Sexual Health and Multiple Forms of Discrimination Among Heterosexual Youth

Eric Anthony Grollman, University of Richmond


Research suggests that inequality in material conditions contributes greatly to disparities in sexual health among youth; however, scholars have overlooked the effect of one manifestation of social disadvantage – interpersonal discrimination – on sexual health. This paper uses data from a nationally representative survey of 15-25 year olds (N=955) to investigate the relationship between interpersonal discrimination and sexual health among heterosexual youth. I examine whether exposure to multiple forms of discrimination (e.g., race and gender) is associated with risky sexual behaviors, as well as STI history, teenage pregnancy, and abortion history. The findings suggest that experiences of multiple forms of discrimination are associated with sexual activity, including early sexual debut and multiple sexual partners. However, discrimination is not linked with condom and contraceptive use, or the negative outcomes of sexual activity. These findings emphasize the importance of examining, rather than presuming, risk associated with youths’ sexual activity.