Appearance Satisfaction as a Predictor of Specific Sexual Problems and Associated Distress

J Sex Med. 2021 Sep;18(9):1532-1544. doi: 10.1016/j.jsxm.2021.06.019. Epub 2021 Aug 2.


Introduction: Appearance dissatisfaction is a sensitive issue and has been tied to depression, dissatisfaction in romantic relationships, and reduced sexual satisfaction.

Aim: This study sought to examine associations between appearance satisfaction and specific sexual problems and related distress, testing also the moderating role of relationship satisfaction.

Methods: A large web-sample of Norwegians in romantic relationships (N = 2,903) completed a one-time survey.

Outcomes: Participants reported on their experience of five different sexual problems and associated level of distress.

Results: We found that appearance satisfaction was associated with reporting fewer sexual problems, and specifically, with a smaller likelihood of experiencing problems with lack of enjoyment, lack of excitement, and lack of climax. Furthermore, appearance satisfaction was unrelated to overall sexual problem-related distress, but was associated with feeling less distress about lack of excitement and lack of climax. Relationship satisfaction did not serve as a moderator of the associations.

Clinical translation: These findings suggest the importance of attending to appearance satisfaction when working with clients with multiple sexual problems, particularly those related to excitement and enjoyment.

Strengths and limitations: Strengths of the study include a large sample of partnered adults and assessment of specific sexual problems and associated distress. A limitation is that outcomes were assessed using single items, rather than multi-item scales.

Conclusion: The study highlights the importance of examining the presence of sexual problems and associated distress separately, and to consider appearance satisfaction as a predictor of sexual functioning. Øverup CS, Strizzi JM, Cipric A, et al. Appearance Satisfaction as a Predictor of Specific Sexual Problems and Associated Distress. J Sex Med 2021;18:1532-1544.

Keywords: Appearance satisfaction; BMI; Body satisfaction; Relationship satisfaction; Sexual distress; Sexual dysfunction; Sexual problems.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Norway
  • Orgasm
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • Sexual Partners
  • Surveys and Questionnaires