The relationship between sex role identity and sexual attitudes and behavior in college students

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1979

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Abstract

Although it has been speculated that differential socialization experiences of men and women are major contributors to their respective sexual attitudes and behavior, there has been little empirical investigation of how changes in sex roles are related to sexuality. In an effort to explore the nature of this relationship more fully, the present study examined the relationship between sex role identity and sexuality in college students. More specifically, this study sought to provide information concerning the extent to which an individual's liberality of sexual attitudes and liberality of sexual behavior are related to his/her degree of masculinity and femininity. This study also examined the relationship between liberality of sexual attitudes and behavior and sex role categories (androgynous, feminine, masculine, undifferentiated) for males and females. Additionally, gender differences with respect to liberality of sexual attitudes and behavior were examined. Subjects included 126 female and 99 male undergraduate students who were currently enrolled in a human sexuality course at the University of Houston. Degree of masculinity/femininity and sex role categories were determined by the short form of the Personal Attributes Questionnaire (PAQ) (Spence, Helmreich, & Stapp, 1974). Liberality of sexual attitudes and behavior was determined by the Behavior and Attitude Questionnaire (BAQ) (Gunderson, 1978). The results of the study indicate that for males there was a significant positive relationship between degree of masculinity and liberality of sexual behavior at the 95 percent level of confidence, and a significant inverse relationship between degree of femininity and liberality of sexual attitudes at the 95 percent level of confidence. Additionally, the relationships between degree of femininity and liberality of sexual behavior, and between degree of masculinity and liberality of sexual attitudes were not found to be significant. For females, there was a significant positive relationship between degree of masculinity and liberality of sexual attitudes at the 95 percent level of confidence, and a significant positive relationship between degree of masculinity and liberality of sexual behavior at the 95 percent level of confidence. Additionally, the relationships between degree of femininity and liberality of sexual attitudes and between degree of femininity and liberality of sexual behavior were not found to be significant. With respect to gender, the Mann-Whitney U indicated that males and females were not significantly different from each other in liberality of sexual attitudes and liberality of sexual behavior. Results of two Kruskal-Wallis nonparametric ANOVAS indicated that significant differences in attitude scores existed across sex role categories. The masculine group was found to exhibit the most liberal behavior followed by the androgynous group and the undifferentiated group, with the feminine group exhibiting the most conservative sexual behavior. For sexual attitudes, the masculine group had the most liberal scores, followed by the undifferentiated group, then the androgynous group, with the feminine group demonstrating the most conservative sexual attitudes. Although the results preclude the drawing of firm conclusions, it appears that a bipolar effect may be operating with respect to liberality of sexual attitudes and behavior. Degree of masculinity appears to have a liberalizing effect on attitudes and behavior, while degree of femininity has a restricting effect. In addition, these findings lend support to the traditional conceptualization of masculinity-femininity as negatively correlated traits. The finding that males and females were not significantly different from each other in liberality of attitudes or behavior indicates that, at least among college students, men and women may be abandoning the double standard and moving toward a convergence of sexual attitudes and behavior. The present study has only begun to explore the interaction of sex role identity and sexuality; however, these preliminary results imply that the interaction of gender and role is important. It is hoped that additional research will follow in an attempt to more fully understand and define the parameters of the relationship.

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