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Social norms of the gay community

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Social norms of the gay community
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206 HEALTH PSYCHOLOGY
These problems with school sex education, reflect the debates about using psychological models to examine sexual behaviour and emphasize a need to place an
individual’s beliefs with the context of an interaction between individuals. In addition,
the discussions about sex education in schools highlights the social context in which
sex occurs.
An individual’s social world
Information about sex also comes from an individual’s social world in terms of one’s
peers, parents and siblings. Holland et al. (1990a) argued that sex education and the
process of learning about sex occurs in the context of a multitude of different sources of
information. They redefined the ‘problem of sex education’ as something that is broader
than acquiring facts. They also argued that the resulting knowledge not only influences
an individual’s own knowledge and beliefs but also creates their sexuality. They identified
the following five sources: school, peers, parents, magazines, and partners and relationships. Holland et al. argued that through these different sources, individuals learn about
sex and their sexuality and suggested that ‘the constructions which are presented are
of women as passive, as potential victims of male sexuality or at best reproductive’
(Holland et al. 1990a: 43). However, they also argued that women do not simply
passively accept this version of sexuality but are in a ‘constant process of negotiating and
re-negotiating the meaning which others give to their behaviour’ (Holland et al. 1990a:
43). Therefore, perhaps any understanding of sexual behaviour should take place within
an understanding of the social context of sex education in the broadest sense.
Power relations between men and women
Sex has also been studied within the context of power relations between men and
women. Holland et al. (1990b) argued that condom use ‘must be understood in the
context of the contradictions and tensions of heterosexual relationships’ and the
‘gendered power relations which construct and constrain choices and decisions’. They
presented examples of power inequalities between men and women and the range of
ways in which this can express itself, from coercion to rape. For example, one woman in
their study said ‘I wasn’t forced to do it but I didn’t want to do it’ and another explained
her ambivalence to sex as ‘like do you want a coffee? Okay, fine you drink the coffee,
because you don’t really like drinking coffee but you drink it anyway’. In fact, empirical
research suggests that men’s intentions to use condoms may be more likely to correlate
with actual behaviour than women’s, perhaps because women’s intentions may be
inhibited by the sexual context (Abraham et al. 1996). Sex should also be understood
within the context of gender and power.
Social norms of the gay community
Sex also occurs between two individuals of the same gender and within gay communities, which have their own sets of norms and values. A study by Flowers et al.
(1997, 1998) explored ‘the transformation of men who come to find themselves within a
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