Date of Award

Spring 2018

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Sharyn Potter


This dissertation is an examination of gender differences in sexual behavior responsibility and safe sex decision making, particularly among a college age population. In this study, I address one main research question: How do college-going men and women perceive their own and their partner’s responsibility for sexual behavior and sexual health? More specifically, I use the case of the Human Papillomavirus as a way to examine if there are gendered differences in the way college men and women think about their sexual behavior and sexual health and if these differences exist in the ways men and women act in certain sexual encounters. In order to address the main research question, I used two types of research methodology, both quantitative and qualitative. First, I conducted a quantitative survey to examine differences in college men’s and women’s awareness and knowledge of the Human Papillomavirus. I used qualitative in-depth interviews with 26 college students to assess which factors influence college men’s and women’s differences in the way they perceive sexual behavior responsibility and sexual health and how they behave in particular sexual encounters. Results of the quantitative survey suggest that college women have both a greater awareness of the Human Papillomavirus as well as more knowledge about the Human Papillomavirus compared to college men. Results also indicate that college women report being more likely to have received at least one dose of the Human Papillomavirus vaccine compared to their male counterparts. Findings from the qualitative interviews identified several factors associated with differences in how college men and women discuss their perceptions of their sexual behavior responsibility more broadly, as well as differences in their actions in particular sexual encounters. For example, these results suggest that college men and women in more committed relationships spend less time considering and practicing safe sex than those individuals participating in more casual sexual encounters. Additionally, preliminary findings suggest an influence of previous experiences of sexual trauma on participants’ current position toward sexual behavior responsibility with those reporting past trauma more likely to practice safe sex. The findings of the qualitative interviews also provide clear directions for future research.