Anxious and avoidant attachment, vibrator use, anal sex, and impaired vaginal orgasm

J Sex Med. 2011 Sep;8(9):2493-500. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2011.02332.x. Epub 2011 Jun 15.


Introduction: Disturbances in intimate relationships are among the risk factors for female sexual dysfunction. Insecure styles of anxious attachment (preoccupations about abandonment) and avoidant attachment (avoidance of closeness in relationships) are robustly associated with sexual problems, relationship difficulties, and several indices of poorer physical and mental health. Similar indices of poorer sexual, relationship, and health functioning are associated with impairment of orgasm triggered by penile-vaginal stimulation (vaginal orgasm), but unrelated or related to greater frequency of other sexual behaviors. However, research examining the differential association of sexual activities with insecure attachment styles has been lacking.

Aims: The aim of this study was to test the hypotheses that insecure attachment styles are associated with lesser vaginal orgasm consistency, and are unrelated or directly related to greater frequency of other sexual behaviors.

Method: Seventy coitally experienced women recruited at a Scottish university completed the Revised Experience in Close Relationships scale, and reported their frequency of various sexual behaviors (and corresponding orgasms) in a recent representative month.

Main outcome measures: The main outcome measures for this study are multivariate correlations of various sexual activities with insecure attachment styles, age, and social desirability response bias.

Results: Anxious attachment was associated with lesser vaginal orgasm consistency, but with higher frequency of vibrator and anal sex orgasms. Avoidant attachment was associated with higher frequency of vibrator orgasms. Neither anxious nor avoidant attachment was associated with lifetime number of penile-vaginal intercourse partners.

Conclusions: The results provide evidence that inability to attain a vaginal orgasm is associated with anxious attachment, among other indices of poorer mental health and relatedness. Vaginal orgasm might be the relevant sexual activity for the maintenance of a secure attachment style with a sexual partner and/or more insecurely attached women might have difficulties in attaining vaginal orgasms and be more inclined to sexual activities characterized by more emotional and physical detachment, as part of a characterological discomfort with intimacy.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Coitus / physiology
  • Coitus / psychology*
  • Defense Mechanisms
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Object Attachment*
  • Orgasm* / physiology
  • Psychological Tests
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Social Desirability
  • Vagina / physiology