Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Tara F. Deubel, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Heide Castaneda, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Nancy Romero-Daza, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Dinorah Martinez Tyson, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Committee Member

Aimee Eden, Ph.D., M.P.H.


feminist methodology, LGBTQIA+ populations, reproductive justice, sexual violence, sexuality education, public health


Sexual and reproductive healthcare in the U.S. is a contentious and often stigmatized topic. Conservative politics and Christian religious ideology guide laws and policies that inform narratives of sexual citizenship that promote white, heterosexual, procreative, cis-gendered relationships as the ideal. For young people, exposure to sexuality education greatly influences their self-identity as sexual citizens and guides how they form intimate relationships. While sexual and reproductive healthcare has been included marginally in the discipline of anthropology, almost no research has focused on young people’s sexual and reproductive healthcare within the U.S.

This dissertation examines the viewpoints and experiences of 18-24 year-old undergraduate students at three state universities in the U.S. Southeast to assess how lived experiences with sexuality education and sexual encounters impact the choices students make when embarking on sexual activity. A theoretical framework of governmentality and biopower, sexual citizenship, and reproductive justice guided three research objectives: 1) To assess the sexual and reproductive healthcare knowledge of college age students; 2) To investigate how past lived experiences with sexual and reproductive healthcare education and partner interactions impact students’ views and self-conceptualizations of identity and needs in future sexual encounters and relationships; and 3) To explore how policies of national and state governments influence the production of sexual citizens, and identify the sexual narratives that guide identity formation and choices.

Feminist research methodology and the Social Ecological Model from public health guide this mixed methods project that incorporates qualitative, semi-structured interviews (n = 50) and a quantitative, online survey (n = 776). Results show that U.S. national and state government abstinence focused sexuality education is failing young people in providing them medically accurate information and social awareness of positive, healthy sexual relationships and that sexual citizenship in the U.S. is detrimental to women, transgender, and non-binary people, as well as homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, queer, and asexual people. Additionally, the strict definition of sexual citizenship negatively impacts the lived experiences of LGBTQIA+ individuals’ self-identity formation and impacts how they participate in sexual encounters. This sexual citizenship framework is promoting patriarchal control, toxic masculinity, and rape culture in sexual interactions of young people, which encourages sexual assault, rape, and pressured or coerced sexual activity.