A qualitative study of the sexuality of women living in a homeless shelter

Kimberly Deanne Acquaviva, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

The purposes of this research—to discover the ways in which women living in a homeless shelter understand and experience their sexuality, and to produce a theory explaining the ways in which women living in a homeless shelter's cultural meanings and beliefs regarding sex and sexuality might inform their sexual behavior—were achieved through six months of ethnographic research spent in residence at a homeless shelter, and the subsequent analysis of the data. The cultural meanings ascribed to sex and sexuality by women living in a homeless shelter may affect their risk of acquiring Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI's) because they: (1) believe trust (and faith in God) protects them from sexually transmitted infections, (2) are afraid of seeking information about HIV/AIDS out of a fear they will be stigmatized as having the disease, (3) are reluctant to ask a man to use a condom, (4) believe they can tell if a man has HIV by his skin (clear vs. broken out), (5) use sex to get cash, though they do not frame this as “prostitution,” (6) seem to have a high rate of nonconsensual sex, (7) often engage in unsafe sexual behavior while under the influence of drugs/alcohol, and (8) believe that HIV/AIDS was transmissible through sharing a cigarette, drinking from the same glass, etc, so they believe protecting themselves during sex is futile. The Acquaviva Theory of Psycho-Sexual Fatalism posits that a connection may exist between negative sexual and emotional experiences and the development of fatalism and the ultimate abdication of personal responsibility for the future, thus placing women living in a homeless shelter at additional risk of HIV/STI's and unplanned pregnancy.

Subject Area

Welfare|Health education|Social work

Recommended Citation

Acquaviva, Kimberly Deanne, "A qualitative study of the sexuality of women living in a homeless shelter" (2000). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9965431.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI9965431

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