Reproductive Health & Feminine Norms
Table of Contents
• Creating an enabling environment for adolescent sexual and reproductive health (2015)
'I am a mother' (2015)
• Girls feel worse about their bodies after first intercourse (2010)
• Intimate partner violence leads to STIs, unwanted pregnancies, abortions (2010)
• Choosing stereotypically feminine behavior over authenticity is linked to less condom use (2010)
• Sexual health content in media nearly nonexistent, gender stereotypical (2008)
• Teens' reasons not to use condoms depend on gender (2007)
• REPORT: Sexualization of girlhood leads to early sexuality, body dissatisfaction (2007)
• "Female chauvinist pigs" encourage sexualization of girls (2006)
• Race and gender combine to raise African American women's HIV risk (2004)*
• Fear of being "promiscuous" depresses women's condom use (2003)
• Gender matters: Including gender in sex education (2003)
• Making girls hyper-feminine can undermine sexual health (2000)
• Gender roles lead to less condom use in African American women (1998)*
• Black, White, Mexican, Southeast Asian girls have different sexual expectations (1998)*
• Hispanic culture encourages unsafe sex with multiple partners, limited condom use (1996)*
• Cultural traditions, lack of power increase Latinas' HIV risk (1996)*
• Effective Latino HIV prevention models must examine gender roles' influence (1995)*
*=at-risk or disadvantaged populations
Creating an enabling environment for adolescent sexual and reproductive health (2015)

Empowering girls and creating safe spaces for them is crucial to adolescent sexual and reproductive health. Social norms pressure girls into silence around issues of sex and health.  Creating safe spaces where girls are empowered to ask questions and gather information about sexuality, health, and their own bodies gives girls the tools they need to make more informed decisions about their own lives.

TITLE: "‘Creating an Enabling Environment for Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health: A Framework and Promising Approaches"

AUTHORS: Joar Svanemyr, Avni Amin, Omar J. Robles, and Margaret E. Greene

JOURNAL: Journal of Adolescent Health

YEAR: 2015

'I am a mother' (2015)

As young women transition into adulthood they feel as though their options for performing femininity become more limited. They feel that their femininity is increasingly dependent upon their sexuality which leads to greater sexual risk-taking and poorer reproductive health outcomes.

TITLE: "‘I am a mother’: young women’s negotiation of femininity and risk in the transition to adulthood"

AUTHORS: Lauren Graham

JOURNAL: Culture, Health, & Sexuality

YEAR: 2015

Girls feel worse about their bodies after first intercourse (2010)

After having sex for the first time, girls report feeling less satisfied with their bodies while boys report feeling more satisfied. Part of the problem seems to be internalized feminine ideals of how girls are supposed to look and act. Girls feel they are supposed to monitor their appearance and behavior all the time, including during sex. With the focus on appearance instead of on enjoyment and experience of their bodies, girls enjoy their first sexual encounter less than boys do and feel unsatisfied with their bodies afterward, perhaps because they feel they did not live up to cultural expectations of feminine appearance. Unhappiness with body image leads to lower self-esteem and depression.

TITLE: "Body Image and First Sexual Intercourse in Late Adolescence”

AUTHORS: Sara A. Vasilenko, Nilam Ram and Eva S. Lefkowitz

JOURNAL: Journal of Adolescence

YEAR: 2010

Intimate partner violence leads to STIs, unwanted pregnancies, abortions (2010)

Women who have experienced intimate partner violence (IPV) have higher rates of unwanted pregnancies, STIs and repeat abortions, mostly because their abusive partners do not let them use contraception. Abusive men coerce their female partners into engaging in unsafe, often unwanted sex in an effort to assert control in the relationship. 74% of women in abusive relationships report that a partner has limited her access to contraceptives or in some other way tried to control her sexually. When these women become pregnant, they are often subject to more IPV, this time involving the outcome of the pregnancy. Their male partners use physical and verbal abuse to ensure that she either has the baby or has an abortion, depending on what he wants.

TITLE: "Male Reproductive Control of Women Who Have Experienced Intimate Partner Violence in the United States”

AUTHORS: Ann M. Moore, Lori Fohwirth and Elizabeth Miller

JOURNAL: Social Science and Medicine

YEAR: 2010

Stereotypically feminine behavior leads to less condom use (2010)

Young women who try to fit into traditional feminine stereotypes instead of behaving in ways that are more true to themselves are less likely to use condoms. Women are more likely to be true to themselves and insist on condom use if the men they are in relationships with are accepting of non-traditional forms of femininity.

TITLE: "Keeping it real: Young adult women’s authenticity in relationships and daily condom use”

AUTHORS: Emily A. Impett, Juliana G. Breines, and Amy Strachman

JOURNAL: Personal Relationships

YEAR: 2010

Sexual health content in media nearly nonexistent, gender stereotypical (2008)

Sexual content is everywhere in the media, but less than one half of 1% of this content discusses sexual health--and these limited depictions are almost always narrow and gender stereotypical. In movies, magazines, music lyrics and on television, boys are described as in charge of sexual encounters, but girls are expected to be in charge of contraception and any resulting pregnancies. Since girls are often depicted as being more sexually responsible in the media, boys rely on girls to provide condoms in "real life." When condoms are talked about in the media, they are usually shown as something to be laughed at, not as an essential part of the sex act. Girls who watch TV are particularly influenced by representations of teen mothers and are more likely to think that being a single parent is easy.

TITLE: "Boys Will Be Boys and Girls Better Be Prepared: An Analysis of the Rare Sexual Health Messages in Young Adolescents' Media”

AUTHORS: Stacey J. T. Hust, Jane D. Brown and Kelly Ladin L'Engle

JOURNAL: Mass Communication and Society

YEAR: 2008

Teens' reasons not to use condoms depend on gender (2007)

Effective safe sex programs must address the different attitudes boys and girls have toward condom use, because even after completing existing programs, they often fail to use condoms. The differences are often based on gender. Some girls won't use condoms on purpose to encourage pregnancy and feel like "real women" while "trapping" their boyfriends into long-term relationships. Boys often try to manipulate girls into not using condoms by saying sex will be more intimate without a condom. Safe sex programs need to address gender differences in why boys and girls fail to use condoms.

TITLE: "Understanding Failure of Condom Use Intention Among Adolescents: Completing an Intensive Preventive Intervention”

AUTHORS: Laurie J. Bauman, Alison Karasz and Adaoha Hamilton.

JOURNAL: Journal of Adolescent Research

YEAR: 2007

"Female chauvinist pigs" encourage sexualization of girls (2006)

Popular culture promotes strippers and porn stars as ideals of female sexuality. As women learn to objectify other women and themselves, young girls too feel the need to dress and act like sex objects. This culture values appearance over achievement and encourages early sexual activity among girls, since girls will have sex "just to fit in." The emphasis here is on looking like a sex object without becoming promiscuous; girls aren't supposed to want sex or to get pleasure from it--they're supposed to make boys think they want it. What is most shocking is that women consider this objectification empowering and believe that they have become "one of the boys." What they don't realize is that wanting to be "one of the boys" means saying that being "one of the girls" isn't good enough.

TITLE: Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture

AUTHOR: Ariel Levy

YEAR: 2006

Race and gender combine to raise African American women's HIV risk (2004)*

Successful HIV prevention for African American women--the U.S.'s fastest growing group of individuals with HIV--must address how race, gender and social class interact to promote risky sex. For example, the African American community generally has a negative opinion about condom use, and, since they are supposed to be submissive to their partners, women often feel additionally uncomfortable telling men to wear condoms. This can be especially dangerous if a woman has a partner who has sex with other men, a lifestyle increasingly coming to light in African American culture.

TITLE: "African American Women and AIDS: Factors Influencing Risk and Reaction to HIV Disease”

AUTHORS: Lily D. McNair and Cynthia M. Prather

JOURNAL: Journal of Black Psychology

YEAR: 2004

Media sexualization of Black women puts Black adolescents at risk (2003)*

Media portrayals of Black women often limit them to a small list of roles--"freaks, gold diggers, divas and dykes." Adolescent Black girls often end up believing that these are the only roles available to them as women, making them more likely to engage in early, risky sexual behavior, become pregnant, or contract HIV.

The same images of exotic, hypersexual and promiscuous Black women are consumed by Black boys as well. Buying into these images makes them more likely to treat Black girls as sex objects, assume that all Black girls want to have sex, and view sexual coercion as acceptable. In fact, young Black girls are much more likely than their counterparts to report their first sex is coercive.

TITLE: "Freaks, Gold Diggers, Divas, and Dykes: The Sociohistorical Development of Adolescent African American Women's Sexual Scripts”

AUTHORS: Dionne P. Stephens and Layli D. Phillips

JOURNAL: Sexuality and Culture

YEAR: 2003

Fear of being "promiscuous" depresses women's condom use (2003)

Women are judged less favorably by others if they carry condoms than if they have unprotected sex. This makes women more likely to engage in unprotected sex, since they fear that carrying condoms makes them appear promiscuous. Women feel uncomfortable carrying condoms, as if they must choose between wondering "Am I a whore?" or having unsafe, unprotected sex. Women end up with less power over their bodies and sexuality, and more dependent on male partners to supply condoms and take the lead in protected sex.

TITLE: "Sexual Double Standards: A Review and Methodological Critique of Two Decades of Research”

AUTHORS: Mary Crawford and Danielle Popp

JOURNAL: Journal of Sex Research

YEAR: 2003

Gender matters: Addressing gender in sex education (2003)

Sex education for adolescents should make gender its focus and promote a comprehensive idea of positive sexual health and not just focus on telling teens how to avoid pregnancy and STIs. Comprehensive sex education would help teens learn how to appreciate their bodies, respect members of the opposite sex and be intimate without compromising their own values. To do this, sex education must consider gender roles a fundamental part of sexual health. Norms of femininity teach girls to avoid conflict, objectify their own bodies, and silence their voices--especially when it comes to their own desires--all of which may increase the likelihood of girls having early and/or unsafe sex. Teaching girls to identify gender pressures will enable them to think critically about sexual behaviors.

TITLE: "Gender Matters: Constructing a Model of Adolescent Sexual Health”

AUTHORS: Deborah L. Tolman, Meg I. Striepe and Tricia Harmon

JOURNAL: Journal of Sex Research

YEAR: 2003

Making girls hyper-feminine can undermine sexual health (2000)

Inquiries into sexual health have focused mainly on girls of color and those from lower income families, because of the tacit assumption that these are the only girls who are sexual. However, stereotypic beliefs about femininity threaten the sexual health of all girls, including any girl who believes her body is an object, feels she must be someone else in romantic relationships, and feels she should defer to boys in sexual matters. In fact, the more a girl believes she should let boys control her relationships sexually, the more likely she is to engage in high-risk behavior that threatens her health.

CHAPTER TITLE: "Femininity as a Barrier to Positive Sexual Health for Adolescent Girls”

AUTHOR: Deborah L. Tolman

BOOK: Women's Health: Contemporary International Perspectives

EDITOR: Jane M. Ussher, British Psychological Society

YEAR: 2003

Gender roles lead to less condom use in African American women (1998)*

African American women report that carrying condoms makes them appear sexually promiscuous, while asking a partner to use condoms reduces trust in a relationship. Both of these feelings make condom use less likely. Black women in under-resourced communities also tend to be dependent on male partners--for money, emotional support, and social standing--and are more vulnerable to abusive partners who refuse to wear condoms.

TITLE: "Partner Influences and Gender-Related Factors Associated with Noncondom Use Among Young Adult African American Women”

AUTHORS: Gina M. Wingood and Ralph J. DiClemente

JOURNAL: American Journal of Community Psychology

YEAR: 1998

Black, White, Mexican, Southeast Asian girls have different sexual expectations (1998)*

Black, White, Mexican and Southeast Asian girls think about their sexual futures differently, since each culture has its own ideas about women and sexuality. Black girls are most likely to think that they will have children before they get married, while Southeast Asian girls are least likely to think they will start having sex during adolescence. Black, White and Southeast Asian girls who want to do well in school also report wanting to delay having sex. Mexican girls, on the other hand, assume they will have to get married and take care of children at an early age regardless of their education.

However, these cultural differences are not as noticeable for girls who grow up in America and are acculturated. For example, American-born Mexican and Southeast Asian girls are more likely than girls born outside the country to anticipate having sex during adolescence and children outside of marriage.

TITLE: "Racial and Ethnic Differences in Girls' Sexual, Marital, and Birth Expectations”

AUTHOR: Patricia L. East

JOURNAL: Journal of Marriage and the Family

YEAR: 1998

Hispanic culture encourages unsafe sex with multiple partners, limited condom use (1996)*

Traditionally, Hispanic women are the caregivers and health educators in families, but condom use is still decided by men--and most men don't want to wear condoms. Hispanic men are expected to be "macho"--to have a lot of sexual partners--even when married. Condoms do not fit into this "macho" lifestyle, and only 20% of Hispanic men with multiple partners report wearing condoms. Single women are sometimes able to convince their partners to wear condoms, since they can say they want to avoid pregnancy, but married women "have no reason to avoid pregnancy" and therefore do not feel they can ask their husbands to wear condoms. 30% of Hispanic women reported that their partners regularly have sex with other people, but 77% of them said they had not used condoms in the last six months.

TITLE: "Sexual Practices, Attitudes, and Knowledge Related to HIV Transmission in Low Income Los Angeles Hispanic Women”

AUTHORS: Jacquelyn H. Flaskerud, Gwen Uman, Rosa Lara, Lillian Romero and Karen Taka

JOURNAL: The Journal of Sex Research

YEAR: 1996

Cultural traditions, lack of power increase Latinas' HIV risk (1996)*

Latina women have less knowledge about the risks of HIV than their peers, because HIV prevention models fail to address traditional marianismo gender roles. Cultural ideas of machismo and gender roles make Hispanic girls and women feel that they have less sexual power in their relationship than their peers. Women who have little knowledge about HIV and/or feel they do not have sexual power are less willing to ask their boyfriends to wear condoms. HIV prevention strategies should take into account gender norms that are specific to Latina/o culture. Such an approach would address gender-related power in relationships--especially cultural differences which lead to an imbalance--while teaching women to protect themselves against infection.

TITLE: "Gender, Culture, and Power: Barriers to HIV-Prevention Strategies for Women”

AUTHORS: Cynthia A. Gomez and Barbara VanOss Marin

JOURNAL: The Journal of Sex Research

YEAR: 1996

Effective Latino HIV prevention models must examine gender roles' influence (1995)*

Gender roles determine young people's behavior in sexual situations, especially for Latinas, so new HIV prevention models must address the cultural and social traditions which surround gender. Even if a young Latina knows about HIV and condom use, the ways gender is constructed in Latino culture mean she is expected to be submissive to boys, defer to boys' sexual prerogatives and avoid initiating discussions of sexuality or condoms--all of which makes her less likely to engage in or be able to negotiate safer sex.

For boys, Latino social gender codes dictate feeling less emotional attachment in romantic relationships and less responsibility for avoiding pregnancy or HIV transmission, which leads to more unsafe sex. Successfully combating HIV risk among young Latinas means teaching girls and boys to think critically about traditional Latina/o gender roles.

TITLE: "Gender and Sexual Risk Reduction: Issues to Consider”

AUTHOR: Hortensia Amaro

YEAR: 1995



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