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Gender Roles Affecting Adolescent Sexual Behaviour

The Boys’ Role: 


The Gender stereotype of men is that they are expected to be highly sexually active and may scheme and plot for sex by deceiving women into thinking a relationship is serious when it is not [4].  Social status is increased if boys have many sexual partners, as it is similarly expected and encouraged for boys and men to go to brothels together in many cultures [4]

Vaginal penetration marks the transition from boy to man [12] and men are expected to proudly tell their friends of their first sexual experience, and tend to exaggerate their experience [4].  It is therefore not surprising that young boys seek out early sexual experiences to assert their masculinity and reputation in society.



The Girls’ Role: 


Across cultures and throughout history, women’s sexual freedom has been restricted compared to men’s.  Chastity has been the symbol of a desirable woman and many cultures have used various types of reprimands for deviating from this role, the most severe of which includes “honour killings”, in which a woman is killed by a family member as punishment for bringing dishonour to the family name [11], [17].  Women often fear physical violence if they refuse sex, and are often told by friends to remain quiet about any violence since it will negatively impact their social status and their appearance of an ability to maintain a stable relationship, a requirement of being feminine and a status symbol [4], [11]

Sex for women is linked to romance, such that it is acceptable if she has been “swept off her feet” by some Prince Charming, allowing for sex to be illogical and unplanned, making pregnancy prevention difficult to plan for [4].  In particular, women will deliberately use miscommunication and ambiguity to avoid talking openly about sex to their partners which means that many women do not give consent for sexual intercourse, and planning or discussion around sex is avoided for the sake of avoiding tainting her reputation [4]

However, the gender gap created by these very different societal expectations is closing, especially in North America.  For example, it is no longer a wide-spread expectation that women will remain abstinent until marriage.



4. Marston, C, & King, E. Factors that shape young people’s sexual behaviour: a systematic review. Lancet. 2006: 368; 1581-1586

11. Holland , J. The male in the head: young people, heterosexuality and power. London. Tugnell Press, 1998.

12. Holland, I. , Ramazanoglu, C., Sharpe, S., Thomson, R. Deconstructing virginity – young people’s accounts of first sex. Sex Relation Ther. 2000: 15; 221-232.

17. Hassan, R. Women in Islam: Qur’anic ideals versus Muslim realities. Planned Parenthood Challenges. 1995: 2:5-9.

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