Sex Roles, Vol. 52, Nos. 9/10, May 2005 (
Turkish Social Work Students’ Attitudes Toward Sexuality
and G ¨uls ¨um Duyan
The purpose of this research was to determine the attitudes of social work students in Turkey
toward sexuality. According to the ﬁndings, gender differences, talking about sexuality, and
having an active sex life, affect liberality about sexuality. Religious beliefs have a signiﬁcant
impact on attitudes, and our data show that Turkish social work students were relatively
sexually inexperienced and conservative. However, they were more accepting and liberal for
others’ sexual preferences than for their own.
KEY WORDS: attitudes; sexuality; social work students.
Sexuality, as an integral component of a healthy
development, constitutes one of the most important
dimensions of human life. In the last two decades,
Human Immunodeﬁciency Virus (HIV) and other
sexually transmitted diseases have become a topic
of discussion (Gerbase, Rowley, & Mertens, 1998).
The rate of sexually transmitted diseases has dou-
bled in last 15 years in Turkey (Altug, 1998; Vicdan,
1998). Sexual intercourse at lower ages, premarital
relations, increased numbers of sexual partners, and
changing attitudes toward sexuality are believed to
be some of the reasons behind the increasing inci-
dence of these illnesses (Aral & Holmes, 1999).
Social beliefs, values, and attitudes change
slowly. There have been many changes in Turkey in
the last three to four decades. However, some so-
cial judgments and attitudes do not change as eas-
ily as others (Aral & Fransen, 1995). Turkish peo-
ple continue to hold traditional ideas about sexuality.
Up until the last decade, Turkey had virtually no sex
education, either in courses or textbook material.
The context of the values of traditional Turkish
society has a direct role in people’s ideas about sex-
ual normality and pathology and the dynamics and
relativity of sexual norms. By the majority of Turk-
ish society, sexual dysfunction is considered a fault,
School of Social Work, Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at School of So-
cial Work, Hacettepe University, Fatih Cad. No. 195 Kecioren,
Ankara, Turkey; e-mail: email@example.com.
especially for women. Consequently, talking about
and discussing sexuality is still a taboo in Turkey
(Aral & Fransen, 1995). Although the attitudes of
Turkish people vary according to their social classes,
they are very traditional as a whole (Yildiz, 1990).
For many Turkish people, it is difﬁcult to seek treat-
ment for sexual problems or sexually transmitted dis-
eases because of the stigmatization. However, the
rate of sexual relations is becoming higher, and the
age of starting sexual behaviors is becoming lower in
Turkey (Ozdener, 1998). Rates of unwanted sexual
intercourse are also high (II, 2003), and more than
one-half of Turkish women experience unwanted
pregnancy (Gumus, 1989).
In the majority of Turkish society, one’s choice
of a marriage partner should be appropriate accord-
ing to the values and status of the family. Premarital
relationships are forbidden because of social norms
of the Turkish society. For example, Turkish men de-
mand intact hymens as “evidence” of a woman’s vir-
ginity as a primary requisite in marriage. Brides who
fail to bleed after sexual intercourse on the honey-
moon night may face cruel consequences such as re-
jection, ridicule, and violence (Duyan, 2004). Necef
(1999) indicated that the cult of virginity and the ban
on premarital sexual relations make it very difﬁcult
young adults in Turkey to have open loving relation-
ships with each other.
Stereotypical masculine and feminine sexual be-
haviors are determined by traditional values. The
sex education of children and adolescents within the
2005 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.