Medical students’ notions about sexual and reproductive health
S. Tschudin, J. Alder, L. Herberich, J. Bitzer
University Women’s Hospital, Gynecology & Social Medicine and
Psychosomatics, Basel, Switzerland
Objectives With regard
to optimize preventive strategies in the field of sexual and reproductive health
it is important to have insight into young people’s notions about sexuality as
well as to be familiar with future physicians views about this topic. With a
special focus on gender differences we asked first year medical students about
Design and methods In the run-up to introductive lectures on
sexual and reproductive health issues, a structured questionnaire was
distributed to all first year medical students. On an anonymous and voluntary
basis they had to answer questions about attractiveness, sexual desire,
difficulties in communicating about sexual issues, normal and deviant sexual
behaviour, HIV transmission, abortion rates and domestic violence.
191 registered first year students 56% returned the questionnaire. The mean age
was 20.4 years. On a scale from 1 to 4 physical attractiveness (male 3.7 vs.
female 3.34), similar interests (3.18 vs. 3.39) and intimacy (2.95 vs. 3.49)
were quoted as most important to be attracted to someone. Out of the five senses
“to feel” was judged most important for sexual arousal. Predominant
signs for being fallen in love with a person were to think about and to seek
closeness to this person and vegetative reactions, but far less sexual desire (mean
3.84, 3.58, 3.62 and 2.55 resp.). The students mostly agreed that men have more
easily sex with women they hardly know and that women are more relation-focussed.
Homosexuality was seen as a variant of normal sexuality by 66%, unnatural by
28%, abnormal by 5% and immoral by 1%. While vaginal intercourse, oral sex and
masturbation were seen as normal sexual activities by most of them, this was far
less the case for anal sex (mean 3.96, 3.51, 3.58 and 2.49 resp.). The majority
correctly chose heterosexual transmission as the main way to get infected by HIV.
The students overestimated the abortion rate but underestimated the ratio of
abortions to live births. Except for the frequency of complaints, their
perception about domestic violence is realistic.
Conclusions The results
reflect some well known gender stereotypes, reveal the predominant importance of
commitment and intimacy for young people’s love and sex life and disclose future
physicians’ need for information and teaching in this field.