Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 129–142 | Cite as

To Be Seen and Not Heard: Femininity Ideology and Adolescent Girls’ Sexual Health

  • Emily A. Impett
  • Deborah Schooler
  • Deborah L. Tolman

This study used a feminist developmental framework to test the hypothesis that internalizing conventional ideas about femininity in two domains—inauthenticity in relationships and body objectification—is associated with diminished sexual health among adolescent girls. In this study, sexual health was conceptualized as feelings of sexual self-efficacy (i.e., a girl's conviction that she can act upon her own sexual needs in a relationship) and protection behavior (i.e., from both STIs and unwanted pregnancy). A total of 116 girls (aged 16–19) completed measures of femininity ideology, sexual self-efficacy, sexual experiences, and protection behavior. Results revealed that inauthenticity in relationships and body objectification were associated with poorer sexual self-efficacy and sexual self-efficacy, in turn, predicted less sexual experience and less use of protection. Further, the two components of femininity ideology were associated with different forms of protection. The importance of a feminist developmental framework for identifying and understanding salient dimensions of sexual health for female adolescents is discussed.


adolescent girls femininity ideology sexual health sexual risk taking sexual self-efficacy 



This research was supported by postdoctoral fellowships awarded to Emily A. Impett and Deborah Schooler from the Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality and by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Development (Grant No. R29 HD33281-02) and the Ford Foundation awarded to Deborah L. Tolman. The authors would like to thank Celeste Hirschman, Janna Kim, Alice Michael, and Lynn Sorsoli for helpful comments on an earlier draft.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emily A. Impett
    • 1
    • 2
  • Deborah Schooler
    • 1
  • Deborah L. Tolman
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Research on Gender and SexualitySan Francisco State UniversitySan FranciscoUSA
  2. 2.Center for Research on Gender and SexualitySan Francisco State UniversitySan FranciscoUSA

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