Academic journal article Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality

Perceived Benefits of Human Sexuality Peer Facilitators

Academic journal article Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality

Perceived Benefits of Human Sexuality Peer Facilitators

Article excerpt


Peer-based education strategies have been utilized on college campuses over the last 50 years (Helm, Knipmeyer, & Martin, 1972). Since then, peer helping has become a critical component of college health programming and pedagogic programs at many colleges and universities. Peer helping can best be viewed as an umbrella term covering a diverse range of different approaches used to empower others about relevant topics, scenarios, and life skills. The term "peer" has taken on several cultural constructions with regard to the collegiate population. Peers may exhibit a similarity in age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, lifestyle, social economic status, or other social ecological factor. Peers have been utilized in a variety of scenarios and situations and can be used to educate, facilitate, and counsel (Shiner, 1999).

The use of small group discussion, including sessions facilitated by peers, has been utilized in collegiate sex education settings to enhance the learning process since the 1980s (Barbour, 1989; DeLamater, Hyde, & Allgeier, 1994; Strouse, Krajewski, & Gilin, 1990). Peers also have been used as an effective outreach risk-reduction tool regarding sexuality-related topics. An investigation conducted by Richie and Getty (1994) discovered first-year college students who attended a peer-based sexuality program were more likely to have had an HIV-antibody test during the school year and use condoms during their sexual encounters. In addition, they were more likely to ask their sexual partners about previous sexual behaviors, request their partners be tested for HIV, cease sexual activity without the availability of a condom, and negotiate sexual monogamy.

Sexuality-related pedagogic programs in which peers are included as a fundamental programmatic asset have been implemented in adolescent populations (Evans, Rees, Okagbue, & Tripp, 1998; Strange, Forrest, & Oakley, 2002; Ebreo, Feist-Price, Siewe, & Zimmerman, 2002). In a study of peer educators, single session educational lectures, and a control group, peer education was found to be an effective HIV/AIDS pedagogical tool and was found to elicit change in students' knowledge and attitudes (Ergene, Cok, Turner, & Unal, 2005).

Strange and colleagues (2002) conducted a randomized controlled trial of peer-based human sexuality pedagogic programs in secondary schools located within the United Kingdom. Twenty-seven schools were selected for participation in the study. Fourteen schools were randomly assigned to include a peer-based pedagogic method and 13 were assigned traditional teacher-based teaching techniques. Pre- and post data from 268 peers indicate statistically significant increases in knowledge related to female condoms, emergency contraception, cervical caps, and intrauterine devices. When assessing the change in the peers' attitudes towards sexological issues, results indicate 19% (n=51) of the participants adopted more positive attitudes towards men having sex with other men and 20% (n=53) more positive attitudes towards women having sex with other women. When asked if participation in the program facilitated an increase in teaching and presentation-related confidence, statistically significant changes were observed in implemented classroom sessions, dealing with difficult behavior, alleviation of embarrassment, having adequate sexuality-related knowledge, and dealing with personal questions.

Data from 331 of the peers were procured in which the perceived impact of the program upon the peers' sexual attitudes, confidence and behavior was assessed.

Fifty-eight percent of the participants (n=193) responded "very or quite likely" when asked if the program changed their opinion on sexual matters, 40% (n=133) when asked if the program made them more confident about getting what you want from a relationship, and 35% (n=115) when asked if the program influenced their sexual behavior. …

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