The Sociocultural Context of Sexually Diverse Women’s Sexual Desire

Dani E. Rosenkrantz, Kristen P. Mark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Women’s sexual desire is a complex, multifaceted phenomenon. According to the biopsychosocial model of female sexual function, a comprehensive understanding of women’s sexuality requires awareness of the presence of and interaction between biological, psychological, interpersonal, and sociocultural factors. Other sexuality scholars in the field have similarly stressed this perspective, emphasizing that sexual desire in particular is impacted by medical, relational, psychological, and sociocultural influences. Given the influence of sociocultural variables like sexism and heterosexism on women’s lives, we sought to understand the impact of the sociocultural context on sexual desire in 31 bisexual, lesbian, and heterosexual women. Women ranged in age from 20 to 69 and answered a number of questions related to their experience of sexual desire and the ways in which desire related to their sexual identity. The semi-structured interviews focused on women’s retrospective, subjective accounts of their experiences. Using a consensual qualitative research approach and thematic analysis, the interviews revealed four themes and seven subthemes: (1) minority stress (heterosexist discrimination, stigmatized identities, coming out, impact of visible/safe spaces); (2) gender expectations (gendered relationship expectations, gender binary impacts, body image); (3) religion; and (4) taboo and changing cultural times. Participant responses suggest that the sociocultural context can influence the sexual desire of diverse women, supporting both sexual desire exploration and suppression of desire expression by context. Practice and advocacy considerations include understanding of the impact of systems of privilege and oppression (e.g., sexism, heterosexism, racism) on women’s sexual desire experiences and opportunities for supporting diverse women’s sexual empowerment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)220-242
Number of pages23
JournalSexuality and Culture
Volume22
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements Funding was provided by Patty Brisben Foundation for Women’s Sexual Health.

Keywords

  • Sexual desire
  • Sexual identity
  • Sexual orientation

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