Samantha Dawson

Assistant Professor

Research Classification

Research Interests

Interventions for sexual dysfunction
Sexual function and dysfunction in individuals and couples

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs


Research Methodology

Experimental laboratory-based research
Sexual psychophysiological measures

Graduate Student Supervision

Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Comparing associations between sexual function, sexual distress, and psychological symptoms in women with and without sexual function difficulties (2023)

Anxiety and depressive symptoms, as well as anxiety and depressive disorders, are highly comorbid with sexual dysfunction (i.e., persistent distressing problems with sexual desire, arousal, orgasm, and pain) in women; however, little research has examined this comorbidity at the symptom level, or how it may differ for women with versus without sexual function problems. The present research used network analysis to compare how dimensions of sexual function (i.e., orgasm, satisfaction, lubrication, arousal, desire, pain), sexual distress, and anxiety and depressive symptoms relate to one another in women with (N = 150) and without (N = 575) sexual function problems. For both women with and without sexual function problems, arousal was particularly central. Additionally, somatic symptoms (e.g., tension, cardiovascular symptoms) were central to the networks of anxiety and sexual function symptoms while sadness and anhedonia were central to the networks of depression and sexual function symptoms. We found no differences in the density of symptom networks for women with versus without sexual function problems. In sum, the current study uses network analysis to provide a novel examination of associations between sexual function, sexual distress, and psychological symptoms, as well as how these associations differ in women with and without clinically significant problems with sexual function.

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Does sexual satisfaction mediate daily associations between body satisfaction and relationship satisfaction in new parent couples? (2023)

Becoming parents can be an exciting yet challenging experience for couples. Many couples experience significant changes to their sexual and relationship satisfaction within the first year postpartum. Birthing parents’ and their partners’ bodies also change throughout pregnancy, leaving the postpartum as a vulnerable time for changes to body satisfaction. Research sampling community and new parent couples find links between dissatisfaction with one’s own or one’s partner’s body and poorer sexual satisfaction. Cross sectional studies have revealed that the link between body satisfaction and relationship satisfaction is explained by sexual satisfaction; however, no research has examined this longitudinally which is a stronger test of mediation. The goal of this study was to examine whether sexual satisfaction mediates associations between daily satisfaction with one’s own and one’s partner’s body and relationship satisfaction from 3- to 4-months postpartum. We hypothesized that one’s own sexual satisfaction would explain (i.e., mediate) daily associations between new parents’ satisfaction with their own and their partner’s bodies and both parents’ relationship satisfaction. New parent couples (N = 241) completed daily surveys for 21 consecutive days beginning at 3-months postpartum. On days when birthing parents reported greater satisfaction (than their average across all days) with their own or their partner’s body, they also reported higher sexual satisfaction and in turn, higher relationship satisfaction. On days when non-birthing parents reported greater satisfaction (than their average across all days) with their own or their partner’s body, they also reported higher sexual satisfaction and in turn, both parents reported higher relationship satisfaction. These findings are important because if left unaddressed, problems in couples’ sexual and romantic relationships can lead to disruptions for the entire family. Our results suggest that the effects of postpartum body satisfaction on relationship satisfaction are at least partially explained by sexual satisfaction at the daily level.

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Validation of MouseView.js as an online alternative to eye-tracking in sex research (2022)

Attention is a key mechanism underlying many aspects of sexuality and researchers have relied on eye-tracking technology to demonstrate that attention is both sustained by sexual stimuli and corresponds with sexual interest. Despite its utility in the field, eye-tracking experiments are limited to being conducted in a laboratory setting. Given restrictions to in-laboratory research due to the COVID-19 pandemic, exploring an online eye-tracking platform is timely. The overarching objective of this research was to validate a novel online method, MouseView.js, for assessing attentional processing of sexual stimuli. MouseView.js is an open-source, web-based application in which mouse cursor movements mimic eye movements. Study 1 was conducted to first examine whether MouseView.js was capable of detecting attentional biases to sexual versus nonsexual stimuli, whereas study 2 was conducted to replicate and extend these findings to test the robustness of the effects. Results from both studies revealed evidence for response specificity (i.e., response patterns that are specific to processing sexual stimuli relative to nonsexual stimuli) and convergent validity (i.e., dwell times that correlate with self-report sexuality measures). These findings will have a broad impact. Not only do the results mirror those observed for time-intensive eye-tracking research, this freely available instrument for gaze tracking offers important advantages to traditional eye-tracking methods. These include the ability to recruit larger and more diverse samples, thereby strengthening the generalizability of research findings.

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