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Feature Article

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Washington University Undergraduate Research Digest: WUURD 10


Santiago is a city imbued with cultural, political, and economic significance. It is the place where Chilean history meets modernity and the conflict between these forces is manifested in many aspects of Santiago life, not the least of which is sex education. In this study, sex education takes on two different meanings: institutionalized or formal sex education and informal sex education. Institutionalized sex education covers the instruction received in elementary and secondary school through state or school-mandated programs. Informal sex education can be found in a myriad of sources: family, friends, media outlets, and religious organizations, to name a few.

This study addresses issues that emerged regarding the nature of both types of sex education and attitudes about sex and sexual health. The themes of significance were religious influence, patriarchal values, a singular focus on pregnancy, socioeconomic strata, and military history. With respect to religious influence, young people reported that schools taught abstinence or lacked sex-ed programs and that religious ideology was present in conversations about sex in an informal setting. Patriarchal values and “machismo” were said to provide conflicting information on sex and sexual health for women. The evident focus on pregnancy seemed to cause many young people to forget the very real danger of sexually transmitted diseases (STIs). As is often the case, varying socioeconomic classes were reported to have different levels of unwanted pregnancies and STIs. Finally, the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet made sex a more taboo subject, resulting in the secretive attitude towards sex that one interview subject claims is still a major problem for the country.


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