Predictors of Body Appearance Cognitive Distraction during Sexual Activity in Men and Women


  • Name of the Department and Institution to which the work should be attributed: Faculty of Psychology, University of Lisbon.

  • Reprints should be asked to the corresponding author.

  • Sources of Support: This study was supported by a grant with the reference SFRH/BD/39934/2007 from the Foundation of Science and Technology.

Patrícia Pascoal, MSc, Faculdade de Psicologia, Alameda da Universidade, 1649-013 Lisbon, Portugal. Tel: +351 21 794 36 00; Fax: +351 21 793 34 08; E-mail:


Introduction.  Cognitive distraction is a core concept in cognitive models of sexual dysfunction. Body appearance cognitive distraction during sexual activity (BACDSA) has been mainly studied among female college samples. However, the relative contribution of different indicators of body dissatisfaction among men and women from community samples, including the contribution of relationship variables to BACDSA, has yet to be examined.

Aim.  The aim of this study was to examine the extent to which aspects of body dissatisfaction and relationship variables predict BACDSA.

Methods.  A total of 669 cohabitating, heterosexual, Portuguese participants (390 women and 279 men) with no sexual problems completed an anonymous online survey. The survey included a sociodemographic questionnaire and a set of questionnaires assessing body- and relationship-related variables.

Main Outcome Measures.  We used a single item measure of the participant's satisfaction with the opinion that they perceive their partner has about the participant's body (PPO); the Global Body Dissatisfaction Subscale of the Body Attitudes Test (GBD); a version of the Contour Drawing Rating Scale; the Global Measure of Relationship Satisfaction; and the Inclusion of Other in Self Scale. Focus on specific body parts during sexual activity (FBP) and relationship length were assessed with an open-ended question.

Results.  Hierarchical multiple regression indicated that GBD and FBP were the only body dissatisfaction variables that significantly predicted BACDSA in both men and women. The relationship variables significantly increased the amount of variance explained in BACDSA for both men and women. However, PPO was the only significant relationship variable that predicted BACDSA and only in women.

Conclusions.  Body and relationship variables are significant factors in body appearance cognitive distraction. They require further research and assessment, particularly for clinical intervention. Pascoal P, Narciso I, and Pereira NM. Predictors of body appearance cognitive distraction during sexual activity in men and women. J Sex Med 2012;9:2849–2860.