Shame Levels Surrounding Casual Sex in Independent and Interdependent Self-Construals
- Pages: 8
- Word count: 1866
- Category: Regret
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They say sex sell, and they aren’t wrong. In pop culture today, magazines today constantly are updating the population on who is sleeping with who or the newest sexual drama. In our study we wanted to see how shame is present in “hookup culture” on college campuses. We tested hypotheses to see how shameful college aged students who scored high on interdependence and independence self-construals would respond to questions about someone in their family or community engaging in casual sex. We assessed this both through their self-report responses and physical facial expression when a confederate asked them questions. We compared their shame response scores and their independence/interdependence score to see if there was a trend of a specific trait being more shameful surrounding casual sex. We found that both students who scored high on independence and interdependence had a statistically significant relationship to the amount of shame that they self-reported.
However, both groups did not have a significant relationship between their independence/interdependence score and their facial expressions. These findings helped expand our understanding of how shame differs in cultures and how physical facial expression of shame differ from how participants report they are feeling. Keywords: shame, interdependence, independence, casual sex Shame Levels Surrounding Casual Sex in Independent and Interdependent Self-Construals Daft Punk said it best with his lyric “We’re up all night ’til the sun, we’re up all night to get some, we’re up all night for good fun, we’re up all night to get lucky” (Daft Punk, 2013). Casual sex has dominated hot topic lists within college campuses. But is casual sex always glorified or is there a level of shame that surrounds those who partake in it? After all, it is called a “walk of shame”.
College students in America today seem to have forgone the classic dating ways for a “hookup culture”. Hookup culture is a term to describe noncommittal sexual experiences between people who are not romantically dating, this can include a range of sexual activities not limited to: acts of affection, kissing, oral, anal and penetrational sex (Garcia at el, 2012). Although there is no exact definition that encompasses all of what hookup culture represents, the most important thing to remember is that it is basically the opposite of dating. Shame is a complicated emotion that often gets lumped in with sadness or embarrassment, but it is in fact much more than that. Shame enompasses the desire to hide or run away from a stimulus, it goes hand in hand with feelings of humiliation or embarrassment but has additional layers.
Margaret Mead describes it as “the agony of being found wanting and exposed to the disapproval of others” (Mead, 1955). This accurately describes the type of shame experienced by those in relation to casual sex, the agony of being found wanting and exposed. Shame presents itself with distinct physical characteristics, lack of eye contact, head lowered, drooped eyelids (Kaufman, 1980, Izard 1977). These characteristics differ from those of humiliation, embarrassment, sadness, and guilt. Similar to shame, many college students experience regret in their sexual experiences. This includes both what they have done and lacked to have done. In 1970, Klassen, Williams, and Levitt surveyed participants ranging in age from twenty to seventy about their premarital sexual experiences. About 40% of these participants had regrets about their sexual experiences (Klassen, Williams, and Levitt, 1970).
Similarly another study was run in 1998 where 60% of participants reported that they wish they had waited to have sex (Dickson et al, 1998). Regret seems to be a heavily prevalent emotion in casual sex situations. Very rarely was there a study that reported that participants wished they had not waited as long, Dickson found that 1% of women wished they had sex sooner (Dickson at el, 1998). Oswalt, Cameron, and Koob asked 248 college students if they had ever regretted their decision to engage in sexual activity, 17.9% of men, 29.3% of women, and 25.9% of total students regretted a sexual experience while in college (2005). When they were asked why they regretted the experience, their most common response was in reference to personal values that were violated by engaging in sexual activity (Oswalt, Cameron, Koob, 2005).
Personal values vary from person to person and culture to culture, especially depending on collectivist versus individualist cultures. It was proposed in the literature that North American and Asian cultures varies in relation to collectivism levels. Markus and Kitayama identified that people who live in the West have more independent views, these include having traits of admiring differences, uniqueness, ability to complete tasks alone and separateness– named an independent self-construal. Where as people who live in the East have more collectivist views, these include having traits of admiring community, social relationships, and connectedness with others– named an interdependent self-construal (Berry, 1979; Markus, Kitayama, 1991). Each person is not either interdependent or independent, they are not either sides of a spectrum. Rather, someone can be high in both or low in both. The main difference between these self-construals is their relationships with others and their community.
Shame within culture presents itself in a different light. A study examined how salesmen in both interdependent cultures and independent cultures experienced shame differently. The research showed that the salesman in the independent culture felt the shame personally and that their self-esteem and self-worth were lowered. Whereas the salesman from the interdependent culture felt shame socially, as if their shame affected their family and community as well (Bagozzi, Verbeke, & Gavino, 2003). Since shame in independent and interdependent cultures are different, we hypothesize that participants that scored higher on interdependence would experience a higher self-report shame score. We also hypothesized that participants who scored higher on interdependence would show more guilty facial expression when being asked the questions by the confederate.
Method Participants We measured one hundred Wake Forest University students who are currently registered for Introduction to Psychology. Students ranged in age from 18-21, 58 females and 42 males (M age = 18.4, SD = .586). Participants were recruited through their introductory course and were given credit towards their grade for participating in our study. Interdependence and Independence Measures In order to measure self-construal and determine whether the participant is higher on independence or interdependence, we used the Singelis 32-item scale (Singelis, Triandis, Bhawuk, Gelfand’s 1995). This scale assess both independence and interdependence, participants would respond to the questions on a scale of 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). Questions asked items like “On a scale of 1-7 is your happiness dependent upon the happiness of those around you?” or “On a scale of 1-7 is speaking up in class a problem for you?” (Singelis, Triandis, Bhawuk, Gelfand’s 1995).
The results of this scale would help us determine if the participant was higher in independence or interdependence. Facial Shame Response Rating For determining facial shame response from participants we used Ekman and Friesen’s Facial Action Coding System (FACS) (Ekman, Friesen, 1972). This scale allowed us to numerical code how much shame participants displayed while the confederate asked them questions. This scale ranged from 1 (neutral facial expression) to 6 (strong shame expressions). Shame expressions are demonstrated by lip biting, lip parting, upper eyelids dropping, and the lowering of one’s head (Wiggers, 1982), Procedure After participants signed the informed consent forms, the participant was taken into a room alone and asked to fill out a questionnaire form that asked questions surrounding how whether they were more interdependent or independent. These questions were asked on a scale of 1 (not very independent or not very interdependent) to 5 (very independent or very interdependent).
Once the participants finished their questionnaire, they were taken into another room with a confederate. The confederate asked them questions surrounding how shameful they would feel if someone in their community/family was engaging in casual sex. (e.g. “on a scale of 1-5 how would you feel if your mother was engaging in casual sex”). These questions were on a scale of 1 (no shame) to 5 (high amounts of shame). These responses were video recorded to analyze facial shame responses. Facial shame responses were recorded on a scale of 1 (neutral facial expression) to 6 (strong shame expression). Participants had four scores at the end of the experiment, interdependence, independence, shame self-report, and facial shame response. Statistical Analyses We ran four regression analyses to see how independence and interdependence effects how shameful our participants felt about casual sex in their community. These were run from both the self-report that the participants answered alone, and the facial expression responses when the confederate asked them the questions. Results Self-Report Levels Interdependence Self Report Shame Levels To see how participants who scored high on interdependence reacted to the casual sex questions we ran a regression.
Participants who scored high on interdependence (M = 3.05 , SD = 1.75) had a statistically significant relationship with the amount of shame that was displayed during the self report questionnaire. Interdependence significantly predicted shame scores, b = .179, t(99) = 2.462, p = .016. Independence Self Report Shame Levels To see how participants who score high on independence reacted to the casual sex we ran another regression. Participants who score high on independence (M = 4.99, SD = 1.94) had a statistically significant relationship with the amount of shame that was displayed during the self report questionnaire. Independence significantly inversely predicted shame scores, b = -.157, t(99) = -2.391, p = .019.
Facial Expression Report Independence We ran another regression on the facial expression report to see how the participants facial expression was related to the casual sex questionnaire. When we analyzed the shame response facial expressions for the independent participants; independence was not a significant predictor of facial shame expression, b = .036, t(99) = .355, p = .723.. Although there as a statistically significant relationship between how these participants self-reported how they would feel about someone in their community engaging in casual sex and their shame response, that was response was not physically visible when the confederate asked them these questions in person. Interdependence Our final regression on facial expression report was to see how participants who scored high on interdependence physically reacted when they were asked questions about people in their community engaging in casual sex.
When we analyzed these shame responses and interdependence was a non-significant predictor of facial shame expressions, b = -0.88, t(99) = -0.788, p = .433. Similarly to the independence group, although the interdependent group show statistical significant between their shame score and self-report there was no significant relationship between their facial expressions and interdependence score. Discussion Implications: This study provided new evidence to how differthat participants who have a higher sense of interdependence will most likely have a high sense of shame surrounding casual sex. Additionally, those who have a high sense of independence will not feel as shameful about casual sex as those who are interdependent. Although independence and interdependence scores did not predict the shameful facial expressions of Issues we had: Future ideas: For future studies, I would like to use a different age group of participants to see independence and interdependence levels at older ages to determine how they vary. It would also be interesting to test and see if shame surrounding casual sex changes as participants age.