Date of Award

Winter 3-1-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor/Committee Member

Amy Mezulis

Second Advisor/Committee Member

John Thoburn

Third Advisor/Committee Member

Tom Carpenter


Researchers have speculated about the existence of sexual shame, both theoretically and clinically. It has been suggested that sexual shame is maladaptive and influences implications and treatment for shame. However, no valid measure existed to assess these claims. As such, I designed and tested the Sexual Shame Inventory (SSI)– a measure that assesses the domain-specific construct of sexual shame. An initial pool of 35 items were informed through a deductive approach. The scale was completed by a sample of individuals 18 years and older (N = 281). The majority of the sample identified as female, white, heterosexual, and married from the United States. The hypothesized factor structure of the SSI was examined using exploratory factor analysis (EFA). The revised factor structure consists of 10 items and three subscales that assess sexual shame: internalized sexual shame, relational sexual shame, and sexual inferiority. Individuals can acquire a total scale score for overall reported sexual shame and/or subscale scores. Reliability of the final 10-item scale and its three subscales was supported by internal consistency parent scale and subscale alphas ranging from .76 to .86. The SSI was also compared using zero-order and partial correlations to a measure of depression, anxiety, intimacy fear, and self-forgiveness. Results suggest sexual shame contributes to the variance between sexual shame and various outcomes when controlling for the overarching domain of shame. The results of this study support further development of the SSI as a measure of sexual shame with clinical and research utility. With further research, the SSI has the potential to be a useful inventory and screener of sexual shame.