Gender Differences, Self-Esteem, and High School Sexual Activity

by Jerica Wild, Kelsey Crowder, Ian LaForge and Sarah Maslonka
Faculty advisor: Dr. Wind Goodfriend

Over-sexualized images, found almost everywhere in modern Western society, have an impact on the frequency of adolescents’ sexual behaviors (Ward & Friedman, 2006). The purpose of this research was to investigate participants’ past and present sexual activities and how these behaviors affect current self-esteem and social desirability in college. Participants completed a survey including measures of: self-esteem (Rosenberg, 1965), social desirability (Crowne & Marlowe, 1960), the Bem Sex-Role Inventory (Bem, 1974), and an extensive questionnaire examining their past and present sexual behaviors. It was expected that: (1) high school sexual behavior is positively correlated with current levels of social desirability, (2) men who were more sexually active in high school will have a higher level of self esteem in college, whereas the opposite will be true for women, and (3) the earlier participants began to engage in sexual behaviors, the more gender-typed they will be in college. Pressure to engage in sexual behaviors can come from a variety of sources, including pervasive media images, peers, and stereotypes about men and women. Understanding these issues and how they relate to self-esteem, gender, and social desirability has implications for high school and college students across the country.