Listening to Sexual Minority Women

In the late 1990s, researchers began to find evidence that women could acquire STDs from other women. However, this early work was scant, it was primarily quantitative and it offered little insight into how women who have sex with women could reduce their risk for STDs. In 2005, Perspectives published an article by Jeanne M. Marrazzo and colleagues that sought to identify the sexual practices in which lesbian and bisexual women engage, to assess their knowledge of STD risks and to determine which protective behaviors would be most acceptable to them. The study is noteworthy on two accounts: It focused on sexual minority women, and it was qualitative research, which gives a necessary voice to the population being examined. It showed that women who have sex with women underestimate their risk of STDs and think that risk reduction behaviors are a concern primarily for heterosexual women.

In a related Viewpoint published in the same issue, Greta R. Bauer and Linda D. Wayne noted that the study by Marrazzo et al. was “one of only a handful to collect the cultural information necessary to plan effective sexual health interventions for sexual minority populations, other than HIV prevention studies involving gay or bisexual men.”

Cover illustrations of Margaret Sanger © Matthew and Eve Levine