Providing alternate discourses about dating and sexuality through an educational intervention
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This dissertation explores the discourses present in college students’ negotiations of dating and sexual intimacy. A discourse is "...a system of statements, practices, and institutional structures that share common values… it is the medium that provides the words and ideas for thought and speech, as well as the cultural practices involving related concepts and behaviors" (HareMustin, 1994, p. 19). Of particular interest is the male sexual drive discourse, in which male sexual urges are perceived as uncontrollable, while women are thought of as responsible for male sexual arousal and its control, yet are expected to be passive, expressing little or no sexual desire. Both men and women risk consequences for violating these expectations. Men may be considered less masculine and women may be devalued for expressing sexual desire outside of a committed relationship. The male sexual drive discourse, which is rarely questioned, may prevent the expression of alternate discourses about dating and sexuality, such as male responsibility for sexual behavior and a female discourse of desire. Previous research replicated the male sexual drive discourse using role play scenarios. However, attempts to modify the male sexual drive discourse were not successful. The present study designed, implemented, and evaluated an intervention, consisting of role plays and a pre-scripted discussion group, to challenge the male sexual drive discourse and encourage alternate discourses about dating and sexuality. The intervention encouraged men to accept responsibility for their sexual arousal and expression, while encouraging both women and men to perceive women as having sexual desire and initiative. Participants were upper division undergraduates at the University of Texas at Austin. Fifty-eight participants were assigned to the experimental condition and 78 participants were assigned to the control condition (N = 136). The intervention was not particularly effective in increasing participants’ preferences for alternate discourses. However, results provide information about college students’ preferences. Both women and men have strong preferences for women to express their sexual desire, but much weaker preferences for men to take responsibility for sexual expression. Implications for future interventions are discussed, particularly placing more emphasis on challenging assumptions pertaining to male roles, rather than female roles.