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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. While gendered sexual scripts are hegemonic at the cultural level, research suggests they may be less so at dyadic and individual levels. Through interviews with 44 heterosexually active men and women aged , we delineated ways young people grappled with culture-level scripts for sexuality and relationships. Specifically, we found three styles of working with sexual scripts: Conforming, in which personal gender scripts for sexual behavior overlapped with traditional scripts; exception-finding, in which interviewees accepted culture-level gender scripts as a reality, but created exceptions to gender rules for themselves; and transforming, in which participants either attempted to remake culture-level gender scripts, or interpreted their own non-traditional styles as equally normative.
Changing sexual scripts can potentially contribute to decreased gender inequity in the sexual realm and to increased opportunities for sexual satisfaction, safety, and wellbeing, particularly for women, but for men as well. Sexual scripts are cognitive schema that instruct people how to understand and act in sexual situations. But because sexual scripts also operate on inter- and intra-personal levels, there can be areas of discontinuity between people's dyadic or individual scripts for gendered behavior in heterosexual relationships and their cultural scripts.
At the individual or dyadic level, people may desire or enact very different gender scripts for sexuality than those they observe as being cultural norms. Assessing sexual scripts empirically is one way of understanding the larger gender structures that shape heterosexual behavior, and potentially even contributing to change in these structures. Likewise, mainstream, traditional cultural scripts are not a given, but require maintenance and reinforcement at personal and dyadic levels to persist.
These interactions between sexual scripts at the cultural level and those on inter- and intrapersonal levels do not occur automatically; both change and continuity are active processes involving ificant human effort. Research on sexual scripts at all three levels, and on disjunctures between culture level and individual and couple level scripts, has contributed valuable knowledge of what these scripts and disjunctures look like. Thus, this study's aim was to delineate the ways young people worked with culture-level sexual scripts by examining disjunctures between scripts at different levels in their s of their own sexual behavior and relationships.
Actual characteristics and behavior of men and women — in both sexual and other realms — run along a continuum such that there can be as much within-group as between-group difference. At the same time, beliefs regarding masculine and feminine characteristics and behavior tend to polarize them Connell, Thus, sexual scripts can be thought of as one point of interaction between individuals and gender structures. Via culture-level sexual scripts, gender structures shape people's sexual desires, beliefs, and behavior, and via their personal or dyadic sexual scripts, people reinforce, or can sometimes reshape, these same structures.
They are seen as preferring relational sex, wanting commitment and monogamy, and seeking emotional intimacy and trust with sex. Scripts are thought to guide behavior, and, as such, there may be certain behaviors that can be identified as consistent with a traditional mainstream sexual script.
Variation in purpose and methodology among these studies makes it difficult to generalize from their . Traditional male scripts relate positively to behaving in a violent manner in intimate relationships Santana et al. Study limitations, including a preponderance of college-student samples, geographically limited samples, and reliance upon retrospective recall of complex situations and behaviors, further limit the ability to draw general conclusions about the ways in which scripts map onto behavior.
Scholarship on sexual scripts suggests the presence of both continuity with stable traditional scripts regarding appropriate male and female sexual and relational behavior, and change and innovation in these scripts. On the change end, Dworkin and colleagues documented the effects of research participation on individual sexual scripts for both intervention and control group members of an HIV prevention trial.
After one year, women in both groups moved away from male-dominated and toward female-dominated decision-making, as reported in in-depth interviews on their sexual relationships. Bridging these findings of swift change in gendered sexual scripts and the findings of script stability is much research documenting combinations of continuity and change. For example, a series of linked studies found that the traditional sexual script, particularly aspects of it that supported male sexual coerciveness, was widespread among college-aged women and men Byers, However, many young people practiced only some elements of the script, such as male sexual initiation but not coerciveness, or appeared to endorse a different sexual script altogether, such as female initiation.
Young people in the United Kingdom, describing their heterosexual relationships, included both traditional and alternative gender scripts; however, they were more likely to practice traditional ones Maxwell, Tolman's in-depth qualitative study also produced a mixture of hegemonic and resistant scripts: One group of young women reported not feeling desire, one felt desire but sought to resist it, and one described feeling both desire and an entitlement to these feelings.
One explanation that links these mixed findings regarding change in gender scripts for sexuality is that studies are tapping into sexual scripts on multiple levels. Making this distinction reveals that while mainstream culture-level gender scripts for sexual relationships appear to be tenacious, scripts at inter- and intrapersonal levels show considerable innovation.
The current study adds to existing scholarship on gendered sexual scripts by focusing on people's active role in working with cultural scripts via their personal scripts and behavior. This study aimed to characterize the ways young people grappled with culture-level gender scripts for sexuality, and with disjunctures between scripts at that level and their personal scripts, in their own relationships.
It drew on data from two other studies. Data were also drawn from Girl Talk , a qualitative study of young heterosexually active women's sexual experiences and relationships. All research procedures for the two studies were approved by the institutional review board at the University of Washington. Potential participants contacted the research team and were screened for eligibility. Inclusion criteria were having had sexual intercourse with a woman at least once; having current interest in having sex with women in the future; being age ; and residing in the U.
Eligible participants were scheduled for interviews. Twenty-seven men were interviewed for the study, although one participant's data was excluded due to concerns about his sobriety and mental health at the time of the interview. Participants ranged in age from All of the men had completed high school or obtained their general equivalency diplomas, 12 reported being enrolled in college currently or at some point in the past, and another eight had obtained at least a four-year degree.
The Girl Talk study employed stratified, purposeful sampling Creswell, to recruit both racially diverse participants approximately equal proportions of white, African American, and Latina women and respondents with different current relationship statuses approximately half with steady, committed partners and half without. Flyers were also distributed by participants, and by Latina and African American colleagues of the first author, to women within their social networks.
Interested women contacted the study, were screened for eligibility years old, sexually active with men, and fluent in spoken English , and if eligible and interested, were scheduled for interviews. Eighteen women participated; their ages ranged from 19 to Six women identified as African American, five as Latina and seven as White.
All but one of the women had completed high school or obtained a GED, nine reported being enrolled in college currently or at some point in the past, and another three had obtained at least a four -year degree. Finally, ten of the women reported that they were involved in a steady, committed relationship at the time of the interview, while eight identified as single or casually dating. Interviews ranged from 45 to 90 minutes in length and were digitally recorded. When they scheduled their interviews, male participants could choose either a male or a female interviewer; most expressed no preference, and those who did opted for a woman.
The interviews were guided by a semi-structured protocol. Men were asked to talk about each of three types of sexual relationships with women: a committed romantic partnership, an on-going casual sexual relationship and a one-time only sexual encounter. Within each relationship type relevant to them, men were asked to describe the relationship's initiation, one or more sexual encounters, any negative or hurtful sexual encounters, sexual safety strategies, and feelings about and perceptions of the relationship.
Through these prompts, men also discussed their beliefs or experiences around how men and women behave in sexual and relationship situations. Interviews were professionally transcribed. All female participants were interviewed by the first author, a woman. Participants were also asked to talk about both positive and negative sexual experiences, their beliefs about how men and women behave in sexual relationships, and about sexual safety strategies.
Digital recordings of the interviews were transcribed by the first author. The aim of this analysis was to delineate the ways participants worked with culture-level traditional gender scripts for sex and relationships on the intra- and inter-personal levels of their own relationships. These techniques, and the sequence in which we deployed them, are described in detail below.
The function of these person-centered, within-case summaries, each of which was given a pseudonym, was to allow the analyst to keep the whole case in mind while working with fragmented chunks of coded text. Analysts extracted data on topics specified by the team to create a concise overall picture of each interviewee as a sexual person. We also coded sections of text that discussed cultural norms for men and women regarding sexuality and relationships.
Each transcript was coded by two researchers. Agreement on topic coding was high, and minimal instances of disagreement about whether a section of text was indeed on topic were resolved with discussion. The first and second authors then characterized each coded statement with a brief descriptive label e. Moving to across-case analysis, we grouped related statements together into .
This set of produced the findings on culture-level sexual scripts that we report below in the . The first and second authors then produced descriptive within-case summaries of how participants were working with the culture-level relational and sexual gender scripts described in their s. One worked primarily with the men's data and the other with the women's; we referred back to original transcripts as needed and consulted frequently. Finally, we grouped participants into based on their styles of working with culture-level relational and sexual gender scripts, and we ased descriptive names to these .
The first and second authors worked collaboratively to as each participant to his or her best-fitting category. These produced our findings on the different ways participants worked with culture-level gender scripts for sex in their own relationships. The culture-level gender scripts for behavior in sexual relationships that participants mentioned in their interviews were remarkably congruent with descriptions of traditional, mainstream, hegemonic masculine and feminine sexuality found in the literature.
They were seen as preferring relational sex, wanting commitment and monogamy, and seeking emotional intimacy and trust with sex. At the individual or dyadic level, however, we saw many participants desiring or enacting very different gender scripts than those they cited as cultural norms. Another group of participants described ways of being in their sexual relationships that looked for or created exceptions to gender rules. This method involved a disjuncture between cultural and intra- or inter-personal scripts, but it did not link this individual disjuncture with a critique of or wish to see change in cultural gender scripts.
A third way of working with gender norms was more complex. These interviewees constructed their own sets of gender rules for relationships and sex, transforming those they had received so that their intra- and inter-personal scripts were different from cultural scripts. Different styles of interaction with cultural sexual scripts, and variation within these , are described in detail and illustrated with quotes below.
The distribution of men and women across these is depicted in Table 1. All names in this section and throughout the paper are pseudonyms. This category was the largest and represented over half of male and approximately two-fifths of female participants. In this group as in the others, we observed important within-category variation.Beautiful older ladies wants sex encounters Seattle
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Sexual scripts among young heterosexually active men and women: Continuity and change