Academic journal article The Professional Counselor

Exploring Social Sexual Scripts Related to Oral Sex: A Profile of College Student Perceptions

Academic journal article The Professional Counselor

Exploring Social Sexual Scripts Related to Oral Sex: A Profile of College Student Perceptions

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This article presents a profile of college students' degree of agreeing that oral sex is not sex. Over half (62.1%) of a sample of college students (N = 781) at a large southeastern university agreed and response rates across demographic groups are presented. Sexual script theory serves as the theoretical framework. Implications and limitations are explored.

Television talk show hosts, The Washington Post (Stepp, 2005) and Science Daily (University of California, San Francisco, 2005) have all had recent headlines related to oral sex in the older teen and college-aged populations. Because of these and other popular media sources, sex educators, parents and others have become more aware of oral sex engagement among college students and more concerned about the impacts of this engagement. Although society members are becoming concerned about this topic, limited information regarding college students' perceptions and process of meaning-making related to the act of oral sex is available in the literature. To develop sexuality education curriculum and resources targeted at young people engaging in oral sex, professionals must first identify those most likely to engage in oral sex, their process of meaning-making around this engagement and risks young people are exposed to as a function of their engagement in oral sex.

In an effort to provide insight into this population's process of meaning-making related to engagement in oral sex and initial information about characteristics of college students likely to engage in oral sex, this article presents the findings of a survey conducted at a large southeastern university. An initial profile of undergraduates who agreed with the statement, "Oral Sex is Not Sex," is offered and findings are analyzed through the lens of social sexual script theory to explore the process of meaning-making related to the perceptions of participants regarding oral sex. We hope this information will assist sex educators, counselors, health professionals and parents in efforts to target individuals likely to engage in oral sex to minimize risks related to oral sex in the college student population. Thus, the purpose of this study was to provide a profile of undergraduates who agreed with the assertion that oral sex is not sex and to explore the links between participant responses and sexual scripts to illuminate fully how these participants perceived oral sex engagement. This profile is important because recent research suggests that young people perceive oral sex as safe, with few potential health risks (Halpern-Felsher, Cornell, Kropp, & Tschann, 2005). However, engaging in oral sex may expose individuals to the risk of viral and bacterial infections, including chlamydia, gonorrhea and herpes (Edwards & Carne, 1998a, 1998b). Consequently, it is critical that counselors fully understand the context and perceptions of college students in order to provide information to assist with healthy decision-making in developmentally-appropriate ways for these clients.

Theoretical Foundation

Sexual script theory situates perceptions of sexual interactions within the social context to explain how sexual identity and sexuality are shaped by social cultural messages (Frith & Kitzinger, 2001). Consequently, what is perceived to be "real" sex is defined by the society within which one exists, individual identity and socio-cultural normative sexual scripts. Sexual scripts vary across individuals, but often common elements exist within sexual scripts associated with particular cultural groups (Wiederman, 2005). As a social constructionist approach to exploring the development of sexuality, sexual script theory has been primarily used as a qualitative method of research (Simon & Gagnon, 2003). However, recent research has applied sexual script theory in quantitative research exploring the impact of exposure to sexually explicit material on young people (Stulhofer, Busko, & Landripet, 2010). …

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