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New Gender Stereotypes in Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Curricula


Sharon Lamb, Kelly Graling, and Kara Lustig, “Stereotypes in Four Current AOUM Sexuality Education Curricula: Good Girls, Good Boys, and the New Gender Equality,” American Journal of Sexuality Education (December 2011).
The researchers examined patterns of gender stereotyping and heterosexism in four widely-recognized abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula: Game Plan for students in grade seven (Green, 2007); Choosing the Best Journey (Cook, 2006); Aspire (Phelps, 2006); and WAIT Training, 2nd Edition, for middle and high school students (Krauth, 2003). Curricula were chosen from among resources noted on the website of the Abstinence Clearinghouse, and by consulting with nationally-recognized leaders in the sexuality education field. Their analysis led them to conclude that there were not “fewer stereotypes, just different ones, or variations of older ones (p366).”1
Key Findings:
  • Regardless of gender, younger teens are assumed to sexually objectify ‘opposite-sex’ peers.
  • Sexual pleasure is acknowledged but portrayed as dangerous and addictive when outside the context of heterosexual marriage.
  • The longstanding stereotypes of the sexually pure ‘good girl’ and the sexually adventuresome ‘bad girl’ are increasingly matched with stereotypes of ‘good guys’ who respect females’ sexual purity and ‘bad guys’ who disrespect it.
Over the last decade, a kind of ‘sexual revolution’ has taken place within some of the most widely cited abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula. The aggressive male and the passive female, long-cherished stereotypes found in many scenarios, role-plays, and other instructional materials, have given way to new, more “equitable” stereotypes. As illustrated in the researchers’ analysis of four popular curricula, both males and females are shown as capable of experiencing sexual pleasure as well as pressuring others into unwanted sexual activity. A sort of gender equality has emerged in these publications, disposing with older depictions of female passivity and male aggression. Despite this more sophisticated portrayal of adolescents’ desires and motives, the overriding message of these newer curricula continues to be that sexual health is attainable only through heterosexuality, and monogamy within heterosexual marriage. For sexuality educators working in communities or programs in which such curricula are the only approved materials, the challenge will be to engage learners in a critique of new stereotypes, and the degree to which these new stereotypes reflect learners’ real-world experiences.
1  Lamb S, Graling K, Lustig L (2011). Stereotypes in four current AOUM sexuality education curricula: good girls, good boys, and the new gender equality. American Journal of Sexuality Education 6(4):360-380.