An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of Black Women's Meaning and Experiences of Sexual Anxiety

Shemeka Thorpe, Candice N Hargons, Natalie Malone, Praise Iyiewuare, Jasmine K Jester, Danelle Stevens-Watkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sexual anxiety can activate the stress response cycle during sex, compromising a woman's ability to experience sexual pleasure. Black women face additional cultural and contextual factors, such as hypersexualization, partner scarcity, and higher rates of sexual trauma that may increase the magnitude, frequency, and odds of experiencing sexual anxiety. However, limited research has explored this phenomenon among Black women. Thus, we sought to qualitatively explore how N = 25 premenopausal Black women living in the southern United States make meaning of experiences with sexual anxiety. We analyzed the interview data using an interpretive phenomenological approach. Three components of the phenomenon of sexual anxiety were gleaned: 1) causes of sexual anxiety, 2) characteristics of sexual anxiety, and 3) coping strategies. Each component included three to six elements of meaning making. For these Black women, causes of sexual anxiety included fears of sexual pain, partner unfamiliarity, previous traumas, mental health concerns, and intersecting socio-structural factors. Characteristics of sexual anxiety included mental, somatic, and emotional elements. Coping strategies included having a reassuring and supportive sex partner, supporting themselves with affirmations and mindfulness, attending therapy, and using substances. Through reflection about their perceived causes of, experienced characteristics of, and intentional coping with sexual anxiety, meanings were co-constructed through an intersectional frame. Implications for intersectionality-informed interventions and suggestions for mental health professionals and partners are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Sex Research
StateE-pub ahead of print - Dec 19 2022


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