Your sexual expression is an extension of your personality.
We all have our own unique personalities. Our personality is made up of individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving.
Our personality has a big impact on our sexual satisfaction and sex life.
Sex researchers have been doing a lot of work into what our personalities can predict about our sex lives and it’s very interesting! A lot of it makes sense.
Without boring you with the history of the development personality theory from the Ancient Greeks, through to Freud and Jung I might just jump straight into it. Unless you beg me to write a blog on the history of personality theory throughout the western world!
So today we are going to talk about the BIG FIVE theory of personality.
This is the concept that each one of our personalities contains five basic traits which all exist on a spectrum. Every one of us can be positioned anywhere along this line between two very distinct poles. This model has been applied successfully to people all over the world from various cultures.
I like this model because it also accounts for how your personality changes over time and how biology and environment can influence our personality. It puts some important context in there.
This BIG FIVE concept is a valid construct for viewing personality and I’m pretty down with it, so let’s move on and look at how the five elements predict your sexual behaviours!
I’m going to talk about them one at at time so let’s start.
Imagine a sliding scale with anxiety, tenseness, pessimism and being withdrawn on one end and emotional stability, contentedness and confidence on the other.
Ask yourself: are you someone that gets nervous really easily and/or experiences the world as a threateneing, unsafe place or are you very relaxed, content and handle stress super well?
High levels of neuroticism predict higher dissatisfaction with oneself and one’s life and more sexual and intimate relationship unhappiness.
High levels of emotional instability and anxiety are disruptive for the sexual process. Our stress reaction inhibits our biological and psychological sexual expression.
The more neurotic someone is more likely their intimate relationship will be under large amounts of stress and the partipiants unhappy and unsatisfied sexually.
Neuroticism and high levels of anxiety and volatility can get in the way of a fulfilling sex life. If you’re high in neuroticism you might not prioritise sex as that important in a relationship. You’re more likely to avoid sex, you might not enjoy sex all that much or you might really like sex but also need so much time on your own it could push your partner away.
Men that showed high levels of neuroticism didn’t display many erectile problems, however their big problems with showing emotional openess acted as a barrier for sexual encounters and sexual communication skills.
Neurotic men were slightly less satisfied with themselves as men and moderately less satisfied with their bodies.
Men higher in neuroticism showed higher condom use or withdrawal methods.
Neuroticism is the only big five trait that has a direct connection to a smaller likelihood of having anal sex.
If your personality is high on the neurotic continuum you might be more likely to be nervous about your sexual performance and have lower levels of sexual satisfaction. You might also have lower sexual esteem, less sexual assertiveness and more sexual guilt, anxiety and depression.
Research shows that people high in neurotic traits had high levels of sexual self monitoring.
What is a high level of sexual self monitoring?
Self monitoring is basically when you’re observing and regulating your own behavior in a social or sexual context. Think of how chameleons blend into their environment. High and low self monitors have completely different concepts of self and identity.
We all self monitor to a degree, but if you have high levels of self monitoring you’re more meticious about presenting yourself in a particular way for each environment youre in at the time. You’re more likely to see love as a game. You’d project a particular image of yourself so that you will fit in or impress the particular people you’re around at the time.
Alternatively, someone with a low level of self monitoring is more likely to present the authentic version of themselves without the mask.
Now imagine this in a sexual context.
Higher levels of self monitoring might look like this- you might be acting like you’re the most turned on and aroused person at a kink party, when you might really be having a terrible day and feel really bad. No one could even tell. You might act sexually in a way with a partner that is more about what you think they might like than what you might like. You’d be tuning into the cues around you and making sure you act how you deem “appropriate.”
High self monitors also struggle with attachment in relationships. They don’t like their partners getting too psychologically close or too intimate and try to keep them at an arms length.
None of the research I looked at shows whether there’s a consistent connection with neuroticism and sexual infidelity or ‘promiscuity.’ Those sexual behaviours are much more connected to other personality traits like extraversion!
I’ll talk about this in my next blog!