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Article

Queer Safer Sex Communication  

Kami Kosenko

Although communication scholars have been exploring the role of partner communication in sexual health promotion since the 1960s, the term safer sex, and its corollary safer sex communication, emerged in the late 1980s in the wake of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which was and still is disproportionately affecting queer individuals. Numerous studies, along with some meta-analyses, point to the protective potential of safer sex discussions, defined here as the communicative management of health concerns with sex partners. Despite scholarly agreement regarding its importance, the term safer sex communication has received little explication, and much of what is known about it comes from studies with predominantly heterosexual samples. A review of the literature on queer safer sex communication points to some key issues related to age, race, trauma history, place, and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), and suggests important considerations for future research efforts.

Article

Sexual Communication Between Queer Partners  

Brandon T. Parrillo and Randal D. Brown

Effective communication is vital to any relationship, and sexual communication is no different. Given its importance, sexual communication and its relation to a variety of topics has been studied in recent years. Included among these are its relation to safer sex behaviors, sexual and relationship satisfaction, and fertility and family planning among heterosexual partners. Yet, for queer partners, the data reflect interest in sexual communication as it relates to safe sex behaviors such as condom use and HIV status. Further, the current base of published literature on sexual communication among queer partners focuses almost exclusively on men who have sex with men and leaves out other types of queer partnerships. To be truly inclusive, it is imperative that sexual communication research broaden its focus to include topics that do not medicalize queer couples, such as sexual pleasure, satisfaction, and relationship well-being.

Article

Sexual Satisfaction in LGB Relationships  

Madeleine Redlick Holland

Sexual satisfaction plays an important role in the mental, physical, emotional, and relational lives of all individuals of all sexual orientations. However, the study of sexual satisfaction among lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) individuals has been hampered by a number of conceptual and methodological shortcomings. Research on sexual satisfaction has largely been conducted among individuals in mixed-gender relationships, thereby developing and utilizing measures that are heteronormative, penis–vagina focused, and centered on monogamy. Although conceptualizations and operationalizations of sexual satisfaction in the lives of LGB individuals have been imperfect, some key findings related to this construct can be drawn from the literature. Sexual satisfaction is directly related to relationship satisfaction and quality of communication, and inversely related to homonegativity. It varies by relationship arrangements, commitment levels, living arrangements, individual difference variables (such as age, socioeconomic status, and religious affiliation), and sexual orientation. Research on sexual satisfaction can continue to grow by searching for core elements of sexual satisfaction that might be stable across all orientations, incorporating insights from both quantitative and qualitative methods, and being mindful of traditionally excluded populations, such as individuals who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual.

Article

Same-Sex Couple Relationship Maintenance  

Stephen M. Haas

Same-sex couple relationship maintenance involves the exchange of communication and relational behaviors to sustain these romantic relationships. In communication studies, same-sex couple relationship maintenance began in the late 1990s, and while it remains understudied, research in this area continues to grow and illuminate understanding of how communication plays a central role in the maintenance of same-sex couple relationships. Social exchange, along with minority stress, have been the predominant theoretical frameworks in studies of same-sex couple relationship maintenance. Overall, evidence suggests that relational maintenance behaviors (assurances, shared tasks, openness, positivity, conflict management, advice, and shared networks) are associated with positive relational functioning and quality in same-sex couple relationships. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer+ (LGBTQ+)-specific relational behaviors, such as being “out” as a couple and seeking out LGBTQ+-supportive environments, also have been highlighted. Research also points to the positive impact of partner social support and same-sex marriage on same-sex couple commitment and satisfaction, and a negative relational impact from concealing LGBTQ+ identity and same-sex relationship status. Future research is needed to continue to illuminate the evolving impact of increasing social legitimacy (e.g., same-sex marriage) on same-sex couple relationship maintenance.

Article

Family Relationships and Interactions: An Intergroup Approach  

Jordan Soliz

Families are not immune from intergroup processes that pervade other social relationships and institutions in society. Family relationships are often constituted by individuals with different identities and worldviews, especially when considering the changing landscape of families (e.g., multiethnic–multiracial families, interfaith families). Moreover, many of our most personal relationships emerge from the joining of two distinct familial groups (e.g., in-laws, stepfamily members). Whether considering different social identities salient in family interactions (e.g., ethnicity-race, age, political affiliation) or formative dynamics as families merge, intergroup communication processes are central to managing difference in a constructive manner that facilitates development of a shared family identity and individual well-being. Further, an intergroup perspective on family highlights the manner in which families directly and indirectly socialize family members’ intergroup attitudes and worldviews.

Article

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Disclosure in the Medical Context  

L. Brooke Friley and Maria K. Venetis

For individuals who identify as LGBTQ+, disclosing sexual orientation and/or gender identity can be a complex and risky conversation. However, in the medical context this conversation frequently becomes a central part of communication between patient and provider. Unfortunately, this conversation can also become a barrier that prevents patients from receiving or even accessing necessary medical care. LGBTQ+ individuals have reported experiencing significant discrimination in day-to-day life, and more specifically in patient–provider interactions. This discrimination leads LGBTQ+ individuals to avoid seeking necessary medical care and also frequently results in unsatisfactory care and poor health outcomes. This is of concern as LGBTQ+ individuals present with significantly higher rates of health issues and overall higher risks of cancer, chronic illnesses, and mental health concerns. Unfortunately, many medical providers are unequipped to properly care for LGBTQ+ patients and lack opportunities for education and training. This lack of experience leads many providers to operate medical offices that are unwelcoming or even inhospitable to LGBTQ+ patients, making it difficult for those patients to access inclusive care. This can be of particular concern when the patient’s sexual orientation or gender identity becomes relevant to their medical care, as they may feel uncomfortable sharing that information with a provider. Patient self-disclosure of sexual orientation or gender identity to a medical provider not only can contribute to a more positive relationship and improved quality of care but also can improve the psychological outlook of an LGBTQ+ individual. However, potential stigmatization can lead to the concealment of sexual orientation or gender identity information. These acts of concealment serve as intentional mechanisms of impression management within the patient–provider interaction. When LGBTQ+ patients do discuss their sexual orientation or gender identity with a provider, it is most often because the information is directly relevant to their health and disclosure, and therefore becomes essential and often forced. There are instances where LGBTQ+ patients are motivated to disclose to a provider who they believe will respond positively to information about their sexual orientation or gender identity. Disclosure of sexual orientation or gender identity may be direct in that it is clear and concrete. It may also be indirect in that individuals may use particular topics, such as talking about their partner, to broach the subject. Participants may also use specific entry points in the conversation, such as during taking a medical history about medications, to disclose. Some individuals plan and rehearse their disclosure conversations, whereas others disclose when they feel they have no other choice in the interaction. Increasing inclusivity on the part of providers and medical facilities is one way to promote comfortable disclosure of sexual orientation or gender identity. Additionally, updating the office environment and policies, as well as paperwork and confidentiality procedures, can also promote safe disclosure. Finally, improvements to training and education for healthcare professionals and office staff can dramatically improve interactions with LGBTQ+ patients. All of these efforts need to make integration of knowledge about how LGTBQ+ individuals can disclose comfortably and safely a central part of program design.

Article

Chinese Pink Markets  

Terrie Siang-Ting Wong

Starting from the late 20th century, domestic and multinational corporations begun actively promoting their products and services to Chinese tongzhi communities at local LGBTQ events such as the ShanghaiPRIDE, Taiwan Pride Week, and the Hong Kong Pride Parade. In recent years, consumer brands are eager to market themselves as tongzhi friendly, for example, by displaying the pride colors in advertising. In the People’s Republic of China (henceforth PRC and China), businesses are offering services that exclusively serve the needs of Chinese tongzhi, such as overseas wedding packages, travel services, surrogate services, and assisting in permanent overseas migration. In the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (henceforth Hong Kong) and the Republic of China (henceforth Taiwan), the pink market features a well-established network of gay and lesbian disco clubs, bars, and bookstores. In addition to brick-and-mortar businesses, the Chinese pink market also has a strong online presence in the form of gay and lesbian dating apps. In short, the Chinese pink market includes all activities in contemporary Chinese societies that aim to profit from the needs and desires of individuals who experience same-sex attraction. Research on the Chinese pink markets to date has primarily focused on using a political economy perspective to investigate tongzhi subject formation, specifically focusing on queer subjects as consumers. Aspects of the Chinese pink markets that have been studied include product/service offerings, profit mechanisms, and marketing messages. In contrast to the financial institutions and business owners that promote the pink economy as progress for local tongzhi communities in the form of increased visibility and improved quality of life, there is a distinct ambivalence towards the Chinese pink market amongst the scholarly community. Literature on all three Chinese pink markets—China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong—trouble the notion that tongzhi visibility in the pink economy unequivocally heralds positive social change for local tongzhi subjects. Scholars writing on all three Chinese pink markets are also united in their rejection of a global queering reading of tongzhi subjectivity and subject formation. Despite these common research trajectories, there are also divergences in the literature on each of the Chinese pink markets. For example, research on the China pink market entails a vibrant debate on what should be the “proper relationship” between tongzhi businesses, LGBTQ NGOs, and the state; these questions are of less interest in research on the Hong Kong and Taiwan pink markets. Given the uniqueness of state regulations as well as the different economic histories and policies of Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China, future research should consider the Chinese pink market as a multi-location, multicultural, and multi-layered site of study with diverse developments in queer identity, consciousness, and politics.

Article

Coming-Out Narratives in Audiovisual Culture  

Paris S. Cameron-Gardos

The rejection of coming out as a linear narrative must be accompanied by an alternative to the formulas of confession, disclosure, and identity adoption that have pervaded the current representations of coming out in the West. The appearance of coming out in film narratives provides important opportunities to observe how elements such as repetition, rehearsal, and, above all, contrasts are incorporated into the stories that are recounted. Conventional coming-out films have relied so heavily on the restrictive nature of the genre’s narrative structure that the potential for alternative, or queered, realities of coming out is erased. The continual reappearance and adaptations of coming out will enable a better understanding of the ways in which the act is presented as a moment that is never finished and that often evades a final, perfected, and polished performance. Four specific narratives from queer film—Beautiful Thing (1996), Summer Storm(2004), Brotherhood (2009), and North Sea Texas (2011)—will be presented to offer counter models for coming out. In Beautiful Thing, the visual narrative demonstrates the importance of the reiterative, adaptable, and unanticipated representation of the act in visual media. In Summer Storm, the audience witnesses how coming out occurs in a world of competitive sports and where the teenage athletes reveal secrets that everyone already knows. In Brotherhood, the act of coming out is transformed into a moment when identities are instantaneously accepted and rejected within a homophobic, neo-Nazi subculture. In North Sea Texas, the script of coming out is reimagined by two characters who ambiguously decline any opportunity to define their identities. Coming out in visual narratives must be understood through an elaboration of Janet Harbord’s belief that the audience gravitates toward particular visual narratives where a comfort zone is created. These films have authored reiterative and adaptable approaches to the act of coming out that both comfort and challenge the audience.

Article

Gay Straight Communication  

Fabio Fasoli

Sexual orientation is a private matter that individuals can decide to disclose or conceal. Nevertheless, when interacting with others, people look for cues of sexual orientation. Hence, the person’s face, voice, or non-verbal behavior is taken as a cue revealing sexual orientation. As research on “gaydar” has shown, this detecting ability can sometimes be accurate or stereotype-based. Sometimes gay, lesbian, and bisexual people themselves intentionally communicate their sexual identity explicitly or through more subtle cues. Intentional or not, several cues are taken as communicating sexual orientation with the consequences of shaping interpersonal interactions. Identifying someone as gay or lesbian has several implications. On the one hand, it leads straight men and women to non-verbally behave differently than when interacting with other straight individuals (e.g., more physical distance, more self-touching). On the other hand, it also affects verbal communication (e.g., topics of conversation, questions, and statements). The harshest consequence is hate speech and homophobic language. Research has shown that being labeled as “faggot” or “dyke” not only negatively affects those who are the target of such verbal derogation but also negatively impacts on straight bystanders. Indeed, gay and lesbian targets of homophobic language report a lower level of well-being and self-acceptance, while being exposed to such language increases prejudice toward gay men and lesbians among straight people. In the case of straight men, the use of homophobic language is often associated with identity self-affirmation and self-presentation. Interestingly, a recent trend among gay people has been noticed: they use homophobic labels among them as a form of “reclaimed language,” meaning that these derogatory terms are used with a different intent and reframed in a more positive way. Moreover, communicating sexual orientation can increase self-acceptance, social support, and positive social comparison among gay men and lesbians and can also increase positive attitudes toward gay people, especially when it happens with friends and family members.