,821 participants in total. Participants filled out a questionnaire about their sexually submissive and dominant behaviors, Sexual Distress Scale, Checklist for Early Ejaculation Symptoms and International Index of Erectile Function Questionnaire-5 (men), and Female Sexual Function Index (women). Pearson Correlations showed that for both sexes, sexually submissive (men: r = 0.119, p < 0.001; women: r = 0.175, p < 0.001) and dominant (men: r = 0.150, p < 0.001; women: r = 0.147, p < 0.001) behaviors were both associated with more sexual distress. However, for men, sexually submissive (r = −0.126, p < 0.001) and dominant behaviors (r = −0.156, p < 0.001) were associated with less early ejaculation symptoms. Both sexually submissive (r = 0.040, p = 0.026) and dominant behaviors (r = 0.062, p < 0.001) were also associated with better erectile function while sexually dominant behavior alone was associated with better orgasmic function (r = 0.049, p = 0.007), intercourse satisfaction (r = 0.068, p < 0.001), and overall satisfaction (r = 0.042, p = 0.018). For women, both sexually submissive (r = 0.184, p < 0.001) and dominant behaviors (r = 0.173, p < 0.001) were also associated with better overall female sexual function. One possible explanation is that these individuals have a clear idea of what they prefer sexually facilitating arousal. Particularly, sexually submissive behavior may reduce high-level self-awareness and, in this way, contribute to reduced performance anxiety. However, non-normative interests seem to simultaneously result in increased sexual distress probably due to the absence of self-acceptance. Further research about the causal mechanisms between non-normative sexual interest and sexual function is needed.

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The datasets generated during and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author.


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We acknowledge funding support from the Academy of Finland, European Research Council, and the Stiftelsen för Åbo Akademi Foundation.



The original data collections for Sample 1 were funded by Grants No. 210298, 212703, 136263, and 138291 from the Academy of Finland; and a Center of Excellence Grant No. 21/22/05 from the Stiftelsen för Åbo Akademi Foundation. Data collections for Samples 2 and 3 were funded by European Research Council (ERC) Grant StG-2015 680002-HBIS (awarded to Joshua Tybur) as well as grants No. 274521, 284385, and 319403 from the Academy of Finland (awarded to P. Jern).

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SH and PS designed the methodology and conducted data analyses; SH and CN helped write the manuscript; PJ and PS contributed to data extraction and provided feedback on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Pekka Santtila.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Research plans for all three data collections were conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki and were approved by the Departmental or University level Research Ethics Committees at Åbo Akademi University, as appropriate. Informed consent was obtained from all the participants involved in the study.

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Huang, S., Jern, P., Niu, C. et al. Associations between sexually submissive and dominant behaviors and sexual function in men and women. Int J Impot Res (2023).

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