Online Program

Disentangling meanings of safety: Young women's emotional resilience in sexual relations

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Kamila A. Alexander, PhD, MPH, RN, School of Nursing, Department of Community - Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD
Background: The sexual health paradigm is imbalanced and relies on biological and social drivers to explain soaring rates of HIV, sexually transmitted infections, and unintended pregnancies among young women. Sexual health includes complex processes that often occur within emotional relationships. Few investigations examine emotional mechanisms undertaken by women to maintain sexual health.

Purpose: I aimed to describe ways young women interpreted meanings of sexual safety within narratives of their sexual experiences.

Methods: I recruited a diverse (socioeconomic, skin color, and geographic) sample of 25 Black women ages 18 to 25 years old and conducted in-depth interviews. I used Nvivo9® to organize interview transcripts, field notes, and memos. I then performed critical narrative analyses using structural approaches to examine the data.

Results: Participant stories revealed emotionally-driven behaviors, meanings, and conclusions. Three typologies of emotional resilience emerged from the young women's narratives that demonstrated ways of achieving physical and emotional well-being within the context of sexual relationships. Typologies resembled: 1) A roller coaster, 2) A springboard, and 3) A revolving door, demonstrating variations in resilience behaviors within and outside normative biological descriptions of sexual risk. Emotional vulnerabilities, relationship experiences, and an evolving authentic self structured sexual identities and behavioral patterns.

Discussion: These findings illustrated the importance of understanding the influence of emotional dispositions in sexual decision-making. It is imperative to expand sexual health discourses by including emotional resilience as a pathway to sexual health outcomes. Integrating these principles into sexual health interventions that serve young women could improve future prospects for prevention.

Learning Areas:

Diversity and culture
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Discuss ways that young women describe the place of emotions in enacting sexual safety in their lives. Identify the implications of integrating emotional dimensions of sexual health into sexual health science and the implementation of sexual health interventions.

Keyword(s): Sexuality, Sexual Behavior

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a postdoctoral fellow trainee with over 10 years of clinical and research experience focused on improving women's health using an equity and social justice lens. I conducted two qualitative research investigations to uncover the complexities of women's relationship experiences. Additionally, I have specialty training in women's, gender, and sexuality studies that informs my scientific work. My current research focus examines women's health at the intersections of intimate partner violence and sexual health promotion.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.