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Relational and Partner-Specific Factors Influencing Black Heterosexual Women’s Initiation of Sexual Intercourse and Orgasm Frequency

Abstract

There is limited research on how Black women’s perspectives of their relationship influence their sexual experiences (i.e., sex initiation and orgasm frequency) in early adulthood. This quantitative study examined the association between relationship and partner-specific factors (e.g., relationship satisfaction, love, egalitarianism, partner’s age, physical violence) with the sexual experiences of 216 Black heterosexual women (ages 19–27) from Wave III of the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), the majority of the sample report being in long-standing, committed, loving, monogamous, and egalitarian relationships with older men. Most participants reported having an orgasm more than half the time when they have sexual intercourse (62%), and that they equally initiate sex with their partners (55%), with only 18% reporting that they initiate sex most of the time. Results indicated that relationship and partner-specific factors were significantly associated with initiating sexual intercourse and/or orgasm frequency. Egalitarianism was the only factor that was significantly associated with orgasm frequency and the three types of sex initiation. Physical violence and verbal threats were associated with equal initiation and partner initiation. There were no significant associations between any partner-specific factors and women initiating sex more often in their relationship. Implications for sex research and sexuality education are discussed.

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Acknowledgments

This research uses data from Add Health, a program project directed by Kathleen Mullan Harris and designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and funded by grant P01-HD31921 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 23 other federal agencies and foundations. Information on how to obtain the Add Health data files is available on the Add Health website (http://www.cpc.unc.edu/addhealth). No direct support was received from grant P01-HD31921 for this analysis.

Funding

This study was supported, in part, by the Doug Kirby Adolescent Sexual Health Research Grant from the Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention, Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington.

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Correspondence to Shemeka Thorpe.

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Thorpe, S., Nichols, T.R., Tanner, A.E. et al. Relational and Partner-Specific Factors Influencing Black Heterosexual Women’s Initiation of Sexual Intercourse and Orgasm Frequency. Sexuality & Culture 25, 503–524 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12119-020-09780-y

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Keywords

  • Black women
  • Orgasm
  • Relationships
  • Sex initiation
  • Intimate justice