A Qualitative Exploration of Religion, Gender Norms, and Sexual Decision-Making within African American Faith-Based Communities. By: Piper, Kaitlin N.; Fuller, Tyler J.; Ayers, Amy A.; Lambert, Danielle N.; Sales, Jessica M.; Wingood, Gina M. Sex Roles. Feb2020, Vol. 82 Issue 3/4, p189-205. 17p. 3 Charts.

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) continues to be a prominent health and social justice issue, especially for African American communities in the Southern United States. Gender role norms, specifically within faith-based communities in the South, pose challenges to empowering women to make safer sexual health decisions. To explore perceptions of gender norms and sexual health, 42 qualitative interviews were gathered from female members of 16 predominantly African American churches in Atlanta, GA. Constructs from the theory of gender and power and the social ecological model were used to guide coding and analysis. Participants discussed their experiences with gender norms and gender-based power differentials at the institutional (i.e., church), familial, and interpersonal (i.e., intimate relationship) levels. Because of the attitudes and beliefs held by their religious communities and families, many participants recalled struggling to assert themselves in sexual relationships and recalled engaging in risky and unwanted sexual behavior, especially during their young adult years. However, as the participants matured, they worked to overturn traditional gender norms, empowering both their children and women in their religious communities to make healthy, autonomous sexual decisions. Moving forward, participants want their churches and members of their faith communities to play an active role in the empowerment of African American women and provide them with the confidence and education necessary to negotiate sexual decisions with their partners.