"Try asking out a female arts student for a date. You won't be disappointed as a new study shows that young woman studying arts are most likely to be sexually active," begins an article in today's Times of India. By the same token, apparently anyone asking "male science students" for a "date" is looking for "disaster," since these guys tend to skew inexperienced. Smarmy shorthand aside, we have a few questions about this study's somewhat disturbing results...anecdotal ones, of course!
The study, conducted at the University of Sydney, was based on a sample of 185 students, aged 16 to 25: "78% female students agreed to take part in the extensive survey compared to 22% male." The students answered questions about their sexual histories and their awareness of the STD chlamydia. The female arts students were found to be "younger, more likely to be sexually active and to report having little or no knowledge of chlamydia." The science guys, by contrast, had the least sex, even though many were older.
The explanations ranged from cultural (many of the male science students are foreign) to the stereotypical: as one psychotherapist puts it in the article, "Who are the people at unis that go to the rave parties and the bar? …It's not the nerdy boy science students." The disturbing thing about these findings is of course the fact that the population apparently most at risk — young women — is least educated about sexual health. While it seems premature to fault the universities in question, it does seem that, if a study such as this can pinpoint risk, addressing it should be that much easier. To this extent, such reports one can only help raise consciousness. However, it does seem like anything that can serve to perpetuate generalizations about the "easiness" of certain populations (see: the article's tone) is worrisome. After all, these women admitted to being sexually active, nothing more — why does this immediately become cause for innuendo and cheap jokes? While sexual ignorance should be targeted, sex itself should not be stigmatized — and one hopes this was not the study's intent. By the same token, neither should male virgins be mocked! It's a fine line — especially for young people — between hackneyed, stereotyped generalities and the people who have to live in their shadow.
'Females Studying Arts Sexually Active' [Times of India]