Sex, love and gender norms: sexual life and experience of a group of young people in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Sex Health. 2007 Mar;4(1):63-9. doi: 10.1071/sh06023.


This paper discusses the impacts of gender norms on the sexual life and experience of a group of young Vietnamese people. It is based on a qualitative study on sexuality and abortion among young people in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. There were two general attitudes towards premarital sex. One view supported young people in a serious, loving relationship engaging in sex before marriage; the other opposed premarital sex because it affected the reputation of girls and their families. These general attitudes were similar to the views on virginity: one group believed strongly in girls maintaining their virginity and the other group emphasised love, emotion and trust, not virginity, as the most important criteria for marriage. Among women there were more supporters than opponents of the traditional view of premarital sex and virginity. Premarital sex was more acceptable for young people in a serious, loving relationship with certain commitment to marriage. Young men considered sex a way to express their love and to become more intimate. Women's view was that premarital sex only occurred within a serious, loving relationship or when there was a serious commitment to marriage. It is clear that young people's sexual life is shaped and constrained by gender norms through political interventions, sexual education and moral judgements. Under the pressure of these norms, young people face many difficulties in order to fulfill a safe and satisfying sexual life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health
  • Contraception Behavior / ethnology*
  • Contraception Behavior / psychology
  • Cultural Characteristics*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Love
  • Male
  • Marriage / ethnology*
  • Marriage / psychology
  • Narration
  • Sexual Behavior / ethnology*
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology
  • Sexual Partners / psychology*
  • Social Values
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vietnam