Claire Reeger

Document Type

Honors Project

First Advisor

Dr. Harriet Hayes

Degree Award Date

Spring 2012


Gender and Sexuality | Sociology


Through original research that I conducted in the fom1 of one-on-one student interviews at Bridgewater College, I investigated how college students draw upon a wide range of social influences to construct their ideas of sex and intimacy. This research highlights how some college students are externalizing their autonomy to have sex to factors such as peer pressure, the college culture, the media, biological influences, and the power of alcohol while simultaneously claiming it as a highly personal decision. I argue that how young people in the U.S. are educated about sex, including the use of specific risk-oriented rhetoric from parents and educators, is shaping the ways in which students understand its many meanings and choose to partake in it. There is an absence of informal yet honest discussion about sex that could help eliminate much of the confusion over when it is appropriate and most fulfilling for those involved. In a culture that many consider to be 'sex saturated,' simply talking about sex can be surprisingly taboo. As shown through my research, this has a number of important implications for how young people define sex and interpret its significance.