Skip to main content
Log in

The Strong, Silent (Gender) Type: The Strong Black Woman Ideal, Self-Silencing, and Sexual Assertiveness in Black College Women

  • Original Paper
  • Published:
Archives of Sexual Behavior Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Women are socialized to endorse femininity scripts mandating that they prioritize others’ needs and engage in self-silencing behaviors. Further, Black women may also endorse the strong Black woman (SBW) ideal, by which they are expected to selflessly meet the needs of their family and community and, as such, may embrace self-silencing in their interpersonal relationships. In a sample of 597 Black undergraduate and graduate college women, we tested whether: (1) self-silencing and SBW ideal endorsement would be independently, inversely associated with three dimensions of sexual assertiveness–communication assertiveness, refusal assertiveness, and pleasure-focused assertiveness; and (2) the association between self-silencing and sexual assertiveness would be stronger among Black women who endorse the SBW ideal. Correlational and regression analyses revealed that self-silencing was negatively linked to all dimensions of sexual assertiveness; SBW ideal endorsement was associated with lower levels of communication and pleasure-focused assertiveness. As expected, SBW ideal endorsement moderated the association between Black women’s engagement in self-silencing and two dimensions of sexual assertiveness. Self-silencing was associated with less communication and pleasure-focused assertiveness regardless of their level of SBW endorsement. Findings highlight the complexities of Black women’s desire to fulfill expectations to be strong, assertive, and/or compliant and silent. Interventions to promote Black women’s sexual health should address sexual assertiveness and feminine silencing norms.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Similar content being viewed by others


Download references


This study was funded by the University of Michigan Office of Research (UMOR) and PI discretionary funds. This research was also supported by a Ford Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to Lanice R. Avery.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation, data collection, and analysis were performed by LRA, AGS, LMW, ERC, and MCJ. The first draft of the manuscript was written by LRA, and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Lanice R. Avery.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Consent to Participate

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Consent to Publish

The authors affirm that participants provided informed consent for publication of the overall results of the study.

Ethical Approval

The questionnaire and methodology for this study was approved by the Health Sciences and Behavioral Sciences Institutional Review Board of the University of Michigan (IRB Study ID: HUM00068279).

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Avery, L.R., Stanton, A.G., Ward, L.M. et al. The Strong, Silent (Gender) Type: The Strong Black Woman Ideal, Self-Silencing, and Sexual Assertiveness in Black College Women. Arch Sex Behav 51, 1509–1520 (2022).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: