Sexual and Relational Health Messages for Women Who Have Sex with Women

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Although much attention has been paid to sexual risk and negotiation of sexual risk-reducing behaviors between women and their male partners, less research has been done on sexual health communication aimed at or engaged in by women who have sex with women (WSW) (Bailey, Farquhar, Owen, & Mangtani, 2004; Feathers, Marks, Mindel, & Estcourt, 2000). There is a misconception among WSW, and the public in general, that WSW’s relatively low rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and low risk for STI transmission from female-to-female sexual contact make it less necessary to address safer sex practices among WSW. In fact, WSW are still at risk for many STIs, bacterial, viral, and protozoal infections that have long-term health consequences, such as human papillomavirus (HPV), which can be easily transmitted through female-to-female sexual contact (CDC, 2012). Further, most WSW have either a history or current practice of having sex with men; 53% to 99% of WSW in one study reported having had sex with men and had plans to continue the practice in the future, therefore increasing their risk of STI contraction and transmission beyond what would be expected of a women who has sex exclusively with women (Diamant, Schuster, McGuigan, et al., 1999). More specifically, there is a need to prioritize sexual health as it is framed by cultural, political, and relational factors—in other words, observing how sexual health is framed within the dominant discourse. To this end, we use standpoint theory to frame data from an online survey and a content analysis of sexuality texts targeted at WSW. This research gives voice to how WSW communicate with their peers, partners, and healthcare providers about sexuality.


Communicating Women's Health: Social and Cultural Norms That Influence Health Decisions is volume 1 of the Routledge Research in Health Communication series.

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