Gender Comparisons of University Students' Perceived Relevance of Human Sexuality Topics
Ballard, Sharon M., Morris, Michael Lane, Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences
Scholarship and Practice
This exploratory study examines undergraduate university students' evaluations of topics included in a comprehensive human sexuality course. Through daily evaluations, 145 females and 58 males rated the relevance of22 sexuality topics. Love, communication, and contraception were topics perceived by the students to be highly relevant and homosexuality was rated as the least relevant. Significant gender differences were determined through t tests with female students perceiving topics as more relevant than male students with the exception of male anatomy. The greatest significant gender differences were in the topics of gender issues, female anatomy, conception, adult sexuality, and sexual victimization.
The majority of parents want their children to receive sexuality education; many states mandate it, yet fewer than 10% of students receive it (SEICUS, 1992). Kenney and Orr (1984) reviewed sexuality programs and policies and found that despite ongoing controversy, there is overwhelming support for sexuality education. Although there is not much controversy about whether or not a sexuality program should exist, there is a great deal of controversy about the sexuality content and the instructional activities to be included in such a program (Bruess and Greenberg, 1994; SEICUS, 1992). Parents, educators, administrators, and community members have all expressed opinions about what content should be included in sexuality education programs; the students seldom have a voice in their own sexuality education needs.
The variety of sexuality education offered to middle school and high school students affects the teaching of a university course in human sexuality. Students come into the course with different baselines of knowledge with opinions regarding sexual issues already formed. Knowledge of students' interests in sexuality is important for our understanding and execution of, not only sexuality courses, but also marriage and family courses at all levels. An extensive review of literature indicated that more research in this area is warranted. In addition, many family and consumer sciences professionals deal with human sexuality either directly or indirectly and may find this study relevant to their work.
PURPOSE AND OBJECTIVES
The current study examines undergraduate university students' evaluations of the topics included in a comprehensive human sexuality course. A comprehensive sexuality education program includes the biological, socio-cultural, psychological, and spiritual dimensions of sexuality from the cognitive, affective, and behavioral domains (SEICUS, 1992). The comprehensive human sexuality curriculum that is part of this study encompasses all four dimensions and includes the six key concepts included in the guidelines advocated by the Sex Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SEICUS), (i.e., human development, relationships, personal skills, sexual behavior, sexual health, and society and culture, SEICUS, 1992).
The specific research objectives of this study are to determine university students' perceived relevance of 22 sexuality topics and to make gender comparisons of these perceptions. The word "sex" as a distinction between being male or female can be confused with sexuality. Therefore, in this study, the word gender is used to refer to whether the student is male or female.
THE LEARNERS' ROLE IN SEXUALITY EDUCATION
The developmental readiness, needs and interests, and gender of the learner are important factors to be considered when designing a relevant sexuality curriculum. Developmental readiness includes giving attention to the age and experiential appropriateness of the curricula and related instructional activities.
An extensive literature review revealed support for the importance of incorporating student interests in sexuality curricula. One operational principle of family life education as defined by Arcus, Schvaneveldt, and Moss (1993) is that "family life education should be based on the needs of individuals and families" (p. …