NYMC Faculty Publications

Race-Based Sexual Stereotypes, Gendered Racism, and Sexual Decision Making Among Young Black Cisgender Women

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Health Education & Behavior : the official publication of the Society for Public Health Education

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Health Behavior and Community Health


Background. Due to their intersecting racial identity and gender identity, Black women are characterized by stigmatizing race-based sexual stereotypes (RBSS) that may contribute to persistent, disproportionately high rates of adverse sexual and reproductive health outcomes. RBSS are sociocognitive structures that shape Black women's social behavior including their sexual scripts. Objective. The purpose of this study was to explore the influence of RBSS on the sexual decision making of young Black women (YBW). Methods. We conducted four focus groups with 26 YBW between the ages of 18 and 25, living in a New York City neighborhood with a high HIV prevalence. Qualitative analysis was used to identify emergent themes within the domains of sexual decision making as it relates to safer sex practices and partner selection. Results. Thematic analyses revealed that RBSS may cause women to adopt more traditional gender stereotypes and less likely to feel empowered in the sexual decision making. Participants reported that RBSS may lead Black women to being resistant to learning new information about safer sex practices, feeling less empowered within intimate relationships, and jeopardizing their sexual well-being to affirm themselves in other social areas encouraging unprotected sex and relationships with men who have multiple sex partners. Discussion and Conclusion. Future research should focus on understanding the social and cultural factors that influence Black women's power in maintaining and improving their sexual health, including the aforementioned stereotypes that have influenced how others may view them as well as how they view themselves.