Sexual Subjectivity In Lesbian, Gay, And Bisexual Emerging Adults

Zenaida Anastasia Rivera, Wayne State University


Sexual subjectivity is a part of the sexual self-concept that includes a person’s perceptions of their thoughts, feelings and behaviors related to their sexuality and sexual behaviors. A growing body of research on sexual subjectivity highlights its significance for healthy sexuality. Historically, much of the research on sexuality has focused on risk and prevention. This is especially true for research on sexual minority populations, where the risk of sexually transmitted infections is higher than in heterosexual populations. However, there is a growing appreciation among theorists and researchers that sexuality needs to be framed as a normative, competency-based, and necessary negotiation of development. Accordingly, there is a corresponding need for measures of normative sexual development. Horne, Zimmer-Gembeck, and colleagues developed the Sexual Subjectivity Inventory (SSI) to assess five empirically-derived, theoretically-based dimensions of sexual subjectivity that demonstrate good psychometric properties. One limitation of this work is that the SSI was developed on predominately heterosexual samples. No such measure exists for non-heterosexual (lesbian, gay, bisexual) emerging adults. Research with lesbian, gay, and bisexual emerging adult populations has largely focused on their increased risk for negative health outcomes (e.g., base rates of STI/STD, suicide, mental health, substance use, physical health issues for LGB individuals). Thus, there is need in the field for a reliable and valid measure of sexual subjectivity with the aim of enhancing theory, research, and interventions which are more positively-based and identity-focused. The current study addressed this need by evaluating whether the SSI is a reliable and valid measure of sexual subjectivity among non-heterosexual emerging adults. The SSI was adequately reliable within the sample as a whole, as well as within gender and sexual orientation groups of LGB emerging adults. The factor structure was similar to those found in heterosexual samples with five facets of sexual subjectivity. Some gender mean-level differences were consistent with the findings of previous studies. Some mean-level difference analyses yielded novel findings which may be related to the intersectionality of gender and sexual orientation.