Original Paper

Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 40, Issue 4, pp 725-740

First online:

Sexual Well-Being: A Comparison of U.S. Black and White Women in Heterosexual Relationships

  • John BancroftAffiliated withThe Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, Indiana University Email author 
  • , J. Scott LongAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, Indiana UniversityDepartment of Statistics, Indiana University
  • , Janice McCabeAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, Florida State University

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In the United States, considerable attention has been directed to sexual behaviors of black and white adolescents, particularly age at first sexual experience and the prevalence of teenage pregnancies. More limited attention has been paid to comparing established sexual relationships in these two racial groups. In this study, we used a national probability sample to compare black (n = 251) and white (n = 544) American women, aged 20–65 years, who were in an established heterosexual relationship of at least 6 months duration. We focused on two aspects of their sexual well-being; how a woman evaluated (1) her sexual relationship and (2) her own sexuality. A range of possible determinants of sexual well-being, including demographic factors, physical and mental health, and aspects of the women’s recent sexual experiences, were also assessed using Telephone-Audio-Computer-Assisted Self-Interviewing (T-ACASI). We found no significant difference between black and white women in their evaluation of their sexual relationships nor in the independent variables that were correlated with this evaluation. Black women, however, evaluated their own sexuality more positively than white women. In examining the correlates of this evaluation, a woman’s rating of her own sexual attractiveness proved to be the strongest predictor, with black women rating themselves significantly more sexually attractive than did the white women. Overall, these findings were consistent with previous findings that, compared to white women, black women in the United States have higher self-esteem and tend towards more independence and individualism.


Sexual well-being Women Heterosexual relationships Ethnicity Sexual attractiveness