A national, qualitative study of sexual decision making by teenage girls who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or who have another nonheterosexual identity

Research Project: A national, qualitative study of sexual decision making by teenage girls who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or who have another nonheterosexual identity

Ybarra ML, Parrilla JS, Wolowic J, Rosario M, Goodenow C, Saewyc E. A National, Qualitative Study of Sexual Decision Making by Teenage Girls who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or who have Another Nonheterosexual Identity. J Pediatr. 2020 Feb;217:177-183. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2019.10.038. Epub 2019 Dec 13.

Abstract:

Objective: To address the significant dearth of literature that examines how girls who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or who have another nonheterosexual identity (LGB+) decide when and with whom to have sex; and to explore why inexperienced LGB+ girls might have sex with girls or boys.

Study design: We conducted 8 online, asynchronous, bulletin board-style focus groups with 160 adolescent girls 14-18 years of age. The transcripts were analyzed using a thematic analysis of each girls’ responses to the questions. Analyses were focused on increasing our understanding of sexual health decision making among LGB+ teenage girls (eg, “What was the reason you had sex for the first time?”). Participants’ responses reflected their day-to-day experiences and roles of cisgender LGB+ girls inside a dominant heteronormative social structure.

Results: Some LGB+ girls talked about the perception that LGB+ girls were presumed or expected to be hypersexual, and that they did not feel they could be accepted as LGB+ without being sexually active. Developmental aspects of identity were also salient: Girls considered or engaged in sexual encounters as a way of figuring out to whom they were attracted as well as confirming or disconfirming the identity labels they used for themselves. Same-sex encounters could be offered as “proof” that one really was LGB+. Similarly, unsatisfying experiences with guys could serve as evidence that they were not attracted to guys.

Conclusion: Sexual decision making among LGB+ girls is often driven by aspects of their sexual minority identity.

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