A phenomenological exploration of women's safe sex experiences in committed relationships
AdvisorKoerner, Susan Silverberg
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThe purpose of this qualitative dissertation was to describe the experience of safe sex via consistent condom use for unmarried, young women involved in committed, long-term relationships. A phenomenological research approach was utilized throughout the study. The intent of phenomenological research is to describe and understand human experience. Phenomenology accomplishes this goal through a process of revealing the fundamental, defining structures of experience, called "essences." Essences are the invariant, shared elements of phenomena that are similar or common to anyone with that experience. Twelve women (M age = 20.6 years; M length of relationship = 19.3 months) recruited from a large, Southwestern university participated in semi-structured, individual, one-hour interviews. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed word for word. Transcripts were submitted to an adaptation of Giorgi's (1985, 1997) phenomenological data analysis procedure. Analysis revealed four essences that defined the experience of consistent condom use within the context of long-term, committed relationships: self-protection, an unwavering internal standard, personal responsibility, and relational support. (1) Participants maintained a conscious awareness of the need to protect themselves against the perceived, realistic threats of both pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. (2) Participants' internal standard to practice safe sex was formed independently and prior to meeting their current partners. Practicing consistent condom use was a resolute and integral facet of being sexually active, such that the decision to practice safe sex within their relationships was not regarded as optional. (3) In addition, participants believed that they alone were ultimately responsible for their own health, and the majority expressed this responsibility through dual method contraceptive use (i.e., condoms and the birth control pill). (4) Characteristics of partners (e.g., supporting participants' decision to use condoms, absence of complaints about condom use) and of the relationship itself (e.g., open communication) made the practice of safe sex easier for participants. Finally, neither participants nor their partners interpreted condom use in the relationship as a sign of infidelity. Results were discussed in the context of existing research on the intrapersonal and interpersonal influences on safe sex behavior, as well as with respect to feminist literature on female sexuality.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Family Studies and Human Development