From pathology to positivity : sociocultural factors that shape sexual self-esteem among Black college women




Adams, Whitney Nicole

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Current literature on the sexual experiences of Black women primarily focuses on factors that contribute to risky sexual behaviors and methods to prevent the negative consequences of these behaviors. However, there is a need to broaden our construction of Black women’s sexuality. This study intends to address this gap in the literature by exploring factors that promote a positive aspect of sexuality known as sexual self-esteem. The current study investigated how social factors (peer sexual socialization and religiosity) and personal factors (sexual values) influence Black women’s sexual self-esteem. A sample of 155 self-identified Black college women (undergraduate and graduate) completed an online survey that assessed sexual self-esteem and its subscales (Skill/Experience, Attractiveness, Control, Moral Judgment, and Adaptiveness), religiosity, sexual values (Sexual Talk as Disrespectful, Satisfaction of Sexual Needs as Important, Female Virginity as Important, and Sexual Self-acceptance), and peer sexual socialization. Results of a correlation analysis indicated that peer sexual socialization was not linked with increased sexual self-esteem. Multiple regression analyses revealed that the sexual value of Sexual Self-Acceptance was positively linked to all of the subscales of sexual self-esteem. Relatedly, the sexual value of Sexual Talk as Disrespectful was negatively linked with the Control, Moral Judgment, and Attractiveness subscales of sexual self-esteem. Moderation analyses indicated religiosity moderated the link between peer sexual socialization and sexual self-esteem, but not the link between Sexual Self-Acceptance and sexual self-esteem. The study also included two exploratory hypotheses. Results of the first hypothesis found that the sexual value of Female Virginity as Important was negatively linked to condom usage. Results of the second exploratory hypothesis found that sexual guilt mediated the relationship between religiosity and sexual self-esteem. Sexual guilt was measured by a brief scale designed for the current study. The findings from the current study highlight that Black women’s acceptance of their own sexuality is key in creating a more positive and empowered view of Black women’s sexuality. This finding can be utilized in the development of future sex positive research and programming directed towards Black college women. Limitations, future research areas, and practical implications of these findings are discussed.


LCSH Subject Headings