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Sexual negotiation, sexual passivity, or agency? Marital sexual relationships of rural women in Vietnam

Tu Anh Hoang, PhD1, Sidney Ruth Schuler, PhD2, and Jenny Higgins, MA2. (1) Consultation of Investment in Health Promotion (CIHP), Room 108 - A12 - Alley 4/15, Phuong Mai street - Dongda, Hanoi, Vietnam, (2) Center for Applied Behavioral and Evaluation Research, Empowerment of Women Research Program, Academy for Educational Development, 1825 Connecticut Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20009, 202 884 8298, jhiggins@aed.org

Acceptance of unwanted sexual intercourse, and the reduction in sexual communication that is usually associated, is viewed as a contributing factor to the practice of unprotected sex. For married Vietnamese women, however, accepting unwanted sex may be an important strategy for the exercise of agency in other areas of life. Should this behavior be interpreted as “sexual passivity,” or as a method of sexual negotiation that contributes to marital harmony and, in so doing, helps women to exercise autonomy in other aspects of life which they consider to be more important?

This presentation will be based on findings from a survey of 400 married couples living in central Vietnam and semi-structured interviews with forty of the couples who agreed to discuss sexual initiation and negotiation behaviors, and the context surrounding them. Analysis of this data helps us to better understand conceptualizations of sexual relationships and marital sexual discourse for this population. It also offers new insight into women’s adaptations of cultural norms that have traditionally validated married sexual discourse only in connection with reproduction. These issues are particularly salient at a time when levels of gender equity and economic empowerment for women are rapidly changing and have a significant impact on sexual and reproductive health in Vietnam.

Learning Objectives:

  • At the conclusion of the session, the participant will be able to

    Keywords: Sexual Behavior, Women

    Presenting author's disclosure statement:
    I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

    Role of Relationships, Gender and Men in Reproductive Health

    The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA