Sub-Fems: An Exploration of the Intersectionality of Empowerment Through Submissive Identity, Grounded in Feminist Theory

Kathryn Jones, PsyD - Researcher

The BDSM/kink community has recently entered into mainstream consciousness and conversation through books and films such as Fifty Shades of Grey and other media portrayals. While this representation may have sparked a general conversation about alternative sexual practices, it remains a controversial topic. In a modern-day world where sexual liberation and empowerment are on the rise, it can be difficult to grasp how and why women of a modern society would willingly relinquish power within the BDSM/kink play scene. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to explore and understand the participants’ perspectives on submission, within a Dominant and submissive relationship, as well as their motivation to engage in such actions. Results are analyzed through a feminist lens. Furthermore, a discussion of implications for clinicians working with individuals within this community is explored.

Examining the Impact of Age on Social Support Received by Same-Sex Married Individuals

Danielle Zohrob, PsyD

The focus of this study was to examine the impact of age on social support received by gay and lesbian married individuals, particularly support received from friends and family. The purpose of this study was to further the research on the impact of systemic influences on individuals’ experiences of support around their marriage. This mixed methods online study investigated the support received from friends and family in a sample of 65 individuals. The data were collected using an adaptation of Procidano and Heller’s social support scale, adjusted to address support received specifically around marriage. Quantitative results were interpreted using Pearson’s correlations and Univariate Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) tests. Participants were divided into age cohorts based on patterns in responses to qualitative questions. Qualitative data were collected via a qualitative questionnaire and the qualitative analysis included 62 participants. Qualitative data were analyzed through thematic coding and the use of a second coder to cross analyze and verify emerging themes. Results suggest a strong correlation between age and support received from family. Older adults receive less marital support from family than do younger adults. Age did not impact the support received by friends. Thematic analyses shed light on the experience of making the choice to marry one’s partner, the impact this decision had on relationships with one’s social network, and the impact one’s social network had on this decision.

Father Knows Best: Exploring How Fathers Approach Sex Education with their Daughters

Brittany Nelson, PsyD - Researcher

This study aimed to explore fathers' perceived comfort, knowledge, and responsibility in addressing sexual health topics with their adolescent daughter(s) in relation to their own opinions and beliefs regarding their role as a male figure in their daughter's life in the context of Urie Bronfenbrenner's bioecological systems theory and Nancy Chodorow's feminist relational theory. Six fathers participated in the study. Data was collected using the Father Sexual Comfort, Knowledge, and Responsibility Scale and an open-ended interview. Results showed fathers consider themselves to be comfortable, responsible, and knowledgeable in comprehensive sex education topics. In large, fathers consider themselves to be important male figures in guiding their daughter's relational development and decreasing stigma in female sexuality. These results challenge preconceived ideas of the paternal role and provide rationale to continue researching the relational and social implications of the father-daughter relationship. 

Factors Assocaited with Sexual Satisfation among Lesbian Women Throughout the Duration of a Long Term Relationship

Leesa Contorino, PsyD - Researcher

Marcos Flores - Research Assistant

This study was designed to explore factors contributing to sexual satisfaction among lesbian women in long term romantic relationships throughout the length of the relationship as well as gain insight into definitions of sex and sexual satisfaction among lesbians. Demographic variables were also explored for predictive factors for sexual satisfaction. Lesbians in romantic relationships for at least 6 months responded to a secure online survey. The survey consisted of informed consent, inclusion criteria, and 12 open-ended questions related to domains of a woman’s life that potentially influence the phenomenon of sexual satisfaction. Responses were categorized into the length of time a woman reported being in her current relationship and responses were coded using factors within Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model of development. Data supported the hypothesis that factors within the romantic relationship as well as outside the romantic relationship influence experiences of sexual satisfaction for lesbians. The dominant theme of mutuality, or attunement to the physical and emotional needs of a partner and herself, were present regardless of the length of the relationship. Subthemes related to mutuality in a relationship were also identified in definitions of sex and sexual satisfaction, feeling free from gender roles in sexual activities, mental and physical health experiences, and hearing about the dissatisfaction of peers. Related to the length of the relationship, mental and physical health problems became more prominent in the narrative responses of women in longer term relationships, but did not affect satisfaction levels at the time of the study. Women in shorter term relationships were more likely to focus on sexual functioning and physiological experiences when describing sexually satisfying experiences while women in longer term relationships emphasized intimacy and quality of sexual experiences as satisfactory. Developing further research within this population regarding fostering mutuality for couples and how specific demographic information such as monogamy and cohabitation influence sexual satisfaction are necessary for the future.

Black & Gay Today: Experiences with Perceived Racial and Sexual Orientation Microaggressions in Predominately White Colleges and Universities

Jerrod L. Handy, PsyD

Michael Jones and Thomas (Ryan) Maher - Research Assistants

More salient than ever before are the many inequities in education due to lowered expectations, stereotypes, and microaggressive environments. There is limited literature which explores Black gay males’ experiences with the intersections of race, gender, and sexual identity in institutions of higher education. This study explored the intersection of racial and sexual orientation identity, racial and sexual orientation microaggressions, and academic persistence among Black gay cisgender male graduate students at Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs). This study also detailed the perceived impact of microaggressions on Black gay cisgender males in higher education. The research questions considered were (1) to what extent do Black gay male graduate students at a PWI experience racial and sexual orientation microaggressions while on campus or in the classroom, and (2) is there a relationship between microaggressive experiences and academic persistence. After transcription, coding, and analysis, nine major themes emerged: (1) Microaggressive Experiences, (2) Isolation, (3) Interactions with School Administration, (4) Mentors and Role Models, (5) Interactions with Peers, Staff, and Faculty of Color, (6) Interactions with White Peers, Staff, and Faculty, (7) Role as an Educator, (8) Intersectionality, and (9) Self-Awareness and Self-Perception. The five minor themes also emerged: (1) Connectedness, (2) Code Switching, (3) Support and Guidance, (4) Not Meeting Preconceived Notions, and (5) Impact on Academic Performance.

The Dynamic Relationship Between Transman Identity Embodiment and Sexuality

Natalie J. Coffin, PsyD - Researcher

Through individual interviews, the study sought to explore and examine the experiences of seven transmen who were assigned female status at birth and have transitioned and now self-identity as male. The study asked participants about their experience of transitioning as well as how their sexuality and sexual practices reinforce their male identity. The study hypothesized that the interviewed transmen would demonstrate the need to challenge the binary gender identity construct as well as highlight how fluid sexuality is, which cannot always simply be quantified into gay, straight, or bisexual categories. The study proposes a more dynamic and intertwined relationship between transgendered embodiment of identity and sexual practices. Their experiences as female and male help shape the concept that gender does not have to be binary. Sexuality is a major component of identity as well, but it does not solely reinforce gender. Sexuality is fluid and evolving. It is more accurate to describe sexuality as a platform for gender expression and affirmation. Implications for mental health providers provide a more compassionate and deeper understanding of transgender treatment needs. Mental health providers can assist transgendered individuals in normalizing and validating differences in gender identity and expression (American Psychological Association, 2015). The role of the mental health professional is crucial in helping advocate and develop policy that is inclusive in practice and research for transgendered individuals.

Families in Transition: A Program for Youth with a Trans* Sibling

Erica Aten, PsyD - Researcher

One’s family system plays important roles throughout one’s lifespan. Of all the potential familial relationships, siblings share a unique, and oftentimes, life-long bond. When one person in a siblingship is experiencing hardship, it impacts both siblings and the family system as a whole. Because of the gap in the literature surrounding the experiences of youth with a trans* sibling, a needs assessment was conducted to determine the necessity, interest, feasibility, components, and potential benefits of group programming. Based on the needs assessment survey results, a group program was developed for 14 to 18-year-olds who have a trans* sibling. The goal of the program is to help participants identify their thoughts and feelings, develop coping skills, share their story, and feel a connection with other adolescents based on their shared experiences. Pre and post measures will be completed to assess the efficacy of the program.

Relationship Satisfaction in Long-Term, Non-monogamous, Heterosexual Relationships

Heather Tahler, PsyD - Researcher

Leesa Contorino, MA and Olivia Ellis, MA - Research Assistants

This study was designed to explore questions examining relational satisfaction in long-term non-monogamous heterosexual couples in comparison to relational satisfaction in long-term sexually monogamous heterosexual couples, as well as gain insight into whom those involved in non-monogamous relationships disclose to and the potential stigma felt by this disclosure. Demographic variables were also explored to see if any prediction of marital satisfaction occurred. Both long-term sexually monogamous and long-term sexually non-monogamous participants responded to a secure online survey. The survey consisted of informed consent, inclusion criteria, ENRICH marital satisfaction scale (Fowers and Olson 1993) items, and open-ended questions for items not assessed by the ENRICH scale alone. After checking for univariate normality and outliers and assessing missing value patterns, results show that both the Marital Satisfaction and Idealistic Distortion scales were reliable. The findings in the study revealed that relationship type did not have a significant impact on marital satisfaction or idealistic distortion, with similar levels of satisfaction and idealistic distortion in both monogamous and non-monogamous couples. The results also demonstrated, through linear regression for demographic variables, that only income level significantly predicted marital satisfaction. After qualitative data was coded, there were many themes found within both monogamous and non-monogamous couples. Data supports the original hypothesis that there was very little difference in marital satisfaction between monogamous and non-monogamous heterosexual couples. With these results, non-monogamy is a more viable relationship option than previously recognized for couples that are interested, and it is necessary to create models to work with these couples. Developing further research within this population specifically is also necessary for the future.

Intimate Partner Violence in Lesbian Relationships: A Review and an Intervention Program

Ann M. Diamond, PsyD - Researcher

Alisha Chan, MA - Research Assistant

Intimate partner violence (IPV) refers to emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuse within a romantic relationship. The majority of research and program interventions focus on IPV in heterosexual relationships, often dichotomized with the male as the perpetrator and the female as the victim. Less research exists regarding IPV within the LGBT community. Specific research dedicated to lesbian IPV is even rarer. Due to a lack of recognition within research and the LGBT community, intervention programs to assist self-identified lesbian women who have abused their intimate partners have historically been absent. An intervention program specifically tailored to the unique experiences of lesbians that have abused their intimate partners resulting in IPV is proposed.

Is the Mechitza Permeable? An Exploratory Study on Navigating Jewish and Transgender Identities

Nicole Thalheimer, PsyD - Researcher

Jerrod Handy, MA and Michael Jones, MA - Research Assistants

Identifying as a Jewish transgender woman can come with a plethora of stigma and challenges. Compounded by the ongoing existence of microaggressions and violence, a 2009 survey found individuals who identify as transgender are 40 times more likely to have attempted suicide than the national average. The invalidation of an already marginalized group is exacerbated by clinical invisibility and lack of empirical research. Participants took part in 90- minute semistructured qualitative interviews using a questionnaire created based on Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory. After transcription, the researcher and two assistants ascertained eight major themes and four minor themes: (a) Family (spouse, parent, or sibling) Interactions; (b) Dynamics of Sexual Orientation; (c) Professional Help and Bureaucratic Red Tape; (d) Stealth and Disclosure of Transgender Identity; (e) Education; (f) What Does It Mean To Transition; (g) Changes to Community Interactions; and (h) Transgender Jewish Interactions. The four minor themes were: (a) Interactions with and Views of Israel, (b) Naming and Language, (c) Not Fitting In, and (d) Reaction of Children. The meaning and construction of the participants’ transgender and Jewish identities varied greatly. Access to support and resources both in the Jewish and gender contexts either aided or hindered the participants’ identity growth. Resilience and humor played roles in all participants’ narratives. This study supports and validates the idea that there is no one right way to be a transgender Jewish woman.

The Selection and Utility of Sexual Identity Labels in Youth

Ashley Molin, PsyD - Researcher

Erica Aten, MA - Research Assistant

Adolescence is a time when individuals begin to figure out who they are and how they fit into the world. One of the many areas for exploration during this time is sexual identity. Adolescents’ use of self-labeling in describing their sexual identity was explored using a nationwide Internet survey. Participants were adolescents and young adults ages 18 to 22 of diverse racial and geographical backgrounds. Three hundred youth participated in the study, yielding 207 complete data sets. Quantitative data showed no relationship existed between the types of labels youth chose and their geographical location or their self-identification of being religious, spiritual, or neither. Additionally, qualitative data was analyzed to determine themes in how youth chose and made use of sexual identity labels.

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