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To examine sexuality narratives of Black women who have sex with women and men and explore factors that influence their sexual safety and sexual security. We recruited young self-identified Black women from beauty salons and community-based organizations. Our sample included a subset of five sexually active, Black women age 19 to 25 who reported engaging in sexual relationships with women and men. Participants were selected from a larger parent study that included sexuality narratives from 25 women.
We analyzed interview transcripts in which participants described sexual relationships. We used constant comparative techniques and conventional content analysis methodology. We uncovered three themes illustrating influences on sexual safety and sexual security: institutional expectations, emotional connectedness, and sexual behaviors. From this analysis, we derive valuable insights into decision-making processes within sexual relationships from the perspectives of young Black women who have sex with women and men.
Clinicians and investigators can use these findings to inform programs deed to improve the sexual health of this often invisible group of women.
Nurses are uniquely Black girl i had sex with to support young women as they navigate societal institutions and emotional experiences that inform future sexual decisions and behaviors. Sexual minorities experience disparate sexual health challenges compared to heterosexual individuals Ebin, Current public health strategies are often framed around health risks in heterosexual relationships and are inadequate to address sexual health risks among WSWM.
Sexual safety refers to the ways in which physical boundaries are maintained and respected. Individuals can promote their sexual safety by engaging in protective behaviors, assertive communication, and negotiating respectful relationships Alexander, They can also negotiate condom or contraceptive use and ask about a sex partner's sexual history Padgett, At present, little is known about how WSWM maintain sexual safety, and even less is known about sexual security. Individuals often make decisions about sexual activity based on how they feel in that moment and over time.
Emotional states are patterned and include feelings such as fear, love, and excitement. Therefore, these emotional drivers shape sexual security and inform safety behaviors Alexander, In this study, we examined the sexual narratives of young Black WSWM and explored factors that influence sexual safety and sexual security. Establishing sexual risk profiles during health care encounters can be a challenging prospect for nurses. Among the women that disclosed their sexual identities, almost all of the disclosures were initiated by participants rather than health care providers McNair et al.
Social institutions, such as family, religion, and peers impose expectations that inform feelings of perceived sexual discrimination. This discrimination is particularly prevalent within the Black community. Anticipation of discrimination may inhibit the willingness of a sexual minority to seek out appropriate and relevant sexual health information.
Sexual health of WSWM involves nuanced mental and emotional processes that require social and relational support from partners Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ; World Health Organization, Feelings of intimacy and love among women toward their partners have been associated with decreased perceptions of risk and nonuse of condoms Corbett et al.
In fact, participants in Corbett and colleague's research reported that their emotional needs superseded concerns about their health. Sexual behaviors such as barrier use including condoms and dental dams and health screening for STIs, contribute Black girl i had sex with safer sexual health practices and decreased sexual risk Everett, Women who have sex with women and men perceive lower sexual risks when engaging in sexual activities with women and are less likely to use barrier methods.
The disparate sexual health outcomes experienced by WSWM compared to heterosexual women are affected by prior or current sexual activity with men. Singh and colleagues also found a higher prevalence of chlamydia among WSWM compared with WSM in a sample of 9, women attending family planning clinics 7.
We conducted a secondary analysis of data collected from a parent study. The parent study sample included 25 self-identified Black young women who reported having sexual activity with a man at some point in their lifetimes. The primary aims of the parent study were to analyze meanings of sexual safety and sexual health among this group of young women.
We used narrative methods to elicit in-depth stories from participants during the data collection phase Riessman, from the critical narrative analyses of the entire sample are reported elsewhere Alexander, We selected interviews in which participants discussed sexual relationships with women and provided descriptive narratives about those experiences.
Institutional Review Board approval was obtained, and ethical protocols were followed to maintain the trustworthiness of the data. The parent study's purposive sample included young Black women recruited from community venues primarily beauty salons through flyers and word-of-mouth advertising. Eligible women were age 18 to 25 years, reported at least one lifetime sexual experience with a man, and were able to read and write English. Sexual experience was defined as oral, vaginal, or anal intercourse. The subsample reported in this study included WSWM who ranged in age from 19 to 25 who had diverse sexual identities and varied types of sexual relationship with women.
Participants identified their sexual orientations as bisexual, heterosexual, and lesbian. Two participants reported casual relationships with women, and three reported a primary relationship that lasted longer than one year. During the parent study, the primary author conducted all interviews in a private location participants' homes, meeting rooms in public or university libraries, or unoccupied spaces in the beauty salons where recruitment took place. After participants provided written informed consent, semistructured interviews were audio-recorded.
The interviews lasted between 60 to 90 minutes and were guided by open-ended questions with accompanying probes. What do the words intimacy, desire, trust, and pleasure mean to you when you think of your relationship with [insert partner name]? What does safety mean to you when you think about your sexual relationship with [insert partner name]? Following the interview, each participant completed a survey deed to elicit sociodemographic information and sexual behavior information.
During each step of the process, we integrated constant comparison techniques within and across interview transcripts Glaser, All emerging data were coded, categorized, and compared to data findings within each interview as well as between different interviews Glaser, In the first step, each of the authors independently read all five interviews to immerse ourselves in the stories. In the next step, we coded the five interview transcripts with a focus on the participants' descriptions of same-sex relationships.
Next, we discussed emerging and themes in an iterative fashion, linking findings between coders. Relevant data patterns were recorded and discussed to highlight across interview and within-interview analyses. Finally, using the emergent themes, interviews were then reanalyzed by each of the authors.
During this step, we discussed incidents of contradiction and concurrence and identified cohering themes until we reached agreement Glaser, Participants described diverse experiences in sexual relationships with women and men. Three themes emerged describing influential factors to sexual safety and sexual security among this sample of young Black WSWM: institutional expectations, emotional connectedness, and sexual behaviors. These themes reflected a dynamic process that participants underwent to organize sexual relationships that affected decisions about sexual safety and feelings of security.
Institutional expectations guided participants' understandings of appropriate sexual decisions through interactions with familial, religious, and peer norms. Processes for emotional connectedness integrated feelings of love, happiness, trust, and mistrust in relationships. Participant sexual behaviors included common practices such as regular testing for infection, hormonal contraceptive and barrier use, and growing sexual networks. Participants indicated that institutional expectations had profound influences on their sexual relationship experiences with men and women.
Initiation of sexual activity during early teen years was common among participants. Angie,a year-old hair stylist that identified as a lesbian described her first sexual experience at age 12 with a year-old boy:. We was having a sleep over. You know how little kids is, wanna hop on each other ….
We just knew we was gonna do something nasty…. I didn't like the whole idea of a boy doing that to me…. It felt disgusting to me. She described her first sexual experience in the context of a cultural process that included expected behaviors of a sexually curious preteen.
Chanel, a year-old bisexual mother married to a man noted:. I lost my virginity young … at 13 …. I mean you watch TV and you see the little fake sex scenes or whatever … one day I just wanted to do it … when I did it, it just happened. It wasn't nothing planned. It was like I did it and I felt bad and I think about it…. I mean once you do it you just keep doing it. I don't think I probably would've acted on it. Chanel described a lack of parental discussions about sex and influences from the media as institutional expectations that shaped her teen sexual experiences.
This occurrence provided explanations for an emerging sexual life that moved on auto-pilot and eventually included relationships with women. Family life also included institutional expectations that often became difficult for participants to manage. My mom — I told my mom about it [the relationship]. She described her father's reactions to her developing sexual identity:. My father hated me for a long time … I guess he don't like it.
Like I have people in my family that's gay, but it's never been his child…. I guess he just felt like I'm his daughter, he didn't want me to be gay…. When he first found out, he would do mean stuff … he would slam all the doors, he would fuss at me, like start arguments, do a lot of crazy stuff that was unnecessary. Angie's father's reactions to her emerging sexual identity were also influenced by his position as a deacon in their church. Several participants discussed institutional expectations of religion.
Chanel described the influence of religious doctrine on her developing sexuality, subsequent attraction to women, and consequential rebellious nature of being a teenager:. In our Bible, it says God views homosexuality as a dog eating his vomit—disgusting. That's Black girl i had sex with God views it…. I never went by the rules. I did what I wanted to do. I knew homosexuality was wrong, but I wanted to do it anyway. So you have consequences when you don't live by God's rules.Black girl i had sex with
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Sexual Safety and Sexual Security among Young Black Women Who Have Sex with Women and Men