Master of Arts Graduate Conference

In the Spring of 2006, we hosted our first annual Human Sexuality Studies Graduate Conference. This was created mainly to showcase the culimnating work of our graduating graduate students together with various affiliated interdisciplinary programs whose thesis were also on various SEXUALITY STUDIES related topics.

Marriage, parent information, motivation, and saying "no" to sex: Understanding Hmong adolescent pregnancy rates in America Christina Peter, Psychology

Following the Vietnam war, the Hmong have been infused into American culture. Parents of adolescents often serve as links to Hmong culture. Within the Hmong culture, marriage and childbearing have been considered markers of adulthood. In turn, Hmong adolescents have a high incidence of teen births compared to other ethnic groups in America. Self-report data were collected from Hmong adolescents regarding the information they received from their parents about sex , romance and the benefits of sex and what makes it difficult to say no to sex. Further, the ideal age of marriage and gaining a partner as motivators for pregnancy will be assessed in relation to gender using correlational analysis. Understanding what issues are related to Hmong adolescents’ attitudes about sex and marriage may facilitate a reduction in adolescent pregnancy rates and aid negotiations of Hmong teens in their romantic lives within a dual culture setting.

Mental Health Differences Between Female-to-Male Transgender People Receiving Testosterone Treatment Compared to Untreated

Sam Davis, Social Work

This research study was designed to compare FTM transgender/gender-variant participants receiving testosterone treatment versus those not receiving testosterone, in terms of depression, anxiety, anger, body image, and sex drive. A 98-question, mostly quantitative, written survey questionnaire was completed by 208 transmen and gender-variant people, all of whom were assigned female at birth but no longer fully identified as female; 118 respondents were currently taking testosterone and 90 were not. Participants receiving testosterone treatment were found to be significantly less depressed (p < 0.001), less anxious (p < 0.001), less angry (p < 0.001), more comfortable with their body (p < 0.005), and to have a higher sex drive (p < 0.001) than those not receiving testosterone. In an unstructured question regarding perceived changes in mood, respondents taking testosterone reported feeling happier (43%), more assertive (31%), and calmer (30%). Among participants receiving testosterone, those who had undergone chest surgery had significantly improved body image (p < 0.001) and were less anxious (p < .02) than those who had not. Testosterone treatment is significantly correlated with improved mood and body image in FTM transgender/gender-variant people. FTM transgender community members as well as their medical and social service providers may benefit from this research in making an informed decision regarding testosterone treatment.

The Effects of Chronic Illness on Identity in LBQ Women Aine Casey, Human Sexuality

LBQ (lesbian, bisexual and queer) women may have invested the monolithic notion of the strong, independent, self-reliant woman with so much cultural capital that many find themselves quite incapable of extricating themselves from this image when the time comes that they need help from the disabled community. This study shows that the LBQ ideal of the “strong woman” presents a huge challenge to disabled women for two reasons: not only does it cause painful psychological dissonance over the gap between that ideal and the reality of their failing bodies, it also has the potential to keep them from making the admission of weakness necessary to get the psychological and practical help they need to continue to live productive lives after disability onset. Insofar as it renders them unable to countenance the fact of their own dependence, the LBQ mandate of grit, guts, and self-determination has the potential to push disabled women to the fringes of the LBQ community and leave them isolated from contact with their disabled peers.

Navigating Gay Identities in an Abstinence-Only Sex Education Environment

Christopher M. Fisher, Human Sexuality

Research on abstinence-only sexuality education focuses on successes and failures for heterosexual youth. Researchers have yet to understand the impact of this curriculum on gay youth. This study begins to explicate the experiences of same-sex attracted youth receiving an abstinence-only sexuality education. Interviews were conducted with 6 men between the ages of 18 and 21. Interviews covered coming out experiences, narratives of in-school and out-of-school sexuality education, and opinions on how the needs of LGBTQ youth can be met in sexuality education. Participants described feelings of isolation, alienation, and exclusion resulting from their abstinence-only curriculum. Despite negative attitudes towards same-sex attracted individuals, culturally and within the curriculum, all participants developed resiliency skills which enabled them to survive and/or thrive. Resiliency was fueled by positive external messages from family, friends, church, and the media. The narratives suggest a theoretical framework for understanding how abstinence-only sexuality education impacts same-sex attracted men.

(De)Humanizing Sexuality Education, Youth and Their Teachers

Dana Rudie, Human Sexuality

Neither comprehensive nor abstinence-only education addresses the everyday realities of young people’s lives. Both comprehensive and abstinence-only education evade lessons about the many challenges that youth face. In this participatory action research project, I use feminist ethnographic procedures and grounded theory to collect/analyze data on eighth graders and their teachers in a San Francisco Bay Area private middle school. Young people negotiate–often unconsciously–institutionalized inequities (i.e. age, race, gender, insider/outsider status, and curricular priorities). However, teachers and students did not talk about these experiences in sexuality education classes. Analysis suggests that interpreting institutionalized inequities has the potential to highlight the significance of inequities throughout the teacher and student roles in sexuality education. My research draws a powerful connection between sexuality education and student and teacher interactions. How students and teachers enact their respective roles in the classroom desexualizes and depersonalizes sexuality education, teachers, and students–both individually and in relationship to each other–limiting what teachers and students talk about and how they talk. By not addressing youth’s everyday realities in sexuality education, teachers and students risk dehumanization in local classroom settings, schools, and communities.

Sexual Health and Sexuality Content in Medical School Curriculum

Sarah Knowlton, Human Sexuality

Research indicates need for additional training of medical professionals in the area of human sexuality. The goals of this research are to examine how students are trained in human sexuality at one particular institution, propose recommendations for curricula enhancement, and increase awareness of the importance of sexuality training. This research includes an examination of literature produced over the past ten years devoted to sexuality in medical school curricula and an institutional ethnography of the University of California at San Francisco’s School of Medicine. The case study includes an exploration of how their curriculum has evolved and the perspectives of educators on the state of sexuality training in medical school. Results indicate the importance of addressing each area of attitudes, knowledge, and skills equally. The importance of emphasizing a view of sexuality as a normal part of life also emerged as central to training at UCSF.

Double Nigrescence: A Comprehensive Model for Homosexual African American Men’s Racial Identity Resilience

William Brown III, Human Sexuality

In this study Homosexual African American men (HAAM) were interviewed (N=27) regarding homosexual interaction online. Though 81% acknowledged the presence of racism, and 74% experienced racist treatment, only 15% reported low self-esteem and low racial affirmation. Coding and Analysis identified characteristics of psychological Nigrescence (Cross, 1995). Cross’s Nigrescence model describes a five-stage “euro-centric to afro-positive” developmental process predicated on racism. Heteronormative assumptions of Cross’s original theory are limiting to this population; thus, I offer “Double Nigrescence” as a comprehensive model to explain racial identity resilience. The “Double Nigrescence” model notes a primary heteronormative Nigrescence, and identifies a secondary Nigrescence resulting from homosexual racism. Research shows the importance of gay online spaces for HAAM’s. Moreover, health-behaviors are impacted by racial identity (Belgrave, 2000; Burlew, 2000; Nghe, 2001); thus, the model may be utilized for designing health programs, assessing sexual risk behavior, and identifying barriers to HIV/STD risk awareness.

"Although she says no, they all want to:"Latino Gender Ideology in Telenovelas "

Andres Nunez, Human Sexuality

Latinos are at increased risk for HIV and unwanted pregnancy compared to other ethnic groups in the United States (Henshaw, 1998). Adherence to limited flexible gender roles have been shown to have a negative effect on sexual health (Pleck 1993; Tolman 1999). Although there have been many studies on traditional gender roles and media, there are have been few focusing on Latinos (Greenberg, 1993). Studies which focused on Latinos specifically examine English language television; yet, Latinos also consume Spanish language television. My research focuses on Latino gender ideology specific to machismo and sexual behaviors. My goal was to examine the types of male machismo portrayed in telenovelas, the associations between machismo and sexual behaviors, and the ways in which machismo and sexuality are used to restrict gender roles. I analyzed a focus group of Spanish speaking adolescents and performed a content analysis of telenovelas coding for gender ideology such as machismo.

"Racist TransActions: Examining White Privilege within FTM Autobiographies"

Lee Staub, Women’s Studies

Though some transgender scholars purport to engage with the intersections of race, class, and gender few are actually critically examining the ways in which race shapes Female-to-Male (FTM) experience and identity ultimately reifying whiteness. This project examines reproductions of racism within FTM communities through an analysis of FTM autobiographies. I will perform close readings on five key North American FTM autobiographical texts and utilize an integrative theoretical framework to bear on my interpretation of these narratives. I am interested in using these narratives to demonstrate the recurring tropes that create a standard archetypal FTM experience that ultimately privileges white FTM subjectivity. Theorists have noted whiteness as fueled by its invisibility and its apparent normativity within mainstream societies. Thus, to illuminate on these discourses is to bring attention to and thereby begin to destabilize the very insidious nature of white privilege within FTM communities.

Sex Work, Stigma, and Social Contact Theory

Margarita Long, Human Sexuality

In the past twenty years sex industry profits have exploded in the United States; so too has the number of workers in many segments of the sex industry. Historically, sex workers have been highly stigmatized. Social Contact Theory suggests that contact with a sex worker can have a destigmatizing effect on attitudes towards sex workers as a group. This study tested a preliminary modified Likert-style scale measuring negative attitudes towards sex work and sex workers and examined the possible effects of knowing a sex worker personally on negative attitudes towards the sex industry. Participants (N= 525) from a large, urban, West Coast university were recruited for an online survey regarding attitudes towards sex work and sex workers. Factors correlated to more positive attitudes towards sex work and sex workers included reporting as male, non-heterosexual, currently or formerly enrolled in a human sexuality class, and knowing a sex worker personally.

Revealing Bodies: Fat Burlesque and Pleasurable Subjectivity

D. Lacy Asbill, Human Sexuality

Despite Susie Orbach’s insistence that fat is a feminist issue, few feminists have placed fat women’s experiences at the center of their analysis of body image and embodiment. Focusing on the everyday embodied realities of fat women makes visible a host of fat-negative social discourses and body-positive resistance strategies that remain largely obscured in the current literature on body image. In this qualitative study, I present a new perspective on embodiment by analyzing the experiences of fat-identified burlesque dancers and the social conditions that allow them to “talk back” to the social, political, and medical discourses that attempt to deny their bodies desirability, sexuality, and femininity. Fat burlesque performers struggle to manage complex subjectivities, participating in fat-negative discourses while also experiencing their bodies as sites of pleasure. Through their performances, these artists re-present and re-deploy fat-negative discourses to craft body-positive messages that make room for pleasurable fat sexual subjectivity.The social conditions of the burlesque stage not only allow for new experiences of fat embodiment but also offer insight into creative resistance strategies that other stigmatized groups can deploy to build pleasurable subjectivities.