Publication Date


Document Type

Student Project

First Advisor

Bergan-Roller, Heather


Department of Biological Sciences


A healthy understanding of sexual function is crucial for physiological and psychological well-being. What undergraduate students learn in their biology courses shapes the way they engage with these topics. Anatomy and Physiology (A&P) courses attract future healthcare practitioners who need to be able to communicate with their patients about sexual function in an inclusive manner. This study conducted a national survey to identify the most utilized A&P textbooks for undergraduate students, then used emergent thematic analysis on the resulting 14 textbooks to characterize how sexual function is represented. The vagina was often described as having three main functions: a “receptacle for the penis,” an “outlet for menstrual flow,” and “the passageway for childbirth.” This shows that women’s sexual function is often described in textbooks with a heteronormative, reproductive, and male-centric focus. A more holistic depiction of women’s sexual function is necessary for students to garner a full and healthy comprehension of the topic.


Northern Illinois University