Unhealthy Sex: Discomfort with Sexuality and Sexually Transmitted Infections in the United States

Kirsten Smith, University of Pennsylvania

Numerous authors have attributed higher sexually transmitted infection (STI) rates in the United States (US) compared to other developed countries to a pervasive discomfort with sexuality, which is manifested as a culture of secrecy surrounding sexuality and reproductive health. In this study, I explore this hypothesis by using longitudinal data from the Add Health survey to analyze the extent to which discomfort with sexuality is associated among adolescents and young adults with STI risk in the US. Using theory to guide my selection of variables, I then explore possible mediating mechanisms through which discomfort operates to affect STI risk. I also test whether relationships are robust to controls for access to healthcare and other factors shown to affect STI risk in the US.

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Presented in Session 101: Reproductive Health in Developed Countries