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Pictured Left to Right: Claire Bletsas, Adrian Beyer, Noelle Harris, Kristie Wilcox, Caitlin Fagel
On Wednesday, April 19th, five undergraduate seniors presented their honors theses after a year and a half of research and writing. Each thesis was at least fifty pages long and had mentorship from two University professors. The students chose unique topics, conducted thorough research, wrote and edited meticulously, and should be proud of the very tangible contribution they are making to the study of women and gender. Congratulations everyone!
A recording of the event can be found here
2023 Honors Theses:
Experiences of Sex Education, Conversations About Sex, and Sexual Well-Being Among College Women
Advisors: Monique Ward & Liz Cole
In this thesis I explore how women’s sex education experiences carry through to their conversations about sex and sexual well-being in college. I surveyed a national sample of college women on their experiences of school-based sex education, the content and context of their peer sexual socialization in college, and their sexual health and well-being status. Consistent with previous research, this study reinforced that sex education in the United States is severely lacking. Sex ed that includes sex positive topics, relational topics, and disease topics, in addition to a generally positive message on female sexuality, is important for sexual well-being. Part of that well-being includes sexual socialization, as talking about sex is correlated with higher sexual self-efficacy and assertiveness. Comprehensive education is more suited to equip college women with the skills they need (such as assertiveness, self-efficacy, and comfort talking about sex) to navigate the hookup culture on campus that encourages women to talk about and embrace their sexuality. Sexual health has never been more important, especially considering elevated rates of STIs and sexual violence among college aged women (CDC 2021; RAINN 2023). While many studies focus on how sex education impacts STI and teen pregnancy rates, this study adds to the picture by examining how sex ed also has an influence on a more holistic view of sexual well-being. This study sheds light on some of the ways in which the messages received in sex ed carry through into college and influence how women navigate their sexuality.
Bisexual Identities: Conversations with Queer College Femmes on Sexuality, Identity, and Self
Advisors: Cynthia Gabriel & Liz Cole
In this study, I sought to examine how adolescent bisexual femme's partner's gender impacts their feeling of confidence and validity in their identity, and what strategies they employ to display their bisexual identity. I’m also interested in their motives for external display, and posit that some of their main goals in externally displaying their bisexuality are forming community with other bisexual women and increasing their self-confidence in their identity. In order to do this, I spoke directly to adolescent bisexual femmes and gathered their first-hand accounts for analysis. My study’s freeform interview structure allowed participants to organically center what they feel is important to their experience with their identity and sexuality. When analyzing my data, four main themes emerged: the importance of partner sexuality, the experience of intra-group exclusivity, the harms of monosexism, and the power of self-expression. A secondary, though not insignificant, goal of my project is to promote community and conversation among bisexual and queer young adults. As an element of my thesis, I created a website to publicly display my conversations with participants and share my findings. This element is in an effort to make queer stories and academia more accessible.
Representations of Kathoey in Thai Boys Love Television
Advisors: Allison Alexy & Reginald Jackson
Boys Love is a rapidly growing genre on an international scale. The genre, which covers a variety of media (such as comics, television shows, and movies), focuses on the romantic and sexual relationships between attractive young men. Since 2014, the Boys Love genre has become increasingly popular in Thailand. Despite the genre's focus on cisgender men, there are many characters in Thai Boys Love with kathoey identity. Kathoey is a gender identity unique to Thailand and is best described as someone assigned male at birth but with a feminine disposition (in the U.S., one might use identity terms like effeminate gay man or transgender woman). This thesis project sought to examine how the portrayal of kathoey characters in Thai Boys Love, especially in comparison to their cisgender counterparts, reinforces negative stereotypes about kathoey identity pervasive in Thai culture. To do this, I analyzed multiple Thai Boys Love television series featuring kathoey characters. The major themes for analysis were beauty and physical appearance, socioeconomic status and consumerism, and sex and sexuality. Overall, I found that kathoey were portrayed in ways that were in stark contrast to Thai social norms and that reinforced negative stereotypes about kathoey identity.
A Case Study of the Prevalence of Female Genital Cutting Within Liberia
Advisors: Cheryl A. Moyer & Michelle Munro-Kramer
Liberia is one of three nations in Africa that has yet to prohibit the cultural practice known as female genital cutting (FGC), or female genital mutilation. This process entails the partial removal of the external genital from a girl or woman, typically from the ages of infancy to adolescence. This process is often performed by members of the Sande, or bushe, societies within Liberia. These societies operate in the rural areas of the country and in addition to their practice of FGC, they also teach girls and women various cultural values and skills, specifically around issues of motherhood and sexuality. Using 2019 Liberia Demographic Health Survey (DHS) data, quantitative analysis on female genital cutting was performed. Descriptive statistics, bivariate analysis, and multivariate analysis were conducted to analyze demographic variables and links between female genital cutting, membership in bushe societies, female genital cutting and belief in the continuation of the practice, age when cut, and age when first had sex. The study found that there is an association between membership in bushe societies and the prevalence of FGC among girls in Liberia, as well as an association between prevalence of FGC among girls in Liberia and the belief that FGC should be stopped. However, there was not an association between the age respondents were cut and the age in which they first had sex. These findings demonstrate that Liberian lawmakers could have support to regulate FGC from the majority of women who have not received FGC because they believed the practice should be stopped. This knowledge can also be utilized by the Liberian government to better understand the link between FGC and bushe societies, for the Liberian government to lessen the influence bushe society leaders have on their decisions.
Implementing Feminism: A Case Study Evaluating the Introduction of a Group Prenatal Care Model into a Large Academic Health System
Advisors: Joanne Bailey & Nora Drummond
The United States has utilized the same prenatal care model since the 1920’s with little change, implying that the model works well under current conditions, despite new care guidelines and the current maternal mortality and morbidity crisis nothing has changed. The need for innovation is evident, however I argue the current culture and industrialized structure of the healthcare system present in the United States presents barriers for implementation for new innovation. This thesis will utilize a feminist framework to analyze the implementation of a new prenatal model, CenteringPregnancy, into a large academic health system. This case study will seek to investigate whether feminist principles were utilized in the rollout of the group prenatal care program. It was found that feminist principles were utilized and positive outcomes were reached. These findings are a great start to the discussion if utilizing feminist principles routinely while implementing new innovations will aid in combating barriers present in complex industrialized healthcare systems.