Method: Participants were 191 American undergraduate women attending a large Midwestern university, and 48 Israeli female undergraduate women attending a comparable university in Israel. The same survey was administered to the participants, in English in the US, and in Hebrew in Israel. (This survey was translated and back-translated.) Using a 0-3 scale (0 indicated “None”; 3 indicated “A lot”) participants indicated the extent to which their parents, friends, media, schools, and religious institutions had communicated each of 60 sexual values. Through factor analysis, six subscales were developed, three of which are analyzed here: sexual double standard (α=.89), abstinence (α=.82), and positive sexuality (α=.80).
Results: American participants reported receiving more sexual abstinence messages, and more messages overall from parents and schools, than Israeli participants. American participants also reported receiving more abstinence messages from parents, friends, and schools, more positive sexuality messages from religious sources, and marginally more double standard discourses from parents and friends, than Israelis. This is consistent with research suggesting that Americans are particularly invested in sexual communication in general, and in abstinence-based messages specifically.
Conclusions and Implications: Findings suggest both similarities and differences across cultural backgrounds. American women received more abstinence messages than Israeli women, as hypothesized. However, they also received more positive sexuality messages than Israeli women, an unexpected finding. American women may tend to receive or report more sexual communication than Israeli women overall. This work illustrates cultural differences in both types and amounts of sexual socialization received by young women, and has the potential to create a deeper understanding of the source and prevalence of sexual socialization and its potential consequences, as well as how messages may affect attitudes and behaviors across cultures. Further analyses are needed to provide additional information about cultural differences, as well as relationships between these messages and identified behavioral outcomes across cultures. It is imperative for social work practitioners, policymakers, and researchers to focus more on the intersection of culture and gender as it affects behavior and identity.