Let's Talk About Sex (education): explaining State Variation In Sex Education Standards And Their Impact On University Sexual Assault Rates

Open Access
Mccleery, Melissa Katherine
Area of Honors:
Political Science
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Michael Barth Berkman, Thesis Supervisor
  • Gretchen Casper, Honors Advisor
  • Sex education
  • sex ed
  • sexual assault
  • rape
  • higher ed
  • women's studies
  • higher education
States vary greatly in their requirements for the comprehensiveness and inclusiveness of sex education. This paper seeks to understand why sex education policy varies among states, and determine the real-world impact of these standards, specifically on university sexual assault rates. This paper examines sex education standards, and compares a states’ sex education comprehensiveness with university sexual assault rates in that state. We find that sex education standards are dependent on public opinion, and cannot be explained by factors that tend to explain other types of non-controversial education policy. Furthermore, we find that a state’s sex education comprehensiveness does not appear to have an impact on sexual assault rates, although this is likely due to underreporting of sexual assaults.