Study: Practicing traditional gender roles in hetero sex may lead to more risky sex, low sexual confidence


A study published in Sex Roles journal by Lisa Rosenthal from Yale University investigates how perceived “normal” gender roles impact confidence in sexual situations and safer sex practices.

The study participants were 357 women and 126 men that were all undergraduates at a Northeastern U.S. university.  They all reported being heterosexual and sexually active. The study had participants fill out a survey on their sexual confidence and sexual assertiveness. There was also a bowl of female (aka internal) condoms placed in the cubicle with a sign that read: “Protect yourself and your partner. Please take some! Free Female Condoms.”Doggy style pegging

The study tested three hypotheses:

“First, as hypothesized, women endorsed social dominance orientation (SDO) and the belief that men should dominate sexually less than men did. Second, as hypothesized, among women and men, SDO was positively correlated with the belief that men should dominate sexually, and negatively correlated with sexual self-efficacy (confidence in sexual situations) and number of female condoms (a woman-controlled source of protection) taken. Third, structural equation modeling, controlling for age, family income, number of sexual partners in the past month, and perceived HIV/AIDS risk, supported the hypothesis that among women and men, the belief that men should dominate sexually mediates SDO’s association with sexual self-efficacy.

Social dominance theory is a person’s measure of preference for inequality between social groups, according to Dash.Harvard.edu.

The hypothesis that the idea that male sexual dominance effects SDO’s association with how many female condoms a study participant took was supported for women only. The hypothesis that sexual confidence effects SDO’s relation with the number of female condoms taken was not supported.

So what does all that mean?

Some media outlets are reporting it as evidence that men shouldn’t take charge during sex or why men shouldn’t be sexually dominant.

Well, here’s my take on it, it’s probably healthy, natural and sexy to add variety to your bedroom romps. Exploring different roles for all genders can feel exciting and even naughty. Our brains get all intoxicated with yummy neurotransmitters when we take a sexploration.

Within the contexts of a sex act that could look many different ways. For some partners, letting the female take a less submissive role (i.e. cowgirl position) could challenge someone’s expectation of what a woman’s role is during sex. For other couples, especially hetero couples, it might be adding something like pegging to the menu.

The long and short of my interpretation of this study is that it’s important to be flexible with your partner or partners and try new things. Nothing is sexier than confidence and if not following perceived “normal” gender roles makes you and/or your partner more confident, then it probably wouldn’t hurt to honestly tell your partner what you think is sexy. Make a list of activities that you think challenge your idea of “normal” gender roles and compare it with your partner’s list.

Even if you are in a relationship where safer sex isn’t an issue anymore, sexual confidence is always a great bonding experience. Sexual exploration is good for overall sexual health and happiness. Imagine that.

Click here to see the rest of the study.

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One thought on “Study: Practicing traditional gender roles in hetero sex may lead to more risky sex, low sexual confidence

  1. Pingback: Safer sex just got sexier | SEXed

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