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RESEARCH ARTICLE

Attitudes towards sex: a comparison of prisoners and the general community

Eva Malacova A , Tony Butler A H , Juliet Richters B , Lorraine Yap B , Luke Grant C , Alun Richards D , Anthony M. A. Smith E and Basil Donovan F G

A National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University, Perth, WA 6008, Australia.

B School of Public Health and Community Medicine, Level 2, Samuels Building, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.

C New South Wales Department of Corrective Services, Sydney, NSW 2001, Australia.

D Queensland Department of Health, Brisbane, Qld 4000, Australia.

E Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health & Society, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Vic. 3000, Australia.

F National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research, University of New South Wales, NSW 2052, Australia.

G Sydney Sexual Health Centre, Sydney Hospital, Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia.

H Corresponding author. Email: t.butler@curtin.edu.au

Sexual Health 8(3) 355-362 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/SH10113
Submitted: 10 September 2010  Accepted: 18 November 2010   Published: 17 August 2011

Abstract

Background: National population surveys of attitudes towards sexual issues typically exclude prisoners and little is known about their attitudes compared with the community. Methods: Using computer-assisted telephone interviews, we compared a representative sample of 2289 prisoners (men = 1960, women = 329), aged 18–59 years, from two Australian states against a national community sample of 6755 participants (men = 3333, women = 3421). Results: Overall, prisoners were slightly more conservative in their attitudes towards sex than the community. They were more likely than the community to agree with the statement that abortion is wrong (men: adjusted odds ratio (AOR) = 3.3, 95% confidence interval (CI): 2.8–3.9; women: AOR = 1.7, 95% CI: 1.2–2.4) and that male homosexuality is wrong (men: AOR = 2.6, 95% CI: 2.2–3.1; women: AOR = 1.7, 95% CI: 1.2–2.3); these differences were more pronounced for men than women. The attitudes of prisoners and the community varied with age. Attitudinal differences between prisoners and the community tended to be larger than the differences between women and men (agree that abortion is wrong: prisoners, AOR = 0.5, 95% CI: 0.4–0.7; community, AOR = 0.8, 95% CI: 0.7–0.9; agree that male homosexuality is wrong: prisoners, AOR = 0.4, 95% CI: 0.3–0.5; community, AOR = 0.6, 95% CI: 0.5–0.7). Conclusion: Prisoners have either similar or less accepting attitudes towards sex than the general population. These attitudes contrast with the higher engagement in risk behaviours reported by prisoners.

Additional keywords: abortion, Australia, homophobia.


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