College Students' Experiences in Abstinence-Only Sex Education: A Qualitative Exploration 公开

Gardner, Emily Abigail (2011)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/pc289j52c?locale=zh
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Abstract

In the United States, one-third or more of all public school districts have abstinence-only sex
education as the sexuality curriculum of choice. These curricula are guided by principles
stressing the importance of abstinence before marriage for adolescents. While many evaluations
have examined students' changes in attitudes and intentions toward abstinence as a result of
these curricula, and failed to find differences in sexual behavior, it is important to explore more
of what the lessons of abstinence-only have truly meant in students' lives. This study explores
abstinence-only sex education as a site of cultural control between competing groups and an
experience negotiated by a large number of young people across the United States. Fifteen
college students from Emory University and Georgia State University were interviewed to
provide self-reflective commentaries on the experience of abstinence-only sex education in their
lives as young people. The interviews explored the real-life value of the abstinence-only
instruction and other sources of sex and relationship information, students' approaches to several
ideological topics of concern identified by critics of the abstinence-only model (e.g. virginity and
marriage), and students' descriptions of the "ideal" sex education that they wish they could have
had when they were younger. The interviews were transcribed and analyzed with qualitative text
analysis software. Emerging patterns suggest that students felt abstinence-only sex education to
be of mixed value, with low overall impact but several memorable features, both positive and
negative. Many narratives emerged of personally and socially varying definitions and
negotiations of concepts like abstinence, virginity, and marriage, rather than a simple acceptance
of the ideas typically presented in abstinence-only sex education curricula. A clearer picture of
the "ideal" sex education emerged, with strong support for sex-positive, inclusive,
comprehensive curricula. Future endeavors in research and policy should seek to expand the role
and voice of young people in determining the future of sex education, to keep it relevant to their
personal, cultural, and sexual health needs and desires.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction and Context………………………………………………………………......................................1
Why Sex Education?............................................................................................................1
The Sociology of Sex Education: Sexual Ideology, the Culture Wars, and Cultural
Control……………………………………………………………………………….........................................................3
I. Sexual Ideologies…………..…………………………………………………...........................................3
II. Ideology and School-Based Sex Education………………………………...........................……….8
III. The Culture Wars and the Sociology of Education……………………...........................…....11
Chapter 2: Background……………………………………………………………….……….….............................................13
Abstinence-Only Sex Education: History and Federal Involvement…………………….......................13
Abstinence-Only: Problems of Content………………………………………………….....................................18
Abstinence-Only: What Are the Results?...............................................................................23
Results Continued: Attitudes and Intentions…………………………………………….................................25
Chapter 3: Methods………………………………………………………………………................................................………26
The Researcher's Interest and Position: Experience and Reality………………….......................……..26
Design and Purpose of the Study……………………………………………………...........................................29
Research Methods……………………………………………………………………..............................................…..30
The Interview and Analysis Process……………………………………………......................................………..31
Chapter 4: Findings and Discussion………………………………………………………….........................................…..35
First Inquiry: Identifying and Evaluating Abstinence-Only, Its Importance, and Other
Sources of Information………………………………………………………………............................................…..35
Sources of Sex and Relationship Information…………………....................………………………...41
Second Inquiry: Exploration of Several Topics of Concern………………............................……………..45
Topic 1: Abstinence……………………………………………………………...........................................45
Topic 2: Virginity Pledges and the Idea of Virginity/Non-virginity……....................………48
Topic 3: Gender Roles/Sex Differences………………………………………...................................52
Topic 4: Non-heterosexual Sexualities………………………………………….................................56
Topic 5: Marriage………………………………………………………...........................................……….57
Third Inquiry: Evaluating Abstinence-Only Sex Education, and Creating the Ideal Sex
Education……………………………………………………………………………....................................................…...60
Creating the Ideal Sex Education……………………………………................................…………...68
Chapter 5: Conclusion………………………………………………………………………................................................……73
References……………………………………………………………………………………….......................................................78
Appendix 1……………………………………………………………………………….....................................................……….83
Appendix 2……………………………………………………………………………….....................................................……….84

Tables
Table 1: A-H Definition of Abstinence Education…………………………………....................................……………16
Table 2: Respondent Characteristics………………………………………………………........................................…….32
Table 3: Respondents' Sex Education Course Characteristics………………………............................…………..35
Table 4: Respondents' Sources of Information about Sex and Relationships…………............................………...41
Table 5: Summary of Findings………………………………………………………...........................…………..71

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