The influence of early social norms about sexuality
Join the Centre for Intimate and Sexual Citizenship for an insightful seminar with Dr Laurie James-Hawkins on the influence of early social norms about sexuality.
Dr Laurie James-Hawkins joined the Department of Sociology, at the University of Essex in 2017. She completed her PhD in Sociology with a concentration in Health and Society at the University of Colorado Boulder, and was a post-doctoral fellow in Gender, Family, and Global Health in the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University.
Research on adolescent and young adult sexuality typically does not examine how social norms and other messages learned in adolescence may impact sexual behaviour in emerging adulthood. This research uses a life course framework to examine how social norms about sexuality in high school influence subsequent sexual behaviour within University cultures promoting casual sex.
Forty five semi-structured interviews were conducted with Undergraduate women on a large public Western United States University campus. Women were asked about family, peer, school, and community norms about sexuality in adolescence, and their sexual and romantic relationships in college. Five groups of women emerged from the data: the Religious, the Relationship Seekers, the High School Partiers, the Late Bloomers, and the Career Women.
Women within each group had similar normative backgrounds and also utilised similar strategies to integrate into cultures of casual sex on their University campus. It is concluded that social norms from adolescence have striking implications for sexual behaviour in the college setting, and that research on sexuality must adopt a life course perspective that acknowledges women’s previous normative environments in order to understand women’s sexual behaviour in college.