Health Psychology 2015, Vol. 34, No. 4, 314 –327

© 2015 American Psychological Association 0278-6133/15/$12.00

Responsible Men, Blameworthy Women: Black Heterosexual Men’s Discursive Constructions of Safer Sex and Masculinity Lisa Bowleg, Andrea L. Heckert, Tia L. Brown, and Jenné S. Massie

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The George Washington University Objective: Although Black heterosexual men (BHM) in the United States rank among those most affected by HIV, research about how safer sex messages shape their safer sex behaviors is rare, highlighting the need for innovative qualitative methodologies such as critical discursive psychology (CDP). This CDP study examined how: (a) BHM construct safer sex and masculinity; (b) BHM positioned themselves in relation to conventional masculinity; and (c) discursive context (individual interview vs. focus group) shaped talk about safer sex and masculinity. Method: Data included individual interviews (n ⫽ 30) and 4 focus groups (n ⫽ 26) conducted with 56 self-identified Black/African American heterosexual men, ages 18 to 44. Results: Analyses highlighted 5 main constructions: (a) condoms as signifiers of “safe” women; (b) blaming women for STI/responsibility for safer sex; (c) relationship/trust/knowledge; (d) condom mandates; and (e) public health safer sex. Discourses positioned BHM in terms of conventional masculinity when talk denied men’s agency for safer sex and/or contraception, or positioned women as deceitful, or apathetic about sexual risk and/or pregnancy. Notably, discourses also spotlighted alternative masculinities relevant to taking responsibility for safer sex or sexual exclusivity. Discursive context, namely the homosocial nature of focus group discussions, shaped how participants conversed about safer sex, and masculinity but not the content of that talk. Conclusion: In denying BHM’s responsibility for safer sex, BHM’s discourses about safer sex and masculinity often mirror public health messages, underscoring a critical need to sync these discourses to reduce sexual risk, and develop gendertransformative safer sex interventions for BHM. Keywords: critical discursive psychology, safer sex, masculinity, Black men, homosociality

about morality (e.g., “innocent victims”), attributions of blame for illness, mortality, danger, and divine retribution, public health discourses are often ideological (Lupton, 1993). Public health discourses applied to heterosexual HIV risk are also gendered in the sense that they typically construct heterosexual women, but not heterosexual men, as vulnerable to HIV (Dworkin, 2005; Higgins, Hoffman, & Dworkin, 2010). This gendered discourse of vulnerability functions to neglect how masculinity and interlocking social-structural factors (e.g., disproportionate unemployment, incarceration, poverty) increase Black heterosexual men’s (BHM) HIV risk; renders Black heterosexual women solely responsible for safer sex; and perpetuates a false sense of security that BHM are at no or little sexual HIV risk, primarily because they are not women, gay, bisexual, or men who have sex with men (MSM; Bowleg, Teti, Malebranche, & Tschann, 2013; Bowleg et al., 2011; Higgins et al., 2010). Despite a relative dearth of HIV prevention theory, research, interventions and public health discourses focused on BHM (Bowleg & Raj, 2012; Dworkin, 2005; Higgins et al., 2010), a surfeit of epidemiological data highlights the need for greater attention on BHM’s safer sex behaviors. There is evidence of a generalized HIV/AIDS epidemic (i.e., ⬎1%) among those who live in predominantly Black, impoverished U.S. urban communities (Denning & DiNenno, 2010), and a 2% HIV prevalence among heterosexuals in those communities (Denning, DiNenno, & Wiegand, 2011). BHM ranked fifth in the list of the nine populations most affected by new HIV infections in 2010 (CDC, 2012). And although Black men represent just 12% of U.S. men, they accounted

“Use condoms correctly and consistently.” “Get tested for HIV.” “Be monogamous.” “Limit the number of sexual partners.” Language is the primary medium of public health communication about safer sex (Willig, 1998, p. 335). Safer sex encompasses a variety of behaviors such as condom use or HIV testing to reduce the risk of HIV or other sexually transmitted infection (STI; Office on Women’s Health, 2011). Language, however, is not neutral. Rather, as discursive psychology asserts, language constructs certain versions of social reality (Potter & Wetherell, 1987) and reflects the culturally influenced discursive resources that speakers have available to them (Edley & Wetherell, 2008). Thus, although the aforementioned safer sex messages are evidence-based, they nonetheless reflect public health discourses about a particular version of reality that is primarily cognitive and rational. Nor are public health discourses about risk neutral. Rife with ideologies

Lisa Bowleg, Andrea L. Heckert, Tia L. Brown, and Jenné S. Massie, Department of Psychology, The George Washington University. This work was supported by a National Institutes of Health, National Institutes of Child Health and Development (Grant 1 R01 HD054319-01) Award to Lisa Bowleg. We are grateful to the study’s participants and to the late Shawn L. White, MHS, Ph.D., who recruited and conducted interviews and focus groups for the study. Dr. White’s commitment to Black men’s health was pivotal to this study’s success. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Lisa Bowleg, Department of Psychology, The George Washington University, 1922 F Street NW, #413A, Washington, DC 20052. E-mail: [email protected] 314

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for 68% of new HIV cases due to heterosexual exposure among men in 2011 (CDC, 2013). These facts underscore a need for more methodologically innovative behavioral research to inform interventions to reduce BHM’s sexual HIV risk behaviors. Discursive psychology, the application of discourse analysis tenets to psychological issues (Edwards & Potter, 1992), addresses this need with a novel (at least for U.S. psychology) methodological approach to understanding everyday talk (Potter & Wetherell, 1987). Eschewing the notion that language via talk or that reported on surveys provides a pathway to people’s inner lives, a core tenet of mainstream psychology (Willig, 2013), discursive psychology posits that “psychological issues [are] constructed and deployed in discourse itself” (Edwards & Potter, 1992, p. 127). For discursive psychologists, language is action, not simply a pathway to inner mental or psychological states (Edwards & Potter, 1992; Potter & Wetherell, 1987). Critical discursive psychology (CDP), a contemporary form of discursive psychology, represents a synthesis of discursive psychology’s traditional focus on the microanalysis and action orientation of conversational analysis (Potter & Wetherell, 1987) and poststructuralist emphasis on how social-structural context shapes discourse (Wetherell & Edley, 2009). CDP attends to the “psychodiscursive practices” or strategies that people routinely deploy in everyday talk to: “build self-descriptions, tell stories about their emotional lives, construct memories and recollections, perform attributions, formulate their life histories, and so on” (Wetherell & Edley, 2009, p. 203). A key posit of CDP is that these practices “implicate a psychology” because as a result of using them, people acquire a vocabulary of social identities, motives, desires, self, emotions, beliefs, and goals (Wetherell, 2008, p. 80; Wetherell & Edley, 1999, p. 353). CDP seeks to understand how people construct social identities (e.g., masculinity) through discourse, and in turn are constructed by those social identities (e.g., as “real” men) in everyday talk (Edley & Wetherell, 2008; Wetherell, 1998; Wetherell & Edley, 1999, 2009). CDP also highlights how everyday talk reflects not just the local context in which discourse happens, but rather broader, global, “external public dialogues” that migrate into people’s everyday talk. As such, discourses reflect “the social within the psychological” (Wetherell & Edley, 1999, p. 353). Masculinity, specifically how boys and men (who are predominantly White, middle class, Canadian, European, and Australian) construct and resist hegemonic masculinity in their talk about intimacy, heterosexism, sexism, vulnerability, heterosexual relationships, and sexual health has been a core focus of discourse analysis research (e.g., Doull, Oliffe, Knight, & Shoveller, 2013; Edley & Wetherell, 1997, 2008; Knight et al., 2012; Korobov, 2004, 2005, 2011; Korobov & Thorne, 2006; Wetherell, 1998; Wetherell & Edley, 1999, 2009). Connell’s (1987) concept of hegemonic masculinity features prominently in CDP research. Hegemonic masculinity describes a normative and idealized type of masculinity that reflects the currently most valorized way of being a man, and functions as a measure against which most men position themselves. Regardless of whether or not men attain this idealized masculinity (and few do), most men reap a “patriarchal dividend” from gendered hierarchies that subordinate women, transgender people, and nonhegemonic masculinities (e.g., gay men, men with disabilities) (Connell & Messerschmidt, 2005).


The concept of hegemonic masculinity distinguishes between “subordinated” and “marginalized” masculinities. The former refers to masculinities that are subordinated within race and class groups (e.g., effeminate men); the latter refers to relations between dominant masculinities (e.g., White, middle class, heterosexual, able-bodied men) and the masculinities of men from groups that have been historically marginalized such as racial/ethnic minority men and/or low-income men (Connell, 1995/2005). As a concept, hegemonic masculinity acknowledges that attainment of hegemonic masculinity is well beyond the reach of men with “marginalized masculinities.” Accordingly, some Black masculinity scholars have advanced the notion of a blocked or fragmented masculinity to describe how the economically and sociopolitically constrained environments in which many Black low-income men in the United States live, elicit masculinities such as “cool poses,” hypersexuality, and hypermasculinity, typified by aggression, violence, and thrill seeking (Aronson, Whitehead, & Baber, 2003; Harris, 1995; Majors & Billson, 1992; Whitehead, 1997; Whitehead, Peterson, & Kaljee, 1994). Although a handful of studies have highlighted alternative Black masculinities such as those that reflect self-determinism and accountability, the importance of family, pride, and spirituality (Hunter & Davis, 1992) and responsibility for one’s thoughts, actions, and behaviors (Hammond & Mattis, 2005), empirical knowledge about alternative Black masculinities is relatively scarce. Because CDP emphasizes how men use discursive practices to “position themselves in relation to conventional [that is, generally expected or accepted] notions of the masculine” (Wetherell & Edley, 1999, p. 335), it is especially well-suited to understanding the types of masculinities that Black men display in their discourses about safer sex. CDP explains the often varied, inconsistent, and contradictory discourses that occur in men’s talk, by positing that men use language in a variety of ways to construct masculinity depending on the context of that talk, and whatever they are “. . . trying to do [italics in original] in the moment as gendered beings” (Wetherell & Edley, 2014, p. 360). Thus, from a CDP perspective, masculinity is not essential or stable as conceptualized in much of the traditional men and masculinity literature (e.g., Connell, 1995/2005), but rather a highly variable “discursive accomplishment” (Edley, 2001, p. 196). Masculinity is also a central focus of discursive psychology studies of sexuality and sexual HIV risk, where Hollway’s (1989) trifecta of sexuality discourses has been foundational. The male sexual drive discourse emphasizes men’s sexual desires and “need” for sex as a normal, healthy, almost overpowering, biologically rooted drive (Gavey, 2005). Whereas men are the subjects of the male sexual drive discourse; women are the objects who trigger the male sexual drive (Gavey, 2005). Women, by contrast, are the subjects of the have/hold discourse, and men are its objects. The have/hold discourse constructs women as relatively asexual compared with men, but for two culturally acceptable exceptions: sex for long-term and/or emotionally committed heterosexual relationships or sex for procreation. Thus, whereas sex is the primary goal of the male sex drive discourse, for women sex is a means to an end; to have intimate relationships with men and/or have a family. In theory, the permissive discourse represents a more gender equitable discourse in its construction of women as having the same natural drives for sex evident in the male sexual drive discourse. Pervasive sexual double standards illustrate the limits of the permissive discourse for women, however. Having many sex-

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ual partners does not confer women with the same reputational benefits that men have traditionally enjoyed for engaging in the same behavior. Moreover, the permissive discourse illustrates the competing interests of the intersection of the male sexual drive and the have/hold discourses, whereby women’s agency is limited to accepting or rejecting men’s sexual desires, rather than advancing women’s own sexual desires. Women may feel pressure to have sex in order to have/hold (i.e., keep a man) in ways that confer greater benefit to men than to women. Building on Hollway’s work, discourse analysis research has shown how the male sexual drive discourse functions to justify noncondom use among heterosexual women in South Africa (Miles, 1992) and Australia (Kippax, Crawford, Waldby, & Benton, 1990) and heterosexual men and women in the United Kingdom (Willig, 1998). Pursuant to Hollway’s have/hold discourse, discourse analysis research has highlighted how marital discourses (Willig, 1995) or love and romance discourses (Rosenthal, Gifford, & Moore, 1998) construct condom use as incompatible with committed relationships and trust and romance (Willig, 1997, 1998) among heterosexual women in South Africa (Miles, 1992) and Australia (Kippax et al., 1990) and heterosexual men and women in the United Kingdom (Willig, 1995, 1998) and Australia (Rosenthal et al., 1998). Other discourse analysis research has highlighted the women’s responsibility for safer sex discourse, which functions to assign women primary responsibility for communicating and negotiating condom use among heterosexual women (Miles, 1992; Strebel & Lindegger, 1998) and heterosexual men in South Africa (Strebel & Lindegger, 1998). There is, however, a surprising void of safer-sex-related discursive psychology research conducted with U.S. populations. Research about how people discursively construct sex, sexual risk, condoms, and safer sex hails from Australia (Flood, 2003; Kippax et al., 1990; Lupton, 1994), Canada (Doull et al., 2013; Knight et al., 2012), the United Kingdom (Hollway, 1989; Willig, 1995, 1997, 1998), New Zealand (Gavey, McPhillips, & Doherty, 2001), and South Africa (Hoosen & Collins, 2004; Miles, 1992; Shefer, Strebel, & Foster, 2000; Strebel, 1996), but not the United States. Moreover, because heterosexual women’s perspectives have been the main focus of the vast majority of this research, there has been less attention focused on how U.S. heterosexual men in general, and BHM in the United States in particular, construct safer sex and masculinity. Evidence that HIV is more efficiently transmitted from men to women through heterosexual sex, that men typically control condom use in heterosexual relationships (e.g., Amaro, 1995; Bowleg, Lucas, & Tschann, 2004), and that a generalized epidemic exists in predominantly Black heterosexual low income U.S. communities (Denning & DiNenno, 2010), spotlight a critical public health need to understand BHM’s discursive constructions about safer sex and masculinity. This knowledge is vital to the development of effective safer sex interventions for BHM that reflect and respond to the complexities and contradictions reflected in BHM’s discourses about these topics. To this end, informed by Wetherell and Edley’s (Edley & Wetherell, 2008; Wetherell, 1998; Wetherell & Edley, 1999, 2009) CDP approach, this study examined three research questions: (a) How do BHM construct safer sex and masculinity through talk?; (b) How do BHM position themselves in relation to conventional masculinity in their discourses about safer sex?; and

(c) How does discursive context (individual interview vs. focus group) shape BHM’s talk about safer sex and masculinity?

Method Data for this study represent the qualitative phase of a larger mixed methods study on the effects of social-structural factors, masculinity, resilience, and sexual scripts on BHM’s sexual HIV risk behaviors. This phase included the use of individual interviews and focus groups, two distinct qualitative methods with different goals, strengths, and weaknesses. The aim of individual interviews is to “. . . enter another person’s world, to understand that person’s perspective” (Patton, 1987, p. 109). Focus groups, by contrast, “explicit[ly] use . . . the group interaction to produce data and insights that would be less accessible without the interaction found in a group” (Morgan, 1997, p. 2). This study included individual interviews and focus groups to gain a more nuanced understanding of discourses about safer sex and masculinity with an eye toward the personal and subjective perspectives that individual interviews elicit, and the kinds of discourses that focus group dynamics shape.

Participants Analyses are based on individual interviews (n ⫽ 30) and four focus groups (n ⫽ 26) conducted with 56 self-identified Black/ African American heterosexual men who ranged in age from 18 to 44 (M ⫽ 31.12, SD ⫽ 8.30). The sample was predominantly low socioeconomic status (SES); half of the sample (45%) reported annual incomes of $10,000 or less; just four of the 56 men reported a college degree. Individual interviewees (n ⫽ 16, 53%) were much more likely than focus group respondents (n ⫽ 4, 15%) to report unemployment. Demographic characteristics of the sample are shown in Table 1.

Procedures Participants were recruited from randomly selected venues (e.g., barbershops, street corners) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania based on U.S. Census blocks with a Black population of at least 50%. Two Black male trained recruiters approached Black men who appeared to be at least 18 years old, and provided them with the study’s recruitment postcard. The postcard invited men to participate in a confidential study about the “health and sexual experiences of Black men.” Prospective participants were screened by phone to determine whether they met the study’s eligibility criteria of: identifying as Black/African American, heterosexual, being between the ages of 18 and 44, and reporting vaginal sex in the past 2 months. After completing a brief self-administered demographic questionnaire, participants received a $50 cash incentive. Three trained Black male interviewers conducted the in-person and digitally recorded individual interviews and focus groups in private offices at Drexel University. The Institutional Review Board of Drexel University, the first author’s former institution, approved all study procedures.

Measures A semistructured interview approach was used to pose questions to participants in the same wording and sequence (Patton, 2002).



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Table 1 Demographic Characteristics of Black Heterosexual Men Participants (N ⫽ 56)

Age (years) Education Some high school HS graduate or GED Some college Bachelor’s degree Graduate degree Income ⬍$10,000 $10,000–$19,999 $20,000–$39,999 $40,000–$59,999 Employment status Employed full-time (ⱖ40 hours/week) Employed part-time (ⱕ20 hours/week) Unemployed Other (e.g., Disability benefits)

Individual interviews (n ⫽ 30) N (%)

Focus groups (n ⫽ 26) N (%)

M ⫽ 31.47, SD ⫽ 8.41

M ⫽ 31.12, SD ⫽ 8.30

7 (23) 13 (43) 8 (27) 1 (3) 1 (3)

4 (15) 11 (42) 8 (31) 3 (12) —

15 (50) 2 (7) 5 (17) 5 (17)

10 (39) 2 (8) 8 (31) 5 (19)

11 (37) 2 (7) 16 (53) 1 (3)

10 (39) 7 (27) 4 (15) 5 (19)

The individual interview guide included specific questions and a priori probes about masculinity; sexual relationships; sexual scripts; and detailed questions about oral, anal, vaginal sex, and condom use. Sample questions about masculinity included: “How would you describe what it’s like for you as a Black man? What are some of the expectations that you are supposed to be/not be as a Black man?” A sample sexual relationship question included: “Do you have a person that you consider to be your main partner, someone that you are in a relationship with and/or have sex with the most?” Sample sexual scripts questions included: “Tell me about the first/last time you had sex with your main partner? What kinds of things did you do sexually? Where did you have sex? Who did what to whom? In what order?” Based on the participants’ description of the sexual behaviors, the interview guide included follow-up probes designed to elicit details about kissing, caressing, oral, vaginal and anal sex. For example, interviewers were trained to ask, “Did you have oral sex?” if participants did not mention it. Additional interview guide probes sought information about the specific sexual activities in which each partner engaged and the order in which the sexual activities happened. Individual interviews ranged in length from 45 to 90 minutes. The focus group guide included questions designed to elicit norms about Black masculinity and sexual risk behaviors. Focus groups ranged in length from 70 to 111 minutes.

Analyses Data for analysis included all text relevant to condom use and sexual HIV risk, not just responses to specific interview guide questions. Interviews and focus groups were professionally transcribed with attention to and insertion of discursive elements such as pauses, emphases, raised intonations, and laughter. Transcripts were edited to remove identifiers, and after multiple readings were imported into ATLAS.ti 7, qualitative data analysis software. A codebook consisting of emergent codes (e.g., “condom use rules”) and a priori codes from the CDP literature on masculinities and sexual risk (e.g., male sexual drive discourse) guided coding in ATLAS.ti 7. Coauthors met regularly to discuss and compare

coding and revise the codebook. Interrogations of presumptions about the discourses and how to make sense of the data are central to traditional discourse analysis (Potter & Wetherell, 1987). To do so, coauthors wrote copious notes during all phases of coding to document responses to two important questions: “Why am I reading the passage in this way? What features produce this reading?” (Potter & Wetherell, 1987, p. 168). Coding reports were generated for each code and co-occurring codes. Thereafter, analyses proceeded in two phases: (a) the search for patterns in the data in terms of variability (i.e., different features) and consistency (i.e., shared features) (Potter & Wetherell, 1987); (b) the assessment of the action orientation and broader social-structural contexts of the discourses (Wetherell & Edley, 2009). The study used a hybrid deductive and inductive analytical approach. Working deductively, analysts developed coding categories and interpretations based on the literature on discourse analysis, sexuality, and safer sex (e.g., male sexual drive discourses), homosociality, and masculinity. Analysts also worked inductively to generate emergent codes and interpretations based on the data (e.g., entrapment discourse).

Results Pursuant to CDP conventions, findings are presented by sample extract, include the interviewers’ questions, and feature transcription symbols (e.g., underline for emphases, boldface for loud and animated speech, (.) for micro pauses and (1.0) for timed pauses. Because the rapid and dynamic nature of focus group discussions did not facilitate the accurate tracking of speakers, pseudonyms are provided for individual interview respondents only. Participants’ use of profanity, slang, and linguistic fillers (e.g., “You know what I mean?”) have been retained for linguistic authenticity, and minor edits have been made to improve clarity. Discourse analysis studies do not follow traditional thematic analysis conventions such as modal responses or themes. Because talk itself is the focus of discourse analyses, not how many people said a particular thing, findings are presented with an example (i.e., extract) of the discourses. Thereafter, analyses relevant to discursive constructions about safer sex and masculinity (first research question) are pre-



sented, followed by the positioning of discourses in terms of conventional masculinity (second research question), and then the effects of discursive context on talk about safer sex and masculinity (third research question).

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Discursive Constructions of Safer Sex and Masculinity Analyses highlighted five main discursive constructions: (a) condoms as signifiers of “safe” women; (b) blaming women for STI/responsibility for safer sex; (c) relationship/trust/knowledge; (d) condom mandates; and (e) public health safer sex. The condom as “safe” woman signifier construction. Although most safer sex messages emphasize condom use primarily for reducing STI/HIV risk (Office on Women’s Health, 2011), analyses spotlighted how participants constructed condom use as a signifier of whether or not a woman was “safe” in terms of whether or not she might want to “trap a man” by getting pregnant. As Extract 1 illustrates, “entrapment” was the word that participants in a focus group used to describe their fear and mistrust of women who had their own condoms. Participants noted that their fears centered around the possibility that a woman may have tampered with a condom to get pregnant. Extract 1. Focus group facilitator:

So, women don’t—so, in your experience women don’t necessarily bring that conversation up [using condoms] . . . But do women talk to you guys about [condoms]?

Speaker 1:

. . . You have any condoms, so I ain’t got to use mine. I [don’t have] [laughter] mine in my wallet [because] the last time I used it [a condom].

Speaker 2:

That’s dangerous there . . . usin’ their [a woman’s] condom.

Speaker 1:

No. I use mine. I use mine. No, that’s why there ain’t nothing [no condom] in there. Now, when I go home, I gotta put another one in [my wallet].

Focus group facilitator:

Wait. So wait. So hold up. So, why do you say that though? About using a woman’s condom be dangerous? ‘Cause it’s (.) they might put a hole in it? So you think it might be a set-up?

Speaker 3:


Speaker 2:

I had a woman tell me she was allergic to condoms. Do you know how fast I took off the other way?

This extract begins with humorous banter about Speaker 1 wanting to borrow a condom from another group member to conserve his condom supply. Consistent with the sexual oneupmanship that typically characterizes heterosexual men’s group

talk about sex (Bird, 1996; Flood, 2008), Speaker 1 explains that the reason that he does not have a condom in his wallet is that he has recently used it; an example of sexual storytelling that often characterizes masculine bonding (Flood, 2008). This disclosure, in turn, prompts Speaker 2’s warning about the danger of using the sexual partner’s condom. The extract typifies “masculine sensemaking,” Wetherell and Edley’s (1999) notion that men construct what it means to be men through shared consensus. As a case in point, whereas someone lacking knowledge about this perceived danger might have had to ask many clarifying questions (e.g., why would a woman put a hole in a condom?), the BHM focus group facilitator quickly grasps the “set up” business of the talk. Although there is evidence of a shared consensus among the speakers, it is also possible that some participants disagreed with this view, but did not voice their dissension. In this extract, speakers position themselves firmly within the confines of conventional masculinity. In addition to explicitly constructing women as dangerous and deceitful, the entrapment discourse stigmatizes women who have condoms and constructs having condoms as men’s prerogative, not women’s. Notably, fear that a woman might trap a man through pregnancy, not fear of STI or HIV transmission, is the driving element of the entrapment discourse. This discourse also maps onto the permissive discourse in the sense that it reveals the link between the male sexual drive and have/hold discourses (Hollway, 1989). At issue in the discourse is not that women might have condoms to protect themselves from STI/HIV and/or pregnancy in service of their own sexual needs, but that a woman who possesses condoms has an ulterior motive of trapping a man into a relationship by getting pregnant (Gavey, 2005; Hollway, 1989). The specter of danger in the extract, reflected in words such as dangerous, entrapment, and the image of rapid escape (“. . . how fast I took off the other way?”), implicates a psychology of fear that prompts protective strategies such as only using one’s own condoms (Speaker 1) or fleeing (Speaker 2). The entrapment discourses also highlight the transitory nature of masculinity identities and how these identities shift by context to accomplish particular aims (Wetherell & Edley, 2014). For example, rather than constructing men as vulnerable or weak for their inability to negotiate condom use with women, these discourses maintain men’s power in relation to women through masculine bonding talk (Flood, 2008) about ignorant and deceitful women. Moreover, these discourses position men as having the power to unilaterally determine whose condoms will be used and the conditions under which sex will happen. They also position men as more knowledgeable and responsible than women; after all, it is the men not the women who want to use condoms in this talk. These discourses accomplish masculinity by allowing speakers to ward off any questioning of their masculinity and manage impressions: men are not weak for not attempting to negotiate the entrapment “danger”; they are smart for fleeing it. The blaming women for STI/responsibility for safer sex construction. The blaming women for STI/responsibility for safer sex construction implicitly and explicitly implicates women as the source of sexual risk (Miles, 1992; Strebel & Lindegger, 1998). This construction centered around two censorious discourses; (a) women as vectors of STI transmission (Extract 2); and (b) women as gatekeepers of condom use (Extracts 3, 4 and 5).


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Women as vectors of STI/HIV transmission. Discourses implicitly and explicitly (see Extract 2) positioned women as vectors of STI transmission. Extract 2. Focus group facilitator:

Like, I hear you guys sayin’ that condoms are pretty much a must, right? At least in the beginning of a sexual experience. But do women talk to you guys about that? Do they communicate that? ”

Speaker 1:

No! No, a lot of ’em don’t say nothin’!

Speaker 2:

They don’t care!

Speaker 3:

They don’t care! and that could stop a lotta the issues!

Speaker 1:

Y’know why [a lot of them don’t say anything about condoms]? Because I think sometime they, I think, I don’t even know. “I (.) think (.) I don’t even know (.) I guess (.) in some case, they may think it’s up to us to have the condom (1.57)

Speaker 4 (interjecting):

They’re ignorant! That’s their excuse!

Speaker 2:

Yeah, they don’t care!

Extract 2 unfolds like a call and response chorus with Speaker 1 sounding the initial verse, and the others in the group providing a joint refrain and repetition that “They [women] don’t care.” Homosociality, the nonsexual attraction that people have for members of their own sex (Lipman-Blumen, 1976), is a key feature of this discourse. Homosociality among heterosexual men functions to maintain hegemonic masculinity when it bolsters meanings linked with conventional hegemonic ideals, and when it suppresses those associated with subordinated masculinities (Bird, 1996; Flood, 2008). Bird (1996) posits that homosociality among heterosexual men promotes three shared meanings: emotional detachment, competition, and the sexual objectification of women. The latter meaning is particularly relevant to this extract. Homosocial talk between heterosexual men is often characterized by competition to gain women’s attention and affection, boasts about sexual conquests and exploits, the deployment of third person pronouns such as “they” or “them” to differentiate women from men, and the use of sexually objectifying language (Bird, 1996). In this excerpt, the focus group facilitator is the only speaker to use the word “women.” Thereafter, all of the other speakers use third person plural pronouns to refer to women, discursively constructing women as “other.” Moreover, there appears to be, at least among those who spoke, a shared consensus that women are stupid or at the very least lacking in knowledge (“they’re ignorant”), deceitful (“a lot of them don’t say nothin’!”) and reckless (“they don’t care”). The don’t say nothin’ phrase functions to deny the men’s agency to use condoms and blames women for not communicating about condom use. The repeated refrain of, “They


don’t care!” positions women as apathetic about both STI/HIV and/or pregnancy at best. At worst, these discourses construct women as willful vectors of STI/HIV transmission and/or indifferent about getting pregnant. Speaker 3’s remark, “that could stop a lotta the issues!” locates the risk of STI/HIV transmission and/or unwanted pregnancy within women, and effectively ignores men’s agency for safer sex and contraception. The remark also negates the gendered power imbalance that characterizes condom use within many heterosexual relationships. Men wear condoms and generally control condom use (Amaro, 1995; Bowleg et al., 2004). Women, by contrast, must negotiate condom use with men, comply with men’s desires to use or not use condoms, and/or risk physical or sexual violence when women ask or suggest that men use condoms (e.g., Gielen, McDonnell, & O’Campo, 2002). There are numerous discourses that participants could have provided to demonstrate men’s accountability for safer sex and contraception. For example, respondents could have mentioned that men could inquire about a woman’s HIV status, sexual history, and/or willingness to use condoms, insist on condom use, pursue noncoital sexual options, or forego sex. Alas, they offered none of these alternative discourses. Notably, Extract 2 also features an attempted challenge that women are or should be solely responsible for condom use. Speaker 1 ventures, using pauses that may signal his hesitancy in challenging the notion that men might bear some responsibility for condoms. This momentary resistance is summarily ignored with Speaker 4’s censorious interjection. The rebuttal and attendant silence, reflects how the homosociality of heterosexual men’s talk about women suppresses challenges to conventional masculinity (Bird, 1996). Women as condom gatekeepers. The second discourse in the blaming women for STI/responsibility for safer sex construction bipartite positions women as condom gatekeepers. Here, women’s insistence on condoms or willingness to have sex without them— not men’s— governed whether or not condoms were used. These discourses position men as passive objectors who harbored ulterior motives to not use condoms (Extracts 3, 4, and 5). Extract 3. Interviewer:

What are your reasons for not using condoms?”

Ricky (40 year-old man in a 14-year committed relationship):

I have had some women who have insisted upon it, but all the time I’m thinking of a way to get it off, you know?

Extract 4. Interviewer:

So this most recent time you two were together would you say you wore a condom that time?

Zack (43 year-old single man Yeah we have um, a strong with an HIV-positive partner): understanding about the safe sex cause she don’t want nothing to happen to me [to contract HIV] and she expresses that. Sometimes, sometimes I do try to come at her like, as far as, no we



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don’t need to be using one today ‘cause I’m feeling some kind of way. She won’t budge [give into his desire not to use a condom] for that! Despite knowing that it was risky to have unprotected sex with his HIV-positive partner, Zack noted that sometimes he did attempt to not use condoms when he, presumably, was very sexually aroused. Extracts 3 and 4 reflect the male sexual drive discourse (Hollway, 1989; Kippax et al., 1990; Miles, 1992) that constructs men’s sexual drive as so powerful that it overrides concerns about protecting themselves or their partners from sexual risk (Bowleg, Mingo, & Massie, 2013). The women as gatekeepers of condom use discourse also evokes the clean “good girl/Madonna” and contaminated “bad girl/whore” dichotomy (Fullilove, Fullilove, Haynes, & Gross, 1990; Hollway, 1989), as highlighted in Extract 5. Extract 5. Focus group facilitator:

So, for real for real, you’re [the one] initiating the condom use?

Speaker 1:

Yeah. [Unclear because others are talking]

Speaker 2:

Even if she do [ask for condoms], that’s how you judge with her, though. Because you’re like, Dang, if she, she only deal with condoms, that give you a little bit freedom . . . You feel a little bit better like, I (1.2) she ain’t as bad as I thought. But if she don’t pop one[a condom] on; she just wants you to pound at her (.) now you cautious. You know what I’m saying? You don’t know what to think now. You’re like, Dang. She ain’t even ask [about condoms]? You look bad.

For Speaker 2, women who request condoms signal relief that he can relax his concerns either about STI/HIV risk or perhaps consistent with the condom as “safe” woman signifier construction, that he does not have to fear that she is trying to get pregnant. His use of the word “bad” establishes a moral juxtaposition that implies that women who request condoms are good or at least not “as bad” as women who do not make such a request. Although it is unclear to whom the pronoun “you” refers in the last line of this excerpt—the woman who does not request condoms, or the man for being with a woman who does not request condoms—women remain positioned as stewards of condom use. The extract also highlights the condom double bind for women. Women are damned if they request condoms and damned if they do not. Collectively, the discourses in the blaming women for STI/ responsibility for safer sex construction highlight the ways in which speakers prioritize heterosexual men’s quest for sexual pleasure regardless of perceived risk (Bowleg, Mingo et al., 2013; Hollway, 1989). Moreover, all of the discourses in this construction assign blame and responsibility to women, not men, for

contraception and STI/HIV prevention. These discourses also reflect aspects of the permissive discourse (Hollway, 1989) in the sense that they acknowledge women’s sexual needs, but with constraints. Complicit with conventional masculinity, there is a double standard that judges women, but not men, by whether or not women ask about or insist on condom use. These extracts implicate a psychology of motivations for impression management and favorable self-presentation. Deflecting attention from men’s own safer sex behaviors by focusing on women’s, reduces the likelihood that listeners will judge speakers as ignorant or foolish for not engaging in safer sex strategies to reduce STI/HIV risk and/or unwanted pregnancy, or for being more focused on their own sexual pleasure than safeguarding their health. Underscoring the transitory nature of masculinity identities (Wetherell & Edley, 2014), some of the discourses in the women as condom gatekeepers construction reflect subordinated masculinity positions relevant to men’s lack of agency for negotiating condom use with women. As such, these contradict other discourses in this study that position men as more knowledgeable about, and having greater agency for condom use, while simultaneously negating the gendered power imbalance that limits women’s ability to successfully negotiate condom use with men. Moreover, the speakers in Extracts 3, 4 and 5 “do” masculinity through their implicit invocation of the male sex drive discourse. The discursive accomplishment of this talk may be impression management. Relying on a readily available discursive resource (i.e., the male sex drive discourse) that aligns masculinity and prioritizing unprotected sexual pleasure over safer sex, may function to avoid negative listener judgment about noncondom use in potentially risky situations. The relationship/trust/knowledge construction. The relationship/trust/knowledge construction builds on Hollway’s (1989) have/hold discourse, which constructs sex for women as acceptable and/or appropriate in long-term and/or emotionally committed heterosexual relationships. The relationship/trust/knowledge construction highlighted in Extract 6 positions condom use as incompatible within ongoing relationships characterized by emotional intimacy, relationship length, trust, and/or knowledge of the sexual partner. Extract 6. Interviewer:

And at what point did you guys in your relationship stop using condoms?

Ronald (27-year-old man I think that must have been at a in a 4-year emotionally point when we kind of got the incommitted relationship): kling that we were actually going to be dealing with each other, like seriously like that. All right this is going to be a relationship . . . When we found out that it was going to be something long term, I think that’s when we got comfortable with the point we going to go have the [HIV] test done together and you know if we’re going to be together, we’re going to be together, we might as well know, you know what I’m saying? That’s when the condoms came off.

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In Extract 6, trust conferred by the long-term relationship, growing intimacy, and presumably, the negative HIV test results, functioned to rationalize no longer using condoms. Noteworthy in this extract is that Ronald constructs a masculinity that differs from the sexual bravado and hypersexuality that characterizes more conventional Black masculinities (Aronson et al., 2003; Majors & Billson, 1992; Whitehead, 1997). In contrast to those masculinities, emotional intimacy and commitment, sexual exclusivity, and mutual decision-making about stopping condom use are central in this extract. Ronald’s use of the pronoun “we” more frequently rather than “I,” further highlights the relational and genderequitable nature of the couple’s safer sex decision-making. Ronald’s discourse implicates a psychological safety borne out of the emotional commitment that he shares with his partner (“this is going to be a relationship,” “going to be something long term”) as well as the implicit sense of security of having engaged in safer sex strategies with his partner (they both got tested for HIV, and presumably talked about STI/HIV risk) and an implicit understanding about sexual exclusivity (“we’re going to be together”). The feeling of safety implied in Ronald’s extract stands in stark contrast to the fears that speakers in Extract 1 articulated. The condom mandate construction. Whereas the relationship/trust/knowledge construction positions condoms as incompatible within ongoing relationships characterized by emotional intimacy, relationship length, trust, and/or knowledge, the condom mandate construction positions condom use as both compatible with and essential for first time sex or sex with a casual partner (Extract 7 and 8). Extract 7. Interviewer:

Steve (23 year-old, single man):

Did you talk about (1.0) not having sex but just using condoms beforehand? I mean you know most of the times, it’s just like natural. It’s, you know, like putting on your pants in the morning, you know what I mean? Before you have sex with a girl, you know what I mean? You put on a condom.

homosocial inducing context of a focus group may explain the paradox. The one-on-one setting may have diminished the homosocial bonding typically characterized by sexually objectifying or negative talk about women (Flood, 2008). Without the grouplevel pressures of homosocial bonding or impression management, the speakers in Extract 7 and 8 could likely emphasize their agency for condom use without resorting to the blaming women rhetoric. Extracts 7 and 8 counter recurrent findings in the HIV behavioral and social science literature that many BHM either do not want to use or assume responsibility for condom use (see for example Corneille, Tademy, Reid, Belgrave, & Nasim, 2008), and also highlight the success of public health safer sex messages. These extracts also illustrate that men typically have the power to make decisions about condom use unilaterally. This is not the case for women who typically have less relationship power than men in heterosexual relationships, must negotiate condom use with men, or follow men’s lead with regard to using or not using condoms (Amaro, 1995; Bowleg et al., 2004). The speakers in these extracts construct using condoms as simple and natural; an experience that women’s talk on the subject would likely counter. The HIV prevention theoretical and empirical literature is replete with documentation of the physical and sexual violence that many women experience in response to a suggestion or request that a man use condoms (e.g., Gielen et al., 2002). Knowledge, specifically knowing (or not knowing) a casual partner’s sexual history, or whether or not she desired to get pregnant, figured prominently in the condom mandate construction. Speakers contrasted the knowledge that one might have about a main partner with their lack of knowledge about a casual partner, as illustrated in Extract 9. Extract 9. Focus group facilitator:

Rushed (18 year-old, single man):

All right. I guess what I’m trying to figure out is whether you got up to get it first, or if she asked if there was a condom first. No, I had got up [from the bed] to get it [condom] first. It wasn’t no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

Men’s assumption of responsibility for condom use is a key feature of the discourses in Extracts 7 and 8. Notably, the talk in these extracts contradicts much of the earlier discourses in the blaming women for STI/responsibility for safer sex construction. In line with CDP’s posit that men’s representation of themselves varies by context and what men are trying to accomplish through talk (Wetherell & Edley, 2014), the fact that these discourses occurred within an individual interview rather than the more

. . . So everybody said that you don’t use condoms with your main partner?

Several speakers in unison: No! Speaker 1:

That’s just like, I, I might know how she take care of her body, right? She might take something that’s guaranteed for her not to get pregnant or something like that. But your side partner, you don’t know nothing about, so you gonna strap up [use a condom].

Speaker 2:

Well, it’s because of AIDS. You know what i mean?

Focus group facilitator:

Right [that’s what] I’m talking about.

Speaker 2:

For you to be my main jawn [Philadelphia slang for woman in this usage; also used for people in general or objects], it’s a, it’s a lot of criteria you have to pass.

Unknown speaker (agreeing):

Yeah. Yeah.

Speaker 2:

So I feel comfortable with doing that. If you a side jawn, it’s-it’s-

Extract 8. Interviewer:




know what I mean? It’s always just put on a condom.

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it’s strictly on the safe sex [using condoms]. Speakers in Extract 9 position themselves in terms of conventional masculinity with implicit references to contaminated and “bad women.” Reminiscent of the discourses in Extract 1, contraception, not STI/HIV risk is the focus of Speaker 1’s narrative. As in Extract 5, the focus group speaker implicitly raises the “good girl/Madonna” (safe/clean) versus “bad girl/whore” (dirty/risky) dichotomy. A clean woman is one, such as the speaker’s main partner, who “take[s] care of her body,” by assuming responsibility for contraception. Because of this, the speaker implies there is no need for condom use. By contrast, women about whom nothing is known about their contraception use or whether they have other sexual partners, are presumed risky, thereby mandating condom use. Whereas Speaker 1’s response linked condoms to contraception only, not safer sex, Speaker 2 explicitly links condom use to HIV risk: “Well, it’s because of AIDS.” As this extract implies, HIV and pregnancy risk reside within women who are “side partners,” not within men’s sexual behaviors with multiple women concurrently. Moreover, there are rigorous tests and standards for women (“a lot of criteria you have to pass”). These discourses reflect conventional masculinity positioning, illustrated in talk about the inference of safe/risky women, holding women primarily responsible for contraception, uncritically accepting the notion that men should have multiple sex partners, and the lack of acknowledgment of agency for how the speaker’s sexual behavior increases risk for STI or pregnancy for main and “side” partners. These extracts appear to implicate the same type of psychology previously highlighted in the blaming women for STI/responsibility for safer sex construction; namely, the motivation for impression management and positive self-presentation. Moreover, as highlighted in previous analyses, these discourses further highlight the inconsistencies between discourses in which speakers blamed women for safer sex and those in which men accepted responsibility for safer sex. These contrasting discourses highlight how the masculine identity work that speakers do in their talk may shift by context (i.e., focus groups vs. individual interviews) and the different goals that speakers attempt to accomplish through talk (Wetherell & Edley, 2014). The public health safer sex construction. Echoing public health messages that educate how to prevent STI and sexually transmitted HIV, the public health safer sex construction highlights discourses in which participants talked about using condoms (Extract 10), getting tested for HIV (see Extract 6), or practicing sexual exclusivity (Extract 11) to reduce their sexual risk for HIV. Extract 10. Interviewer:

Where did you learn about condoms and how did it become such a natural flow with you, do you think?

Steve (23-year-old single Well I always heard about, you man): know, people get AIDS you know, people getting burnt [contracting a STI]. People getting all types of disease, so I’m like, well I ain’t trying to be one of them, so you

Extract 11. Interviewer:

Is there any other person [other than your primary partner] that you’ve been with in the past six months that you may want to discuss?

Kareem (35-year old man I’m dealing with like one person engaged to be married): (1.5) I’m not gonna multitask, and I know I don’t like to really use condoms like that, and so I’m not gonna put myself in jeopardy or be in the heat of the moment and be like (.) “No, I’m a just go straight at it [just going to have sex without a condom]’ . . . No, so I rather have (.) just have one partner and just do it like that. Each of these discourses positions the speaker as responsible, knowledgeable about HIV/AIDS, sexual HIV risk, and how to prevent HIV transmission. Although Extracts 10 and 11 also reflect men’s power for unilateral condom decision-making highlighted in the condom mandate construction, the discourses in the public health HIV prevention construction differ from the other constructions in three noticeable ways. First, in stark contrast to the blaming women for STI/responsibility for safer sex construction, Extracts 10 and 11 acknowledge men’s agency for preventing HIV. Second, Kareem’s talk (Extract 11) defies conventional notions of masculinity that men should have sex with many women by declaring his commitment to sexual exclusivity. Finally, Kareem’s narrative explicitly counters the “heat of the moment” discourse articulated as a barrier to condom use in other HIV prevention studies with heterosexual men (e.g., Corneille et al., 2008; Flood, 2003). The psychology implicated here reflects the psychological safety previously discussed in relation to Ronald’s discourse (Extract 6).

Interviews and Focus Group Discourses: The Role of Discursive Context Analyses of the role of discursive context by individual interview and focus group illustrated that in terms of content, both methods elicited the same discursive constructions about safer sex and masculinity. This finding is consistent with other HIV prevention research with multiethnic heterosexual men that found that individual interviews and focus groups about emotional and sexual intimacy did not differ by content (Seal, Bogart, & Ehrhardt, 1998). This finding may also reflect the artifact of each method. Specifically, compared with focus groups, individual interviews tend to elicit more personal and rich narratives, and compared with individual interviews, focus groups tend to elicit more ideas about normative behaviors, and greater pressures to respond in socially desirable ways (Krueger & Casey, 2009; Seal et al., 1998). In line with these method-related differences, analyses showed that compared with individual interviews, focus groups elicited more nar-

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ratives about norms (e.g., what Black men think, should do), more point and counterpoint discussions, and more simultaneous speech. Focus groups were also distinguished from individual interviews in terms of more frequent use of profanity, particularly sexual profanity, and use of more sexist language to refer to women, particularly women who were strictly casual sex partners. As highlighted previously, this may reflect the greater likelihood for sexual objectification of women to occur in homosocial heterosexual men’s talk (Bird, 1996; Flood, 2008). Moreover, focus group respondents often articulated sexist double standards in which they labeled women who had casual sex with them as promiscuous and used sexually derisive terms to describe those women. It is important to note that individual interview respondents also used these terms, just not as frequently, and with less apparent relish as did focus group participants. It is likely that the context of the individual interviews, namely having a participant in a room with another Black man, who by virtue of institutional setting and the implicit power conferred to interviewers in research settings, shaped how interviewees talked about safer sex and condom use, not what they said. By contrast, the context of the focus group setting diminished the focus group facilitator’s authority. Indeed, transcripts revealed that facilitators often had to entreat participants to speak one at a time, or had to repeat questions that were quickly subsumed by the excited dialogue about or responses to the question. As highlighted previously, homosociality features prominently in heterosexual men’s talk, where men differentiate themselves from women through “othering” (e.g., Extract 1: “They don’t care!”) and sexually objectifying language (Bird, 1996). The homosociality-enhanced context of the focus group likely enhanced the lively, ribald, and performative dynamics (e.g., shouting to be heard, interruptions, declarative assertions, cursing) of how men talked about safer sex, not what they said about it (Bird, 1996; Flood, 2008). As such, the study’s focus groups enhanced understanding beyond content (Seal et al., 1998) about how BHM position themselves in relation to conventional masculinity. The study’s focus on discursive context further illustrates the variety of discursive practices that men negotiate and deploy in their talk about safer sex regardless of whether that talk occurs in a one-on-one or focus group setting. The study’s two contrasting discourses— blaming women for safer sex and assertion of men’s agency for safer sex— were not simply a function of the contexts in which men spoke. Speakers in the both the focus groups and the individual interviews blamed women for safer sex, while also asserting men’s agency for safer sex. These contrasting discourses show that masculinity is not stable or fixed, but highly variable as men attempt to construct, and are constructed by what it means to be men in their everyday talk (Edley & Wetherell, 2008; Wetherell, 1998; Wetherell & Edley, 1999, 2009, 2014).

Discussion Women, not men, bear the brunt of responsibility and blame for safer sex. Women are often the gatekeepers for condom use. Condom use is rare in sexual relationships characterized by emotional intimacy, knowledge, and trust. There are rules for condom use with first time sexual partners, but not established sexual partners. These findings, all of them echoed in the present study, are hardly new. Numerous qualitative studies conducted with


BHM in the United States (e.g., Bowleg, 2004; Bowleg, Mingo et al., 2013; Bowleg et al., 2011; Carey, Senn, Seward, & Vanable, 2010; Corneille et al., 2008; Duck, 2009; Whitehead, 1997), and predominantly White men from other countries (e.g., Flood, 2003; Rosenthal et al., 1998; Willig, 1995, 1998) have yielded similar findings, prompting the obvious question: what novel or noteworthy contributions can CDP make about safer sex and masculinity among BHM? This study answers this question with four notable contributions. First, the study highlights CDP’s unique contribution as a qualitative method dedicated primarily to understanding the psychodiscursive nature of talk (Wetherell & Edley, 2009) and how talk “implicates a psychology” (Wetherell, 2008, p. 80; Wetherell & Edley, 1999, p. 353). Thus, whereas more frequently used qualitative methodologies such as thematic analysis emphasize the identification, analysis, and pattern of themes within talk or text (Braun & Clarke, 2006), in CDP, the talk itself and the psychology implicit in that talk is paramount (Edley & Wetherell, 2008; Wetherell & Edley, 1999, 2014). Faced with situations in which women assert their agency by having condoms or not wanting to use condoms, or those situations in which men do not want to use condoms, the study shows how the discursive resources available to BHM reify gendered power. There are no blameworthy, ignorant, vulnerable, powerless, or irresponsible BHM in these discourses; just “real” men who prioritize sexual pleasure over safer sex, or men who unilaterally assume responsibility for safer sex. By contrast, ignorant, deceitful and apathetic women who are nonetheless blamed and responsible for safer sex abound in these discourses. Thus, the primary “discursive accomplishment” implicated in the contrasting discourses, context notwithstanding, appears to be favorable impression management and selfpresentation. It is important to note that BHM’s agency for safer sex is not problematic in and of itself. Indeed, there is an urgent public health need for more BHM to assume greater responsibility for safer sex and contraception than many currently do. At issue, is that the discourses in which men assert agency for safer sex highlight men’s power to do so unilaterally. With the exception of Ronald’s (Extract 6) illustration of bilateral decision making about safer sex in the relationship/trust/knowledge construction, the discourses relevant to men’s agency for safer sex demonstrate the gendered power imbalance that typifies condom use within many heterosexual relationships. Next, CDP insightfully resolves the contradictory relationship between discourses and speakers (Edley, 2001; Wetherell & Edley, 2014), such as with this study’s two main paradoxical discourses: blaming women for STI/responsibility for safer sex, and men’s agency for safer sex. From a CDP perspective, these contrasting discourses illustrate the highly variable and dynamic nature of masculinity (Wetherell & Edley, 1998, 1999, 2009, 2014). CDP’s emphasis on how people use language highlights how men position themselves in relation to conventional masculinity, regardless of whether or not they are overtly speaking about being men, is a third valuable contribution. CDP illustrates how men’s use of third-person pronouns in Extract 2 constitutes “masculine sense-making” characterized by differentiating women as “other” (Wetherell & Edley, 1999), More importantly, CDP’s emphasis on positioning relevant to conventional masculinity, facilitates insights about the existence of a variety of Black masculinities. This point is especially salient for men with intersectional identities

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(i.e., multiple interlocking marginalized social identities such as being racial/ethnic minority and low-income or poor; see Bowleg, 2012) such as the participants in this study for whom embodying hegemonic masculinity is impossible (Wetherell & Edley, 1999, 2009). In this way, this study’s findings trouble the notion of a singular Black masculinity articulated in much of the scholarly literature on low-income Black men (Aronson et al., 2003; Harris, 1995; Majors & Billson, 1992; Whitehead, 1997; Whitehead et al., 1994). Discourses in which men claimed responsibility for condom use, mentioned their sexually exclusivity, or described relationships with women characterized by emotional intimacy and commitment may illuminate alternative Black masculinities. These align with a small body of research with Black men that found that being accountable and responsible are also central to Black masculinity (Hammond & Mattis, 2005; Hunter & Davis, 1992). More research is needed to better understand how Black masculinities beyond hypersexuality and hypermasculinity can inform the development of interventions for BHM to promote responsibility for safer sex and contraception in ways that are culturally congruent and gender equitable (Fleming, Lee, & Dworkin, 2014). Last, but not least, the study spotlights CDP’s utility in demonstrating how local everyday talk reflects broader external public discourses (Wetherell & Edley, 1999). Indeed, the majority of the study’s discursive constructions sync with many of the broader public health HIV prevention discourses that hold heterosexual women, but not men, responsible for HIV prevention (Dworkin, Fullilove, & Peacock, 2009; Higgins et al., 2010). To wit, the CDC’s (2014a) Take Charge. Take the Test and Testing Makes Us Stronger campaigns. The former encourages Black women, but not BHM, to be tested for HIV. The latter encourages Black women and Black gay and bisexual men, respectively, to be tested for HIV. No similar campaign exists for BHM. In this way, the CDC’s public health discourses mirror study participants’ discourses that women, not men, bear responsibility for safer sex, highlighting how “external public dialogue [can] move inside” (Wetherell & Edley, 1999, p. 337) in terms of men’s masculine sense-making about their role in safer sex. Yet, also noteworthy is the study’s demonstration of how broader public discourses migrate into individual discourses to good public health effect. Extract 7 in which Steve analogizes condom use to “putting on pants in the morning” exemplifies this. Although general safer sex messages about the importance of condom use may not always translate into practice in terms of actual condom use, the public health safer sex construction nonetheless illustrates the positive impact of some global safer sex messages. This research has at least three substantial implications for public health practice. First, findings that many of the study’s discourses mirror the broader public discourse that women, not heterosexual men should be responsible for safer sex, underscore the most obvious implication: the need for safer sex messages and campaigns that specifically pinpoint the need for BHM to share greater responsibility for safer sex and contraception. Disproportionately high rates of HIV in Black heterosexual communities attest to the need for campaigns such as Take Charge. Take the Test and Testing Makes Us Stronger to explicitly include BHM, not just Black heterosexual women or Black MSM. Second, the study’s illustration of alternative Black masculinities that emphasize responsibility for condom use or sexual exclusivity has important implications for the development of “gender-

transformative” safer sex interventions for BHM (Dunkle & Jewkes, 2007; Dworkin et al., 2009; Fleming et al., 2014). The study’s findings of alternative masculinities in which men talked about being responsibility for safer sex hint at how culture could be enabled to promote safer sex. Alas, this route is fraught with challenges and complexities, as results from a recent meta-analysis of STI/HIV interventions for BHM illustrate. That study’s finding that BHM’s desire to protect family members and significant others was one of the most effective intervention elements for reducing BHM’s sexual risk behaviors, prompted its authors to conclude that “machismo may help encourage a sense of responsibility to reduce HIV risk that is aligned with [BHM’s] sense of manhood” (Henny et al., 2012, p. 1098). Perhaps, but greater caution is warranted in using “machismo” to promote safer sex. As a recent critique of masculinity-influenced public health safer sex interventions aptly asserted, programs that advance hegemonic masculinity in the service of health promotion may inadvertently cause more harm than benefit (Fleming et al., 2014). This is because hegemonic masculinity valorizes the most deleterious aspects of masculinity such as multiple sexual partners, hypersexuality, aggression, and physical and sexual violence. Although there is a critical public health need for BHM to assume greater responsibility for protecting themselves and their partners from STI/HIV, this must be done within the context of gendertransformative interventions that promote more equitable and respectful relationships between women and men (Fleming et al., 2014). Finally, the study pinpoints the need for public health messages for BHM to expand the definition of safer sex to include contraception. Safer sex, not pregnancy, was the primary focus of this study. Nonetheless, discourses featured concerns about pregnancy such as fears of being “trapped” by a woman who wanted to get pregnant (Extract 1) or feeling assured that condoms were not needed when women were known to use other forms of contraception (Extract 9). The latter point was not surprising in light of an abundant empirical literature that documents that concerns about pregnancy typically trump concerns about safer sex among heterosexual adults (Cooper, Agocha, & Powers, 1999). As for the entrapment discourses, these reflect the deployment of a more negative version of the have/hold discourse, which positions women having sex for procreation as a culturally acceptable exception to the construction that compared with men, women are asexual. Consistent with the have/hold discourse, public health messages typically construct concerns about contraception and pregnancy as primarily a woman’s issue. For example, the list of “simple” safer sex tips for women on the Office on Women’s Health (2011) website includes two contraception-related facts. By contrast, information about condom use and contraception was relatively nonexistent on the OWH site’s link to men’s sexual health and the CDC’s (2014b) men’s health site (no federal Office on Men’s Health exists). The entrapment discourses of Extract 1, in addition to highlighting how talk constructed women as scheming and deceitful, emphasize that BHM are also concerned about unwanted pregnancy. Safer sex interventions for BHM could deploy alternative masculinities to challenge “entrapment” discourses, and safer sex programs could address men’s fears of entrapment with messages such as: “You think she might want to get pregnant, but you are certain that you don’t want to get her pregnant. Use a condom to reduce that risk and protect yourself

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from STI/HIV.” With its emphasis on how psychology is implicated in discourse (Wetherell & Edley, 1999), CDP illustrates how public health messages can be crafted to respond directly to the psychological issues that talk such as the “entrapment” discourses of Extract 1 spotlight. There are at least three limitations within which study findings should be considered. First, discourses occurred as part of formal research with all of the attendant artifacts: informed consent documents, data collection at a university, digital recorders, differential power between interviewers posing questions and participants answering them. This was not naturally occurring discourse such as might happen spontaneously in a social setting. Next, although the interview guide asked about oral, vaginal, and anal sex, most of the talk focused exclusively on vaginal sex. The absence of talk about anal sex is important because heterosexual anal sex is prevalent and for women, riskier than vaginal sex (Leichliter, Chandra, Liddon, Fenton, & Aral, 2007). Finally, the research highlighted some flaws in how focus group facilitators posed questions by failing to use follow-up probes, introducing their own perspectives, or not posing neutral or open-ended questions. For example, in Extract 2, the facilitator offered no follow-up probes to elicit contradictory discourses about condom use with main partners or used leading probes. Similarly, questions in which facilitators imposed their ideas (see for example Extract 1: “. . . So you think it may be a set-up?”) or asked close-ended questions (see for example Extract 2: “Do women talk to you guys about that?”) may have influenced the types of responses that participants provided. Asking more neutral or open-ended questions or using follow-up probes (e.g., “Are there other perspectives?”) (Krueger & Casey, 2009) might have elicited a wider spectrum of responses. These limitations notwithstanding, this research illustrates the utility of CDP for advancing knowledge about the psychology implicated in BHM’s talk about safer sex and masculinity, understanding how BHM position themselves in relation to conventional masculinity in discourse about safer sex, and translating this knowledge into public health practice. The study underscores both the challenge and promise of engaging BHM in safer sex initiatives. The challenge: how to effectively counter conventional masculine sense-making that BHM bear little or no responsibility for safer sex and/or contraception. The promise: the existence of alternative Black masculinities ready to be harnessed to reduce sexual STI/HIV risk in Black heterosexual communities.

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Received February 1, 2014 Revision received December 27, 2014 Accepted January 6, 2015 䡲

Responsible men, blameworthy women: Black heterosexual men's discursive constructions of safer sex and masculinity.

Although Black heterosexual men (BHM) in the United States rank among those most affected by HIV, research about how safer sex messages shape their sa...
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