178092 Relationships between young women's sexual self awareness and protection: Some implications for putting pleasure into practice

Monday, October 27, 2008: 12:50 PM

Roger Ingham , School of Psychology, University of Southampton, Southampton, United Kingdom
Background: Low female empowerment has been frequently cited as a major factor in the spread of HIV and other STDs. Pleasure and sexual self-awareness are neglected areas in sexual health research. This research investigated the possible relation between these areas. There are powerful arguments for increasing women's pleasure for its own sake, but it may also have public health benefits if sexual self-awareness is linked to increased control in sexual encounters.

Objective: To explore the possible role of sexual self-awareness and comfort with bodies in developing female empowerment and safer sexual practices.

Methods: Detailed interviews were conducted with 20 young women covering many aspects of sexual development, including communication with parents, attitudes to and practice of masturbation, early sexual experiences and reactions to these, assertiveness and safer sexual practices. On the basis of detailed analyses of these interviews, a questionnaire was developed and online access produced over 1200 responses. Factor analysis reduced this instrument to 22 items, measuring three variables.

Results: There were strong associations between open communication with parents, comfort with own bodies, communication with partners, and more positive and safer sexual experiences.

Conclusions: Much sex education emphasises negative aspects of sexual risk and encourages guilt and shame, especially amongst females. Approaches that emphasise pleasure and comfort with bodies have a large role to play in developing public health interventions in the home and in schools. There are, however, immense challenges in quite how to achieve these goals.

Learning Objectives:
At the end of the session, participants should be able to: 1 understand how much current sex education is based on negative portrayals of sex and associated issues; 2 appreciate the possible link between femalesí comfort with their own bodies and their ability to assert their wishes in sexual encounters; 3 begin to plan innovative means by which positive approaches to sexual development may be developed for public health gains; 4 plan further research to explore these challenging yet important dynamics.

Keywords: Youth, Sexual Behavior

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I co-conducted the research to be described
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.