The International Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation
Sex Differences in Sex Attitudes Among Hispanic College Students:
 Findings From a
Texas University Near Mexico


Russell Eisenman

Department of Psychology
University of Texas-Pan American
Edinburg, Texas 78541-2999, USA
e-mail: eisenman@panam.edu

 M. L. Dantzker

Department of Criminal Justice
University of Texas-Pan American

Edinburg, Texas 78541-2999, USA
e-mail: mldantz@panam.edu



  Citation:
Eisenman, R. & Dantzker, M.L.(2004).  Sex Differences in Sex Attitudes Among Hispanic College Students:
Findings From a Texas University Near Mexico
.    International Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation. 9, 17-21.
 

          Abstract
Several studies by the authors have looked at differences in sexual attitudes between Hispanic males and Hispanic females.  All the studies, using a 42- or 38-item sex attitudes scale, designed by the authors to cover a wide variety of sexual attitudes, find many sex differences.  The Hispanic males come across as wanting sexual freedom for themselves, while the Hispanic females come across as conservative regarding sex.  Several implications are discussed, including possible behavior vs. attitude differences.

 
Introduction
Recently, M. L. Dantzker and R. Eisenman developed a sex attitudes scale, designed to cover a wide variety of sexual attitudes.  Published studies with this sexual attitudes scale show consistent but small differences between Hispanic males and females (Dantzker & Eisenman, 2003; Eisenman & Dantzker, 2003, 2004).  The scale has been pared down from the original 42 items to 38 items, after finding 4 items which failed to show sex differences or to fit, via factor analysis, with other items.  We have given this scale several times to students at the Univesity of Texas-Pan American, (located in Edinburg, Texas, about 15 minutes from the Mexican border) which has the largest number of Mexican-American students in the United States. It also has the second largest number of Hispanic students in the United States, second only to Florida International University in Miami, Florida, which has a large Cuban enrollment. The Chronbach Alpha reliability usually comes out around .55, suggesting that many different types of sexual attitudes are being assessed.  
 
In one of the currently unpublished studies that we did, there were 56 males and 70 females in the sample. Most, 114, identified themselves as Hispanic, 8 as non-Hispanic, and 4 did not answer this question. Thus, the sample was overwhelmingly Hispanic.  The 126 surveys were analyzed using a 2x5 Chi Square (2 genders: male or female x the 5 items on the 1-to-5 scale) to assess the differences. For the Chi Squares degrees of freedom=4 (df=rows-1 x columns-1). 
 
The Findings
A statistically significant difference for 19 of the 38 statements was found.  Among the 19 statistically significant differences, 8 found males to be more agreeable to the statement than females. The statements were rated on a 1-to-5 scale, with 1 indicating “strongly disagree” and 5 indicating “strongly agree.”  Thus, the higher the score, the more the agreement with the statement.  These 8 statements where males scored statistically significantly higher (more agreement) than females included the idea that:

Premarital sex acceptable for males (male mean score=3.23, female mean score=2.70)
Oral sex before marriage is acceptable (male mean score=3.27, female mean score=2.69)
Males should have sexual experience prior to marriage (male mean score=2.85, female mean score=2.43)
Forcing person to have sex if spouse is OK (male mean score=1.59, female mean score=1.23)
 
Marriage should not stop person from having sex with other people (male mean score=1.79, female mean score=1.31)
“Topless clubs” are acceptable places for adult entertainment (male mean score=3.41, female mean score=2.60)
Condoms interfere with the pleasures of sex (male mean score=3.11, female mean score=2.21)
Prostitution should be legalized in all states  (male mean score=2.61, female mean score=1.83)                               
 
Females agreed with 11 statements more than males, to a statistically significant extent. These ideas included:
When growing up, parents told me premarital intercourse unacceptable (female mean score=3.75, male mean score=2.98)
When growing up, parents told me any type of sexual behavior before marriage is unacceptable (female mean score=3.83, male mean score=2.84)
Sex should only occur with a person you love (female mean score=4.30, male mean score=3.55)
Lust and love are two different emotions (female mean score=4.73, male mean score=4.38)
If I were to have sex, would always practice safe sex (female mean score=4.54, male mean score=3.80)
Clubs that promote all nude dancing should not be allowed to exist (female mean score=3.31, male mean score=2.38)
Magazines such as Playboy are demeaning to women (female mean score=3.43, male mean score=2.66)
Magazines like Playboy are pornographic and should not be published (female mean score=3.32, male mean score=2.50)
Pornographic material causes males to become sexually aggressive (female mean score=3.13, male mean score=2.38)
Masturbation is wrong (female mean score=2.88, male mean score=2.32)
I would be jealous if my partner had sexual intercourse with someone else (female mean score=4.76, male mean score=4.48)
 
Explaining the Sex Differences
How are the two sexes different?  The males would seem to have a pleasure-oriented viewpoint about sex, in which they should have a lot of freedom to do whatever they want.  The females seem to have learned a very conservative approach to sex, in which many things are taboo.  An important question is whether the males are as independent and free as their answers seem to indicate.  Would they really inflict sexual intercourse upon an unwilling spouse? If yes, perhaps this is part of the machismo that the male has learned, and he feels he has a right to dominate his spouse and impose his will upon her.  Or, it is possible that the males feel that they should act this way—either through learning or through biological urges--but would not necessarily act this way in a real-life relationship. Also, are the females as sexually inhibited as their answers imply?  Would they really not have sex outside of love?  In another study (Eisenman & Dantzker, 2004), we found that our Hispanic female sample was likely to say that if aroused they had to have sex.  This seems to be a totally different view than the one presented here, where sex appears to be permissible only if in love. Perhaps the Hispanic females feel guilty about having sex outside of love or outside of marriage, and want the males to appear to take the lead and cause sexual intercourse to happen.  Then, they can say they were swept away, or that it was the male’s fault.  In either case, if this speculation is correct, they limit their perception of their own responsibility or guilt for sexual behavior. Perhaps that is one way that people who have guilt about something that they also desire cope with the conflicting emotions: by finding a way to do something but to limit their own self perceptions of responsibility.
 
Attitudes vs. Behavior
It may be that the attitudes that people have do not always correspond to their behavior.  Behavior and attitudes are two different things, and while they may often be in harmony, there is no necessity that such is always the case. In some instances, where there is conflicted feelings/thoughts about something, a person may have an attitude that one way is correct, but may also have urges that take them in the opposite direction.  If they act on those urges, then their attitude and behavior about the event are in conflict with each other.
 
Small Differences
In all of our studies with the sex attitudes scale, we find two things:
1.    consistent sex differences in our samples of Hispanic students
2.    small differences between the Hispanic males and females, even when the items are statistically significantly different.


If there were no statistically significant differences, we would conclude that Hispanics males and females think pretty much alike regarding sex attitudes.  However the statistically significant differences suggest that they may be different in their attitudes. But, the differences are not huge at all.  They are often less than 1 scale point difference.  For example, the Hispanic males are not strongly endorsing forcing your spouse to have sex even if she does not want to, but they are endorsing it to a statistically greater extent than the Hispanic females, with a mean score of 1.59 for males vs. 1.23 for females, where 5=strongly agree and 1=strongly disagree. In other words, one could say that both males and females tend to disagree with the idea of forcing your spouse to have sex.  However, the difference of 0.36 between males and females is statistically significant, as the males disagree less with the idea than do the females.  Perhaps the differences are minor, and talk of sex differences is basically unjustified. 
 
Or, perhaps the differences are really greater than is shown on the sex attitude scale, but is not fully revealed by a questionnaire, or at least not by our sex attitude questionnaire.  Perhaps in-depth interviews could reveal more of the sex differences than is shown by getting people to answer a sex attitudes questionnaire.  People will not always reveal risky behaviors or attitudes on their part.  For example, Hispanics have a high rate of AIDS, compared to Anglo-Americans, apparently due in part to failure of many Hispanics to practice safe sex (Fierros-Gonzalez & Brown, 2002; Selik, Castro, & Pappaioanou, 1988).  But, there might be reluctance on the part of some Hispanics to admit to these practices, at least on a general sex attitudes questionnaire, especially if the questionnaire seemed to be calling for the admission of unacceptable behaviors.  Either the questions on a questionnaire have to appear unthreatening to the participant, or some other means of assessment may be needed, to get at the true attitudes and behaviors.
                                   
Cultural vs. Biological
The results could be explained in both cultural and/or biological  terms.  From a biological standpoint, evolutionary psychology has presented a description of men as favoring sexual freedom, in order to have many sexual partners, and thus to send their genes into future generations (by impregnating many women; at least this is the unconscious wish).  Women, on the other hand, get pregnant, and so cannot keep having sexual relationships which would, if pregnancy occurred, send their genes into future generations.  Thus, men and women have derived different sexual strategies, and these are biologically based, trying to ensure the survival of their genes. The male strategy favors having many sexual partners, especially young, attractive ones, while the female strategy favors finding a male who will have money and high status and will protect the woman and their offspring (Buss, 1989, 2004; Eisenman, 2003; Palmer & Palmer, 2002; Shackelford, Buss, & Bennett, 2002).
 
However, there appear to be cultural aspects too, to the findings of sex differences.  Males and females are brought up differently in Hispanic cultures, where the male is typically taught to be a strong person and to be in charge of things, while the female learns many inhibitory lessons about what it means to be a proper girl/woman. Thus, the sex differences in sex attitudes found here could reflect the differential upbringing of Hispanic males and females.  Of course, it is quite possible that the results reflect both cultural and biological realities.

 

 References
Buss, D. M. (1989). Sex differences in human mate preferences: Evolutionary hypotheses testing in 37 cultures. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 12, 1-49.
 
Buss, D. M. (2004). Evolutionary psychology: The new science of the mind. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
 
Dantzker, M. L., & Eisenman, R. (2003).  Sexual attitudes among Hispanic college students: Differences between males and females.  International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, 11, 79-89.
 
Eisenman, R. (2003). Why evolutionary psychology is not mere speculation or “just so” stories: With examples from human sexuality and from narratives.  Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, 24, 128-135.
 
Eisenman, R., & Dantzker, M. L. (2003, Summer). Possible conflict in human sexuality attitudes between males and females in a Hispanic-serving university: Factor analysis of sexual attitudes.  Sincronia: A Journal of Cultural Studies.
Available at: http://sincronia.cucsh.udg.mx/eisenman203.htm.
 
Eisenman, R., & Dantzker, M. L., (2004).  Permissiveness and male vs. female privileges in Hispanic college students: Factor analysis of a sex attitudes scale. Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, 25, 2-9.
 
Fierros-Gonzalez, R., & Brown, J. M. (2002). High risk behaviors in a sample of  Mexican-American college students.  Psychological Reports, 90, 117-130.
 
Palmer, J. A., & Palmer, L. K. (2002).  Evolutionary psychology: The ultimate origins of human behavior. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
 
Selik, R. M., Castro, K. G., & Pappaioanou, M. (1988).  Race/ethnic differences in risk of AIDS in the United States. American Journal of Public Health, 78, 1539-1545.
 
Shackelford, T. K., Buss, D. M., & Bennett, K. (2002). Forgiveness or breakup: Sex differences in responses to a partner’s infidelity.  Cognition and Emotion, 16, 299-307.

 




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