Effects of East Los High, an entertainment-education web series, on sexual decision-making of young Latino/a couples

Anu Sachdev, University of Texas at El Paso


Involving multiple actors and critical decisions, the phenomenon of early, unintended pregnancies, single parenthood, and sexually transmitted infections have grave consequences for the life trajectory of a youth. In the U.S., the highest sexual risks are borne by Latino/a youth. Often their life, career, and well-being outcomes are a function of the quality of their sexual decision-making. This study was designed to investigate the process of sexual decision-making among Latino/a couples who were exposed to a web-based narrative called East Los High (ELH). The program, originally screened on the Hulu web-channel was designed specifically to promote sexual responsibility among Latino/a audiences. Given a sexual relationship involves two people, it is imperative that sexual decision-making is studied at the level of couples. While the literature on teenage sexuality is vast, sexual decision-making studies and prevention interventions are gendered i.e. males and females have been studied separately. This study took a different path. Fifteen Latino/a unmarried couples between ages 18 to 24 participated in this study. Participant observations and in-depth couple interviews after the participants watched the ELH narrative were used to collect data. The effects of East Los High, as was experienced by the viewing couples, were investigated at three decision-making points during the portrayed sexual encounters: pre, during and after sex. Sexual decision-making portrayed in ELH was analyzed from the viewpoint of (1) female decision-making and (2) male responsibility. Female agency, women's negotiation skills, and their mental resilience seemed to play a key role in the kind of decisions women made about pre-during, and post sexual encounters. Male responsibility played itself out in terms of orientation toward using protection (or condom use), providing care and support for the partner, and maintaining healthy and respectful interpersonal communication before, during, and post sexual encounter. Viewing of ELH, especially the viewing of consequences that young protagonists faced on account of their sexual encounters, heightened a sense of vulnerability among couples. Many of them decided to either initiate and/or continue using prevention measures such as condoms and birth control pills. The couples also seemed to gain efficacy in discussing their STI status and getting tested. A major talking and decision point for most couples arose around pregnancy, and the ELH narrative helped spark conversations around options that one may consider post conception. The show, however, seem not to engender any change in perception on the issue of abortion, which was viewed as a shared decision. When asked to generate creative solutions in the context of sexual decision-making, the responses favored being playful in bed, delaying sexual activity, and using tricky turn offs for their partners. These devices were deemed effective in pausing unwanted sexual activity. In sum, the quality of sexual-decision making among partners is based on communicative behaviors displayed by both partners. The ELH narrative helped spark a dialogue among the couples while also developing the sense of self-efficacy among both partners. Both these skills are important in sexual negotiation and decision-making.

Subject Area

Public Health Education|Public health|Web Studies|Hispanic American studies

Recommended Citation

Sachdev, Anu, "Effects of East Los High, an entertainment-education web series, on sexual decision-making of young Latino/a couples" (2014). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1564699.