First Advisor

Maura Kelly

Date of Publication

Spring 6-3-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Sociology






Sex instruction for youth, Sex role -- Study and teaching, Health education (Middle school), Health education (Secondary), Men -- Sexual behavior -- Attitudes, Women -- Sexual behavior -- Attitudes, Sex discrimination in education



Physical Description

1 online resource (v, 115 pages)


Existing research suggests that men and women develop differing sexual scripts that influence their behavior, interactions and emotions regarding sex. The objective of this project is to examine the experiences of men and women with formal sex education programs, especially in regards to information about: anatomy and biology, sexual responsibility and risk taking, sexual desire, virginity and abstinence, as well as to explore sources of sex education outside of school. Several studies suggest masculine sexual scripts dictate that men generally construct a more body-focused approach to sex, with an emphasis on competition, aggression and achievement. Conversely, emphasized feminine sexual scripts call for a more emotion-focused approach to sex that stresses self-control, resistance and sexual 'gatekeeping'. One of the explanations for this is adolescents' experience with formal sex education in school. Gendered messages in sex education that reproduce dominant sexual scripts have the potential to reinforce sexual double standards that affirm male desire and regulate female desire. Previous studies have determined school to be a place where individuals develop scripts that guide them through many aspects of social life. While one recent study has pointed to the existence of gendered messages in sex education films, there is little research on how men's and women's experiences with formal sex education influence their interaction with different sexual scripts.

Additionally, this research recognizes that interaction with sexual scripts occurs in a multitude of settings over the life course, and although formal sex education is the focus of this analysis because of the explicit messages communicated to adolescents during a very formative stage, other more informal sources of sexual information (i.e. family, peers, and the internet) are explored in comparison with school-based sex education. The findings of this study indicate a gendered patter in access to sexual scripts, drawing from participants' accounts of their sex education experiences in school, as well as important differences in the messages, or scripts communicated to them about sex from friends, family and online. Most notably, men and women generally recount interaction with scripts that reinforce traditional masculine and feminine sexuality in formal, school-based sex education programs. However, sexual learning from more informal sources, like from families and the internet, indicate possible shifts in traditional gendered sexuality, especially for women.


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