Oct 31, 201801:01 PMBlog

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Who Are You?

Who Are You?

The Big Five factors of personality is the most widely accepted personality test used to describe an individual’s personality characteristics. Everyone falls somewhere on the scales of Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism (not the same as “neurotic”). It is relatively easy to find a test online that you can take to assess your Big Five personality characteristics. Each factor also has six sub-traits. It is an interesting exercise for self-reflection (these tests are never to be taken too authoritatively) and can be fun to muse over and discuss with a therapist or compare results with a friend and partner. Others may be able to reflect aspects revealed that you may not have noticed or recognized as patterns. Further, many studies have looked at how these factors affect one’s sexuality and sexual health. Recently a meta-analysis (link online to: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29878796) of these studies revealed some interesting patterns.



An individual’s openness to experience refers to an individual’s willingness to try to new things, to be vulnerable, and the ability to think outside the box. Those with a high score of openness are often creative and curious, insightful and perceptive, daring and unique, accepting and interested in the diversity of people and experiences.  Someone who is low in openness generally prefers regularity, predictability, concrete analysis. They often do better in careers that require routine without demands for creativity.


Not surprisingly, the study revealed that openness is positively related to homosexual orientation and liberal attitudes toward sex, including acceptance of homosexuality. Those with high openness tend to be somewhat more sexually satisfied and have greater desire and motivation to have sex, especially in older populations.



Those who score high on conscientiousness tend to control impulses and act in socially acceptable ways, delaying gratification and working within the rules. They also tend to plan, organize and focus on achieving their goals with self-discipline, being responsible, reliable, orderly and hardworking. They however can be compulsive perfectionists and workaholics, perceived as boring or inflexible. A person who scores low in conscientiousness is more likely to be a procrastinator, careless and impulsive.


People with high scores in conscientiousness tend to exhibit lower sexual aggression and sexual infidelity, less sexual dysfunction and less risk-taking activities. Lower conscientiousness scores are correlated with greater sexual activity, especially casual sex (particularly among younger persons).



Extroverts draw their energy or “recharge” from interacting with others, while introverts may enjoy spending time with others and may even do so in large amounts; however they “recharge” by being alone.  Extroverts are more assertive, outgoing, talkative, energetic, socially confident, gregarious, and action-oriented. Introverts are generally more quiet, introspective, and reserved, thinking more than speaking. They work well on their own.


The study found that extroverts are more sexually active (including casual sex) and tend to engage in riskier sexual behavior, while less likely to experience sexual dysfunction. Interestingly, the positive association between extroversion and sexual desire is weaker for older populations than for younger ones; however a connection to sexual aggression is stronger for older folks in the study.



People who score high on agreeableness tend to get along with others. They are generally well-liked, cooperative, altruistic, patient, humble, trusting, tactful, loyal, sensitive to the needs of others (including strangers), and amiable. Those who score low in the agreeable scale tend to be more distant, blunt, sarcastic, antagonistic and less cooperative. Although they are not all cruel or abrasive, they usually do not leave a warm impression.


Those who score high on agreeableness generally exhibit less sexually aggressive behaviour and less sexual infidelity. The more agreeable a person is, the more sexually satisfied they usually are. They also tend to have more conservative views on sex and take fewer sexual risks. Lower agreeableness relates to increased sexual activity (especially among younger persons) and casual sex.



Neuroticism is the most unpopular personality term. It however is not a characteristic of meanness or incompetence, but rather of confidence and general temper or emotional stability. Those who score high in neuroticism are generally more anxious, awkward, pessimistic, temperamental, self-conscious and self-critical, jealous, worried and easily feel insecure or threatened. They generally do not cope so well with stress. Those who score low on neuroticism are generally more calm, confident, brave, are more comfortable in their own skin, have a more positive outlook and higher self-esteem.


In terms of sexual activity, people who score high on neuroticism tend to have more sexual dissatisfaction and sexual dysfunction. Higher neuroticism leads to higher likelihood of homosexual orientation (in men) and more negative attitudes towards homosexuality in general. They also are more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviours, to contract sexually transmitted infections, and have more sexual partners. They also tend to have more sexual infidelity, mostly just for older folks in the studies. Those who score high on neuroticism are also more likely to engage in sexual harassment and sexual coercion.


What Does This Mean?

On an individual level, this information is all food for thought. It may provide insight into your life – or not. Use the general personality findings as a fun tool and reflect on the sexual connections as a way of helping better understand yourself and your circumstances. When looking at your results, take into consideration that extroversion is most predictive of behavioral outcomes (e.g. lifetime sexual partners, sexual infidelity), neuroticism relates most strongly to affective outcomes (e.g., sexual satisfaction, negative emotions), openness reveals most about sexual autonomy (e.g., sexual attitudes and values), and agreeableness and conscientiousness both are most significant predictors of interpersonal sexual outcomes (e.g., sexual coercion or sexual harassment). Evaluate your personality, reflect on the characteristics and the findings that arise from the study related to your personality characteristics, examine and analyze what fits for you and leave the rest for science to ponder. If something in the process upsets you, it may be helpful to talk to a therapist. But studies and statistics are just aggregates that tell a story about generalities but never are exact for specific individuals. Enjoy them for entertainment, personal growth or even to switch it up as a date night activity!


Reference: Allen, M. S., & Walter, E. E. (2018). Linking big five personality traits to sexuality and sexual health: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 144(10), 1081–1110. https://doi.org/10.1037/bul0000157.supp (Supplemental)


Carlyle Jansen is the founder of Good For Her, a sexuality shop and workshop centre in Toronto. If you have questions or comments, email carlyle@goodforher.com or go online to goodforher.com




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