Does sexual partner type predict sexual behavior and evaluations of sexual encounters?
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“By understanding the various contexts in which sexuality occurs, we can better understand how sex contributes to relationship quality and personal well-being” -Muise, 2013, p. 6 People, especially young adults, engage in sexual behavior with diverse sexual partners, ranging from strangers to committed romantic partners. Although many of these sexual partnerships are well defined in existing literature, it is unclear how they differ in terms of sexual behavior or in their impact on people’s mental health. The purpose of this dissertation was to provide a detailed examination of how sex experience (sexual behavior and evaluations of sexual encounters) varies between different sexual partner types. For this, I analyzed three secondary datasets sampling young adults, undergraduate women, and US adults, respectively. Each of these datasets offers at least one methodological strength for investigating partner types including large, diverse samples, longitudinal design, and/or multiple, unique measures of closeness or partner type. I explored the following: How sexual behavior varied between four sexual partner types (Study 1); how partner type influences positive and negative evaluations of the sexual encounter (Study 2); and how the number of social interactions with a partner prior to the initial sexual encounter with that partner impacts positive and negative evaluations of that experience (Study 3). Overall, consistent with previous work, there was strong evidence that sexual partner type resulted in differential sexual behavior and that sexual encounters with more closer/more committed sexual partners were rated more positively than casual sexual encounters. Social, practical, and educational implications are discussed.
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