SAVVY SEXUALITY – A PILOT EVALUATION OF A SEXUAL ASSERTIVENESS INTERVENTION FOR COLLEGE WOMEN
This item will be available on: 2022-05-01
College is a time of sexual development and exploration for young adults. While this process can be beneficial for both men and women, women experience more negative outcomes related to these experiences. Specifically, as compared to college men, college women face greater stigma from peers for engaging in a number of sexual behaviors, are at an increased risk for STIs and unplanned pregnancies and are at higher risk for experiencing sexual assault and rape. In addition, many heterosexual sexual encounters, such as hook-ups, prioritize male pleasure and largely ignore female pleasure. In response, universities have developed sexual health programming for college students focused on two main areas: disease prevention programming and sexual assault risk reduction. Although these programs are critically important, they often ignore other aspects of sexual development including discussions of consent, communication, and pleasure, collectively referred to as sex positive programming. Although some sex positive programs have been developed for college students, to date, there have been no empirical studies on sex positive programs for college students. Therefore, this dissertation sought to develop a novel sex positive intervention for college women focused on teaching assertive communication skills related to sexual decision making, desires, and preferences. The intervention was designed as a 3-hour workshop composed of three parts: identification of female sexual behavior norms, introduction to assertive sexual communication skills, and assertive sexual communication skills practice in sexual situations. Participants were recruited through the ECU Psychology department online participant recruitment system. Participants were drawn from a sample of 415 currently sexually active college women who completed an online screening survey about female sexuality. Those that expressed interest in participating in the sex positive intervention were assigned to either the intervention group or a follow-up only group. Forty-five participants enrolled in and completed the intervention. Of those, 21 participants completed the follow-up survey along with 43 participants from the follow-up only group. Results indicated that participants in the intervention demonstrated significant improvements in their knowledge of peer-related sexual norms and sexual communication self-efficacy over time. However, only knowledge improvements were significantly different from those observed in the follow-up only group. These findings suggest that the intervention was effective in improving knowledge of peer-related sexual norms among participants but did not effectively address sexual communication self-efficacy and self-reported use of assertive sexual behaviors. There also was a notable self-selection bias among participants in the intervention group such that participants had high baseline sexual communication self-efficacy and sexual assertiveness. These findings support the need for more research on sex positive programming with college students, including how to make such programming appealing to individuals with low levels of sexual assertiveness and sexual communication self-efficacy.