Collins, A. M., & Sedlacek, W. E. (1972). Counselor perceptions of sexual attitudes of female university students. College Student Journal, 6, 13‑16.
COUNSELOR PERCEPTIONS OF SEXUAL ATTITUDES
OF FEMALE UNIVERSITY STUDENTS
ANNE M. COLLINS
WILLIAM E. SEDLACEK
Reliable information on the sexual behavior of American college students of the 1960's is conspicuous by its absence. Data gathered before 1960 is equally sparse and many of the studies that have been published on sexual behavior are of questionable reliability and validity.
The most recently
published study of collegiate sexual standards and behavior was reported by
Vance Packard in his recent book, The
Sexual Wilderness, 1968. In conjunction with Dr. Eleanore
B. Luckey and Dr. Gilbert D. Nass
The results of the survey indicated a relatively small change in the premarital sexual behavior of male students compared with studies from the 1950's (Kinsey, Pomeroy and Martin, 1948, 1953; Ehrmann, 1959, Kirkendall, 1961; Reiss, 1960, 1967), but showed a marked change in the premarital sexual behavior of female students. Kinsey, et al. (1953 ) reported that 27% of the college-educated females in his sample had had intercourse by age 21 and Ehrmann
(1959) reported that 13 % of the coeds in his sample from a southern university were non-virgins. In the recent Packard survey, 43% of the 688 females who responded to the questionnaire reported coital experience. While Packard grants that his survey is not comprehensive enough to be more than suggestive of national collegiate behavior, his data strongly support the assertion that sharp changes have occurred in the sexual behavior and attitudes of female students. In his book, Packard also reviews earlier studies of sexual behavior, reports on the data from the international sample and discusses future trends in sexual and marital attitudes in American society in general.
Most of the current material on collegiate sexual behavior is limited to informal observations and impressions of behavior and attitude changes (Greene, 1964; Farnsworth, 1965), prescriptive and speculative articles on how to deal with changes (Sex and the College Student, 1965; Charles and Chez, 1969; Grunwald 1964; Woodring, 1969) and small surveys of behavior or attitudes on problems of contraception, promiscuity or abortion (Deutscher, 1965; Grinder and Schmitt, 1966; W alters, 1965) . Earlier studies by Kinsey et al., Kirkendall, Ehrmann, Freedman and Reiss are all based on data collected in the late 1940's and 1950's. Only Reiss' book, Social Context o f Premarital Permissiveness (1967) , deals with post-1960 dtata, and that is limited to sampling done in the early 1960's. Evidence of changes from decade to decade in these pre-1960 studies would imply that data gathered 10 years ago
14 / College Student Journal
do not give an accurate picture of collegiate sexual behavior in 1970.
In summary, the research data on the sexual attitudes and behavior of contemporary college students is almost nonexistent. The literature has many articles which discuss sex on campus and the problems it may cause for students or administrators, but few which have hard data on actual behavior or expressed attitudes.
Research studies on sexual behavior do present rather formidable problems. Honesty of response, representativeness of the sample and validity and reliability of the research methods or instruments used are three of the major difficulties. While these problems often seem insoluble, they must be dealt with in some fashion if desperately needed research is to take place. Throughout discussions of sex on campus in the literature were expressions of the urgent need for reliable and current data on collegiate sexual behavior and mores. Many writers stressed the fact that making sound decisions on institutional policies related to sexual behavior in areas such as sex education or contraceptive information is almost impossible without some research data on which to base policies and programs.
The present study was undertaken
as a preliminary step in planning a survey of sexual attitudes and behavior at
The study employed a short
questionnaire (11 items) given to 10
Eight of the ten possible counselors responded to the questionnaire.
None of the eight noticed an increase in problems related to sexual behavior or sexual mores in the last five years in counseling women at the University <:f Maryland. Five answered "no" to the item and three said they have not been here for five years.
The eight counselors reported that 60% of their clients with social/emotional problems are female and 53% of those female clients have had sex-related problems in the last six months. Four counselors said they couldn't give a percentage because the term "sex-related problem" was too vague.
Five counselors estimated
that most female students at
Four counselors said there is a distinction between problems related to sexual attitudes and problems related to sexual behavior. Three did not think there is such a distinction and one counselor felt unable to answer the question as written.
Seven counselors rated the relevance of certain problems
Decisions involving whether to
engage in premarital sexual
relations . .... . ...........
Feelings of guilt about
sexual behavior . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3.85
Problems in a particular
premarital relationship 3.71
Problems related to an
unwanted pregnancy ... . . . . .3.71
Decisions related to abortion . . . . . .3.57
Confusion regarding sexual
attitudes or behavior of peers . . .3.28
Lack of information about
contraception .... 3.28
Guilt feelings following abortion . . .3.00
Guilt feelings following adoption of
illegitimate child ... 2.71
Lack of information about
venereal disease ..... 2.42
Three counselors felt the
Five counselors said research on sexual attitudes and behavior would be helpful to them in counseling students. Two said it would not be helpful and one counselor said it would "probably" be helpful.
If such research were done, seven counselors favored a structured interview with a random sample, three recommended mail-out questionnaires to a sample, two recommended questionnaires administered in classes and one recommended questions on the University Student Census (USC). The USC is administered annually to all undergraduates at the University. None felt a structured interview with a self-selected sample would be helpful.
expressed dissatisfaction with the questionnaire and said they felt its
vagueness prohibited them from expressing their thoughts precisely. The problem
with the questionnaire coupled with the small number of persons participating
in the study sharply limits the usefulness of the information. The study did
show that counselors would not find interview data from a self-selected sample
useful. The fact that seven of the eight counselors responding felt that a
structured interview with a random sample would yield useful research data gives a possible direction for future research. A series of
studies on student sexual attitudes and behavior is currently underway at the
Charles, D., and Chez, R.
A. Sex on campus Proceedings of symposium
chological consequences of induced abortion. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. 1965, 35. 212-13. Ehrmann, W. Premarital Dating Behavior. New
16 /College Student Journal
ly of Behavior and Development. 1965, 11, 33-48.
Greene, G. Sex and The College
Grinder, R. E., and Schmitt, S. S. Coeds and contraceptive information. Journal of Marriage and the Family. 1966, 28, 471-79.
H. A., ed. Sex in
Kinsey, A. E., Pomeroy, W.
B., and Martin, C. E. Sexual Behavior in
the Human Mate.
A. E., Pomeroy, W. B., and Martin, 1948. C. E. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female.
Kirkendall, L. A. Characteristics of sexual decision-making. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 1954, 35, 210-11.
L. A. Premarital Intercourse and
Packard, V. The Sexual Wilderness.
L. Premarital Sexual Standards it,
1. L. Social
Context of Premarital Sexual Permissiveness.
Sex and the College Student: Study of the Group for the
Advancement of Psychiatry, Committee on the College Student.
Walters, P. A., Jr., Promiscuity in adolescence.
American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. 1965. 35, 670-5.
Woodring, P. Intervisitation. Saturday Review, 1969, 52, 72.
The Works of Mencius. James Legge.
Dover Publications, Inc.,
Reprinted from Volume 6 Number 2 issue of COLLEGE STUDENT JOURNAL