Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 29, Issue 3, pp 229–257 | Cite as

The Influence of Gender on Sex: A Study of Men's and Women's Self-Reported High-Risk Sex Behavior

  • Lisa A. Cubbins
  • Koray Tanfer


An investigation is presented of the relationship between gender and five self-reported high-risk sex behaviors: ever having had casual sex, the lifetime number of vaginal sex partners, the lifetime number of anal sex partners, having had multiple vaginal sex partners over the short term, and having had multiple anal sex partners over the short term. The analysis was guided by a conceptual model that emphasized the constraints and opportunities for high-risk sex behavior that arise from an individual's structural position and cultural context. Gender differences in high-risk sex behaviors were predicted to be due to differences in men's and women's family roles, work roles, religious behaviors, and past sex experience. In addition, the effects of certain sociocultural factors on the high-risk sex behaviors were expected to be dependent on an individual's gender. The hypotheses were evaluated using national data from the United States on self-reported sex behaviors for men ages 20 to 39 years old and women ages 20 to 37 years old. Data analyses were conducted using ordinary least-squares regression and logistic regression. Findings provided mixed support for the predictions. Gender was not significantly related to short-term, self-reported high-risk sex behaviors once social and cultural factors were included in the statistical models. But it continued to predict lifetime behaviors. Several variables, including race, age, age at first sex, and marital status, had gender-specific effects on the self-reported high-risk sex behaviors. The study demonstrates how the effects of structural and cultural factors on sex behavior differ for men and women.

vaginal sex anal sex casual sex sex partners 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Baldwin, J., and Baldwin, J. (1988). Factors affecting AIDS-related sexual risk-taking behavior among college students. J. Sex Res. 25: 181-196.Google Scholar
  2. Batson, C., Schoenrade, P., and Ventis, W. (1993). Religion and the Individual: A Social-Psychological Perspective, Oxford University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  3. Benson, P., Donahue, M., and Erickson, J. (1989). Adolescence and religion: A review of the literature from 1970-1986. Res. Soc. Sci. Study Religion 1: 153-181.Google Scholar
  4. Billy, J., Tanfer, K., Grady, W., and Klepinger, D. (1993). The sexual behavior of men in the United States. Family Plan. Perspect. 25: 52-60.Google Scholar
  5. Bishop, Y., Fienberg, S., and Holland, P. (1975). Discrete Multivariate Analysis: Theory and Practice, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  6. Blumstein, P., and Schwartz, P. (1983). American Couples: Money, Work, Sex, Morrow, New York.Google Scholar
  7. Brines, J. (1994). Economic dependency, gender, and division of labor at home. Am. J. Sociol. 100: 652-660.Google Scholar
  8. Byers, E., and Heinlein, L. (1989). Predicting initiations and refusals of sexual activities in married and cohabiting heterosexual couples. J. Sex Res. 26: 210-231.Google Scholar
  9. Catania, J., Coates, T., Stall, R., Turner, H., Peterson, J., Hearst, N., Dolcini, M., Hudes, E., Gagnon, J., Wiley, J., and Groves, R. (1992). Prevalence of AIDS-related risk factors and condom use in the United States. Science 258: 1101-1106.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Clark, R. (1990). The impact of AIDS on gender differences in willingness to engage in casual sex. J. Appl. Soc. Psychol. 20: 771-782.Google Scholar
  11. Clement, U. (1989). Profile analysis as a method of comparing intergenerational differences in sexual behavior. Arch. Sex. Behav. 18: 229-237.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Cochran, S., and Peplau, L. (1991). Sexual risk reduction behaviors among young heterosexual adults. Soc. Sci. Med. 33: 25-36.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Cohen, L. L., and Shotland, R. L. (1996). Timing of first sexual intercourse in a relationship: Expectations, experiences, and perceptions of other. J. Sex Res. 33: 291-299.Google Scholar
  14. Cornwall, M. (1988). The influence of three agents of religious socialization: Family, church, and peers. In Thomas, D. (ed.), The Religion and Family Connection: Social Science Perspectives, Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT, pp. 207-231.Google Scholar
  15. Darabi, K. (1987). Childbearing Among Hispanics in the United States, Greenwood Press, New York.Google Scholar
  16. Darnton, J. (1994). The extent of monogamy in Britain. New York Times Feb. 1: B8.Google Scholar
  17. Davidson, J. K., Darling, C. A., and Norton, L. (1995). Religiosity and the sexuality of women: Sexual behavior and sexual satisfaction revisited. J. Sex Res. 32: 235-243.Google Scholar
  18. Davis, J., and Smith, T. (1991). General Social Surveys, 1972-1991: Cumulative Codebook, National Opinion Research Center, Chicago.Google Scholar
  19. Forrest, J., and Singh, S. (1990). The sexual and reproductive behavior of American women. Family Plan. Perspect. 22: 206-214.Google Scholar
  20. Gerrard, M., Breda, C., and Gibbons, F. (1990). Gender effects in couples' sexual decision making and contraceptive use. J. Appl. Soc. Psychol. 20: 449-464.Google Scholar
  21. Gagnon, J., and Simon, W. (1973). Sexual Conduct, Aldine, Chicago.Google Scholar
  22. Glass, S., and Wright, T. (1992). Justifications for extramarital relationships: The association between attitudes, behaviors, and gender. J. Sex Res. 29: 361-387.Google Scholar
  23. Grauerholz, E., and Serpe, R. (1985). Initiation and response: The dynamics of sexual interaction. Sex Roles 12: 1041-1059.Google Scholar
  24. Hanushek, E., and Jackson, J. (1977). Statistical Methods for Social Scientists, Academic Press, New York.Google Scholar
  25. Hendrick, S., Hendrick, C., Slapion-Foote, H., and Foote, F. (1985). Gender differences in sexual attitudes. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 48: 1630-1642.Google Scholar
  26. Herold, E., and Mewhinney, D. K. (1993). Gender differences in casual sex and AIDS prevention: A survey of dating bars. J. Sex Res. 30: 36-42.Google Scholar
  27. Jasso, G. (1985). Marital coital frequency and the passage of time: Estimating the separate effects of spouses' ages and marital duration, birth and marriage cohorts, and period influences. Am. Sociol. Rev. 50: 224-241.Google Scholar
  28. Keller, J., Elliott, S., and Gunberg, E. (1982). Premarital sexual intercourse among single college students: A discriminant analysis. Sex Roles 8: 21-32.Google Scholar
  29. Kost, K., and Forrest, J. (1992). American women's sexual behavior and exposure to risk of sexually transmitted diseases. Family Plan. Perspect. 24: 244-254.Google Scholar
  30. Laumann, E., Gagnon, J., Michael, R., and Michaels, S. (1994). The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  31. Leigh, J. P. (1983). Direct and indirect effects of education on health. Soc. Sci. Med. 17: 227-234.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. McCormick, N., Brannigan, G., and LaPlante, M. (1984). Social desirability in the bedroom: Role of approval motivation in sexual relationships. Sex Roles 11: 303-314.Google Scholar
  33. Miller, A., and Hoffmann, J. (1995). Risk and religion: An explanation of gender differences in religiosity. J. Sci. Study Religion 34: 63-75.Google Scholar
  34. O'Sullivan, L., and Byers, E. (1993). Eroding stereotypes: College women's attempts to influence reluctant male sexual partners. J. Sex Res. 30: 270-282.Google Scholar
  35. Peplau, L., Rubin, Z., and Hill, C. (1977). Sexual intimacy in dating relationships. J. Soc. Issues 33:86-109.Google Scholar
  36. Phillis, D., and Gromko, M. (1985). Sex differences in sexual activity: Reality or illusion? J. Sex Res. 21: 437-443.Google Scholar
  37. Reiss, I. (1986a). A sociological journey into sexuality. J. Marriage Family 48: 233-242.Google Scholar
  38. Reiss, I. (1986b). Journey into Sexuality: An Exploratory Voyage, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.Google Scholar
  39. Ross, C., and Van Willigen, M. (1997). Education and the subjective quality of life. J. Health Soc. Behav. 38: 275-297.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Schwartz, P., and Rutter, V. (1998). The Gender of Sexuality, Pine Forge, Thousand Oaks, CA.Google Scholar
  41. Simon, W., and Gagnon, J. (1984). Sexual scripts: Permanence and change. Society 22: 53-60.Google Scholar
  42. Smith, T. (1992). Discrepancies between men and women in reporting number of sexual partners: A summary from four countries. Soc. Biol. 39: 203-211.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Smith, T. (1994). Attitudes toward sexual permissiveness: Trends, correlates, and behavioral connections. In Rossi, A. (ed.), Sexuality Across the Life Course, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp. 63-97.Google Scholar
  44. Sprecher, S. (1989). Premarital sexual standards for different categories of individuals. J. Sex Res. 26: 232-248.Google Scholar
  45. Tanfer, K., and Cubbins, L. (1992). Coital frequency among single women: Normative constraints and situational opportunities. J. Sex Res. 29: 221-250.Google Scholar
  46. Tanfer, K., Cubbins, L., and Billy, J. (1995). Gender, race, class, and sexually transmitted diseases. Family Plan. Perspect. 27: 196-102.Google Scholar
  47. Taris, T. W., and Semin, G. R. (1997). Gender as a moderator of the effects of the love motive and relational context on sexual experience. Arch. Sex. Behav. 26: 159-180.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Trussell, J., and Westoff, C. (1980). Contraceptive practice and trends in coital frequency. Family Plan. Perspect. 12: 246-249.Google Scholar
  49. Tucker, M. B., and Mitchell-Kernan, C. (1995). The Decline in Marriage Among African Americans: Causes, Consequences, and Policy Implications, Russell Sage, New York.Google Scholar
  50. Udry, J., Deven, F., and Coleman, S. (1982). A cross-national comparison of the relative influence of male and female age on the frequency of marital intercourse. J. Biosoc. Sci. 14: 1-6.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (1991). Healthy People 2000: National Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Objectives, DHHS Publication No. (PHS) 91-50212, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  52. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (1997). Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance, 1996, Division of STD Prevention, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta, GA.Google Scholar
  53. U.S. Women's Bureau (1993). Facts on Working Women, Report No. 93-2, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  54. Verbrugge, L. M. (1989). The twain meet: Empirical evidence of sex differences in health and mortality. J. Health Soc. Behav. 30: 282-304.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. Weinberg, M., and Williams, C. (1988). Black sexuality:Atest of two theories. J. Sex Res. 25: 197-218.Google Scholar
  56. Wiederman, M. W. (1997). The truth must be in here somewhere: Examining the gender discrepancy in self-reported lifetime number of sex partners. J. Sex Res. 34: 375-386.Google Scholar
  57. Wilson, S., and Medora, N. (1990). Gender comparisons of college students' attitudes toward sexual behavior. Adolescence 25: 615-627.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  58. Wilson, W. J. (1978). The Declining Signficance of Race, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisa A. Cubbins
    • 1
  • Koray Tanfer
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of CincinnatiCincinnati
  2. 2.Battelle Memorial InstituteUSA

Personalised recommendations