A recent study done by John Bancroft, J. Scott Long and Janice McCabe entitled “Sexual Well-Being: A Comparison of U.S. Black and White Women in Heterosexual Relationships” sought to do a cross culture comparison within our own society to see how race can affect women’s opinions on their own sexualities. Even though black and white women exist in the same American culture for the most part, there are vast differences between the black and the white cultural experience, which could have an important impact on their views of sexuality. Black adolescents are more likely than their white peers to have sex earlier and to become pregnant young. Would these facts, so often viewed by society as social-ills, have an impact on women’s views of their sexuality?
The researchers interviewed 987 women across the country between the ages of 20 and 65 years who had been in a relationship with a male for at least six months. The women were asked a series of questions about their own sexual practices and their opinions of their sexuality.
Some of the results show that sexuality bridges cultural borders. Both racial groups reported very similar findings on their sexual practices. The sets of women seemed to be having sex with comparable frequency and masturbating with comparable frequency. Both groups viewed their relationships with their partners similarly. Despite conceived differences between black and white women, it appears they are pretty much doing the same things in bed.
Things get interesting, however, when one looks at the results of how the women perceived their own sexualities and sexual attractiveness. Across the board black women were more confident in their own sexuality and found themselves more sexually attractive than white women. What accounts for this higher self-esteem in black women? At first these results surprised me, as American beauty standards are so predominantly white, I assumed black women would experience lower self-appraisals after being told that white is beautiful through every media venue. This deeply embedded racism in the media is not affecting black women’s self-esteem. The black women interviewed also reported having higher BMI’s than their white counterparts. Their higher weights did not seem to have any bearing on their views of their sex appeal.
Upon deeper thought, however, these women are viewing themselves as sexually attractive. For centuries black women have unfairly been viewed by society as possessing an animalistic sexuality. With fewer opportunities for financial success and education, black women are often forced to rely on their sexual attractiveness for income. Perhaps these cultural images have continued to manifest themselves in modern black women’s views of themselves, seeing themselves as more sexual because that is how society has always viewed them.
Black women also reported to be more satisfied with their own sexualities. White women were equally satisfied with their sexual relationships, but lacked this positive view of themselves as a sexually autonomous being. This can perhaps be explained by black women’s sense of independence. Black women are more likely to support themselves and remain unmarried, giving them a sense of independence that white women, who appear to be more fixated on their relationships. Having sex earlier, higher incidence of teenage pregnancy and higher incidence of single parent households has not impeded black women from loving their own sexualities, which is impressive. Even though society is telling them that they are deviant, black women are persevering in loving themselves.
These findings are particularly interesting to me. Black women face many oppressions, yet still manage to maintain a high self image and view of their own sexualities.This research shows that we still need to work to make sure all women, no matter their color, age, religion, size or background recognize themselves as sexually attractive and are able to find satisfaction in their own sexualities.