Upon learning they've been infected with a sexually transmitted disease, some young people simply see themselves as unlucky, while others undergo a maturation process which leads them to be more careful in their sexual habits, according to midwife and University of Skövde researcher Kina Hammarlund.
But members of a third group – consisting entirely of young men – succeed in transforming their diseases into a sign of their manhood.
With other male friends slapping on the shoulders and offering encouraging comments about “success with the ladies”, young men who contract diseases such as chlamydia or genital warts can come to view their infection as a badge of honour, rather than a serious health problem.
“There are no girls that do this. Girls are still supposed to acquire sexual experiences in the dark,” Hammarlund told the TT news agency.
Hammarlund's findings are based on a series of interviews with young men and women between the ages of 16- and 30-years-old carried out as a part of her recently published doctoral dissertation.
During the course of the study, entitled Riskfyllda möten (‘Risky Encounters'), Hammarlund noted significant differences between the ways that young men and women felt about discussing their sexual habits.
“It was hard to get guys involved in the study. They were simply not interested in sitting alone with a nearly 50-year-old lady and talking about what they considered failure when it comes to sex,” she said in a statement.
But girls were more used to discussing sexual experiences with other women behind the closed doors.
“They didn't feel comfortable when it became a larger group. The guys, on the other hand, seemed to not have any problems with the group situation,” she explained.
The study revealed that young men and women remain wrapped up in a game about being chosen by someone else which can result in misunderstandings when it comes to using condoms that could prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
The responses gathered by Hammarlund show that a girl fears she will upset a guy if she asks him to use a condom. Meanwhile, the guy doesn't want to take out a condom first out of fear the action will show that he assumed he would be having sex even before the encounter began.
“Whatever happened to making out? Whatever happened to heavy petting? Sex is no longer a big deal for young people. It's something girls use to get boyfriends, while guys want to gain experience,” she told TT.
Hammarlund said she is disappointed in the results of the study, claiming they indicate a lack of progress when it comes to overcoming gender stereotypes.
“Despite all the talk about gender equality, it seems like today's young people are wrestling with the same prejudices and stereotypical gender roles that existed when I was young in the 1970s,” she said.