Relational and Partner-Specific Factors Influencing Black Heterosexual Women’s Initiation of Sexual Intercourse and Orgasm Frequency

Shemeka Thorpe, Tracy R. Nichols, Amanda E. Tanner, Arielle Kuperberg, Erica Payton Foh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


There is limited research on how Black women’s perspectives of their relationship influence their sexual experiences (i.e., sex initiation and orgasm frequency) in early adulthood. This quantitative study examined the association between relationship and partner-specific factors (e.g., relationship satisfaction, love, egalitarianism, partner’s age, physical violence) with the sexual experiences of 216 Black heterosexual women (ages 19–27) from Wave III of the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), the majority of the sample report being in long-standing, committed, loving, monogamous, and egalitarian relationships with older men. Most participants reported having an orgasm more than half the time when they have sexual intercourse (62%), and that they equally initiate sex with their partners (55%), with only 18% reporting that they initiate sex most of the time. Results indicated that relationship and partner-specific factors were significantly associated with initiating sexual intercourse and/or orgasm frequency. Egalitarianism was the only factor that was significantly associated with orgasm frequency and the three types of sex initiation. Physical violence and verbal threats were associated with equal initiation and partner initiation. There were no significant associations between any partner-specific factors and women initiating sex more often in their relationship. Implications for sex research and sexuality education are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)503-524
Number of pages22
JournalSexuality and Culture
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Black women
  • Intimate justice
  • Orgasm
  • Relationships
  • Sex initiation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Cultural Studies


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