Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Chwalisz, Kathleen


The purpose of this study was to explore adult African American women’s interpretations of early gender and sex-related socialization messages within the familial environment, with an emphasis on the projection of hypersexuality. The exploration of sexual socialization practices has been a longstanding area of research (e.g., Raffaelli & Ontai, 2001). However, in accordance with a recommendation from the APA Task Force (2007) on the sexualization of girls, more research is needed to examine the specific ways in which girls of color are impacted by sexualization. African American women have a unique history within the United States, as the use of controlling images that depicts their alleged hypersexuality have been used to legitimize their social marginalization. This strategy may also have paved a pathway to the expectation of hypersexuality of young African American girls. This concept was highlighted in a popular twitter hashtag, #FastTailedGirls, which showcased adult African American women’s reflections on the consequences of being mislabeled as hypersexual (Trudy, 2013). Using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (Smith & Osborn, 2008), I conducted eight semi-structured interviews with adult African American women to explore their meaning making of early gender and sex-related socialization messages within the familial environment, with attention to culturally relevant constructs. Seven emergent themes were derived from participants’ stories: (a) Learning expectations, (b) Presumed guilty, (c) Assumptions of hypersexuality, (d) Concern for safety, (e) Coping, (f) Respectability, and (g) Resisting.




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