INTRODUCTION Relationship Between Male’s Role in Birth Control and Their Views on Nontraditional Gender Roles Gender roles have existed all throughout the course of human history. Gender Roles, in this case, refers to any kind of job, responsibility, ways of thinking, expected behavior or task assigned to a person based exclusively on their gender or sex. Typically women have been assigned the role of the housewife or home care taker. Women are responsible for household chores which include cleaning, cooking for her children as well as her husband, taking care of and raising the children and being a good wife. This last "chore" involves being faithful, being there for her husband and taking care of whatever he may need. Men’s roles on the other hand, tend to be somewhat different. They are in charge of being the breadwinners and of being the commanding head of the household. Customarily then, the husband goes to work while the wife stays home with the kids. This point of view has changed a lot due to the massive incorporation of women into the work field. This movement has happened due to the fact that women are now moving up into jobs that have previously been reserved for men while men are going into jobs have been caste as "women’s jobs" (Williams,1993). This has brought both positive and negative consequences to women. On the positive side it has helped women gain a sense of independence and assertiveness. Also, getting better and higher paying jobs means that women need a higher level of education than what they used to receive decades before, therefore they now have the ability to choose what it is that they want to do both in their personal and professional lives. The not so positive aspect to all this progress is that professional, working, women are still expected to maintain this perfect balance between work and family. The situation worsens as more children form part of the household, leading to a very important question: Who is going to take care of the children while I’m away at work? Many women have to resort to day care centers, family and/or friends even if one of them (the wife or husband) could actually take on the role of primary care giver. The problem is that it is completely against traditional views to have the man or the husband be the one to take on this role of primary care giver, i.e. to be the one that stays home with the children. In a lot of cultures things like child rearing, cleaning, cooking, teaching, among many other things, are considered women’s responsibility. Contraceptive responsibility is one thing that is also included in this list as seen in the study of Haitian Immigrants done by DeSantis and Sinnett (1999) in which they interviewed and administered surveys to a group of Haitian immigrants that consisted of parents and children (mainly teenagers). The questions asked by the researchers as well as the ones that were in the survey were sex related, having to do with what they thought about certain issues, such as contraceptives for example, and what they actually knew about it. In the end some females felt that contraceptive use was strictly their responsibility if they didn’t want pregnancy to occur. Yet as times change, normally so do peoples attitudes as more and more studies reveal that men are actually getting involved in contraceptive behavior. Even if this is due to a variety of different reasons like not having unwanted pregnancies or getting sexually transmitted diseases for example. Never the less, men are taking active responsibility for contraception. Research on males condom usage has shown that it is the most popular form of contraceptive use. The use of condoms was associated with having a higher actual or aspired education, being older the first time they had sexual intercourse, having a closer relationship with their partner and taking sole responsibility for contraception (Pleck, Sonenstein, Swain,1988). Complementing this finding is Morrison’s research (1985) which also found that men who have career and educational plans tend to use condoms in order to avoid and unwanted pregnancy while those with little or no education or those with an uncertain future are more likely to attribute the outcome of their unprotected sexual acts to destiny, which is brought in part as a result of their uncertain future. Despite some of the positive findings, negative correlates have also been found. It has been observed that as males gain more sexual experience, they tend to not use condoms as often and either stop using methods of contraception or they find alternatives to condoms like the use of the female birth control bill, which tends to be the most popular alternative (Pleck, Sonenstein, Swain, 1988). Other negative views on condom use include a notion of it (condom usage) being at odds with some perceived male role and that it is associated with being prepared, hence he might be making the woman think that he was expecting sex from her. In other words, sex is expected to be something casual, something that “just happens” when the moment is right, not something that you plan. Therefore, if a man goes on a date with a woman being prepared (i.e. having a condom), this might make the woman think that he had already expected sex from her or that he had planned for it. In turn, this might make the woman feel “easy” or that she is being used. This situation may then lead both of them to feel awkward, thus creating uncomfortable circumstances for both of them (DeCarlo & Campbell, 1996). There has been a lot of research on male contraceptive behavior and about equality in marriage but none of it completely ties in with this study or with our hypothesis which is that males who in their current sexual relations take responsibility for contraceptive behavior will then be more accepting of non traditional gender roles when they are older and have a family. For the purpose of this investigation when we refer to men accepting non traditional gender roles we mean that men will actually be willing to do work stereotyped as female labor. This includes doing things such as taking care of the children, cooking, cleaning, and washing clothes. The main variables for this study were the birth control methods chosen and used by males and their femininity score on the Bem Sex Role Inventory. In conclusion, this study presents a lot of interesting facts that have not really been tested before and that at the same time may be used for further research on improving male and female’s contraceptive behavior and on changing negative traditional ideas to create equality between married men and women and between both sexes in general.
ParticipantsA total of 28 college students ranging in age form 18 and up from Loyola University New Orleans volunteered to be participants in the study. Convenience sampling was used because the recruitment of participants took place in different parts of the university’s campus: in the residence halls, psychology classes, in the university’s fraternity meetings. Only male participants were included. The participants that were excluded were those who pointed out in the questionnaire that they were homosexual and those who said that they had never had sexual intercourse. This was done because homosexual men do not need to worry about contraceptive responsibility and men who have never had sexual intercourse would not be able to answer all the questions because they have never had the experience. To finish, no male was excluded from the investigation due to ethnicity, race or religion.
MaterialsThe materials for this particular study were mainly composed of a packet, which included a questionnaire and a consent form. The questionnaire was divided into a demographics part that simply asked questions abut gender, age, ethnicity, etc. The second part of the survey asked questions concerning birth control, the methods that they use and which method do the participants most frequently use such as condoms, birth control pills, and ejaculation withdrawal for example. Forming a third subsection of the questionnaire was the Bem Sex-Role Inventory. This asked participants to rate themselves on a scale of 1 to 7 (one being never or almost never and seven being always or almost always) on how much of a certain characteristic, being artistic or truthful for example, they possessed. The consent form was also attached to the packet. It required no signature from either the participants or the researchers, for the purpose of keeping it completely anonymous, and it provided the participant with information on how contact the Department of Psychology, the Loyola Counseling and Career Center, the Loyola University Student Health Center and the University Ministry. The consent form also offered information on when and where the results of the study would be available to them.
Design and ProcedureThis was a non-experimental correlational study design. The variables used, as described earlier, were the birth control methods chosen and used by males and their femininity score on the Bem Sex-Role Inventory. Since this study was not a true experiment the type of controls that were used were limited to the way the questions were worded on the part of the survey that was related to the participants’ sexual behavior. The questions were worded carefully in order to try and get the participants to be as honest as possible when answering them. The participants, who were chosen randomly, and were given a packet, which included a survey and a consent form. Once they had taken the packet the participants had to fill it out within forty eight hours and then mail it back to the researchers using the "in campus" slot in the Post Office located in the Danna Center. It was thought best to have the survey be a mail in survey to insure absolute anonymity. This was very important step in helping the participants feel completely comfortable when answering the survey and in helping the researchers enforce some type of control as well. The mailbox was checked every day to ensure the retrieval of all the sent packets.
RESULTS Results The question that we were seeking to answer through this study was: Are males who take full responsibility for contraceptive behavior in their current sexual relationships more willing to accept non-traditional gender roles? For this purpose the main variables were the birth control methods chosen and used by males in their sexual encounters and their femininity score on the Bem Sex Role Inventory. The age mean of the participants was 20.1 with a SD of 1.03. We calculated an overall mean and standard deviation of 3.07 and 1.86, respectively, for condom use. The mean and standard deviation for their overall femininity score was 4.99 and .577, correspondingly. The correlation calculated between condom use and the femininity score on the Bem Sex-Role Inventory, r(26)=.121, p=0.269, was not significant. Other correlations between other variables were significant. Our computations showed a significant correlation between men saying that they are completely responsible for contraceptive behavior and their use of condoms most often in their sexual encounters r (26)=.764, p=0.269<.001. The second significant finding was that of men saying that they should be completely responsible for contraceptive behavior and actually preferring condoms to other forms of contraceptives r(26)=.600, p=0.269<.001. Finally, the last correlation that we found was that of men saying that they should be responsible for contraceptive behavior and actually having used condoms in their most recent sexual encounter r(26)=.596, p=0.269<.001.
DISCUSSION Discussion The main aim of this investigation was to see if males who take contraceptive responsibility in their current sexual relationships would be more accepting of non-traditional gender roles. The correlation found between participants’ condom use and their femininity score on the Bem Sex-Role Inventory was r(26)=.121, p=0.269, which was not high enough to make it significant. Despite this, we did find other significant correlations like men saying that they should be responsible for contraceptive behavior and using condoms most often, men claiming responsibility for contraceptive behavior and actually preferring to use condoms over other forms of contraceptives and lastly, there was a correlation between men saying that they should be responsible for contraceptive behavior and using condoms in their most recent sexual encounter. We attempted to study this area of the male psyche in particular because of the fact that every day more and more women are going out into the work field. Thus, creating a strain between their traditional role as a housewife and their role as career women, which often leaves the question of who’s going to take care of the children without an easy answer. We wanted to begin to help find an alternative to this to this dilemma; can men be the primary care givers? Is this idea really too far fetched? This study was also important in helping to create a basis for future research in this particular area of study. Past research like Pleck, Sonenstein and Swain’s (1988) has focused more on reasons why men (especially young men) use or do not use contraception and a lot of it has to do with educational purposes. In other words, what can be done to shed a light on the importance of condom use or contraceptive use in general. Other research and reviews also discuss why it is that men don’t use contraceptives like DeCarlo and Campbell(1996) for example. They mentioned that sometimes the notion of condom use can be at odds with some perceived male role and that it is associated with being prepared, hence making the woman think that he was expecting sex from her. While these studies did provide a basis for our line of research, they do not specifically relate to what this investigation puts under question. It is important to note the possible limitations of the study which included things such as a very low number of participants. The total number of participants was 28 which is too low to be able to accurately predict any outcome and/or behavior. Initially the number of participants was 49. Out of those 49, ten were not sexually active. An additional ten could not be used because these participants did not answer the questionnaire correctly and finally one participant pointed out that he was homosexual so his questionnaire could not be used either. For a future occasion, I would distribute more than 150 questionnaires (that was the number of packets distributed for this study) and I would not limit myself to just one university but would also distribute the packets at other nearby colleges or university. This I believe would help find more participants and allow for a more accurate study. Another possible limitation, I believe was our own questionnaire. I say this because we had to disregard a lot of surveys because many participants answered them incorrectly, which leads us to believe that quite possible the questions were not as clear as we thought them to be. Another possible problem with the survey might have been that the combination of our questionnaire and the Bem Sex-Role Inventory was too long. These two factors might have contributed to having so many participants answer the survey incorrectly. Future researchers might want to either alter our survey to make it as clear and understandable as possible or create a new one. I would also reconsider combining the survey with the Bem Sex-Role Inventory because it might cause the same problem again. Other ideas for future research I would say include making and experiment out this study. The correlational nature of the study could also be seen as a limitation in the long run because of the fact that it can not give cause and effect, it can only describe relationships between variables. Also, even though I do not think that having the mail in survey was a bad idea (I would do the study again in this manner) it might good to try a different approach for recruitment of participants. Announcing the study on campus by posting flyers with different pre-established times and locations, so that participants can come at an hour that is convenient for them. In conclusion we feel that a lot can still be done following this line of research. As was mentioned earlier, there really hasn’t been any research that directly relates to this. We feel that with further investigation we may find ways to help alleviate stress for married couples, thus improving and strengthening relationships and quite possibly maybe even bringing divorce rates down as a result of this. Thus, in long run creating a better home environment for the couple and for their children and finally this may just be what women need to have the perfect balance that they need but seldom ever get to achieve.
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