Worlds Apart? Sexual Behaviour, Contraceptive Use, and Pornography Consumption Among Young Women and Men

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: The overall aim of this thesis was to investigate the knowledge of, attitudes toward, and experiences of the emergency contraceptive pill (ECP), sexual behaviour, and pornography consumption among high school students and young people. Data were obtained by questionnaires (studies I, II, and III), and by qualitative in-depth interviews (study IV). A majority of 16-year old high-school students were aware that ECP existed, and knew where to obtain it. Attitudes toward using ECP were generally positive, but more girls than boys were hesitant as to whether ECP should be available without a prescription. Of those having experienced sexual intercourse, more than one fourth stated that they themselves or their partner had ever used ECP (I). Almost half of the 16-year old high-school students surveyed (46%) had had sexual intercourse, a number similar in studies conducted 10 and 20 years earlier. Use of contraceptives at first intercourse had increased (to 76%) and use of alcohol had decreased (to 23%). More students in practical rather than theoretical programs smoked, had sexual intercourse at an earlier age, had more partners, and used contraceptives at first intercourse less often (II).Three out of four 18-year old students had had sexual intercourse, of which almost three quarters reported contraceptive use at first intercourse. Anal intercourse was reported by one sixth, with infrequent condom use. Males who consumed more pornography were more likely than males who consumed less pornography to engage in a variety of sexual activities, as were males with an early age at first sexual intercourse (III).The core category that emerged in the interviews was “Living with the current sexual norm”, pornography created sexual expectations and demands. The interviewees expressed contradictory feelings towards pornography and felt that sexuality was separated from intimacy. In order to deal with the current sexual norm, participants had different individual handling strategies, including liberal-, normalization-, distance-, feminist- and conservative strategies (IV).Overall, the studies highlight several differences between genders and between students attending practical- and theoretical study programs in questions concerning ECP, sexual behaviour and pornography. These differences should be addressed while planning for counselling and sex education. We suggest that health- and school personnel discuss how sexuality is portrayed in pornographic material with young people.

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