Working within a strengths perspective, the papers in this symposium identify ways in which sexual health, sexuality, and sexual consequences are enacted in the lives of individuals and the importance of social workers inquiring about and addressing them.
Paper 1: Grounded in objectification and relational-cultural theories, the first study used structural equation modeling to explore interactions between objectification, body image, relationship quality, and preventative sexual health behaviors in a diverse sample of women. In so doing, it provides a nuanced understanding of the ways in which improving women’s body appreciation can contribute to larger scale positive effects for their relational and sexual health.
Paper 2: The second study utilized a phenomenological methodology to focus on sexual partner and sexual identity negotiations among individuals with disabilities. By exploring how people with disabilities, sexual/gender minorities and individuals with non-traditional sexual interests construct a dialogue around their sexual actions and desires, this study advances knowledge about the ways in which individual identity profiles can be incorporated into practice.
Paper 3: Turning more directly to identifying how social workers engage in discursive development about sexuality, the third study sought to examine the relationship between attitudes relating to sexuality and abortion. By making explicit how social workers’ myriad sexual beliefs affect how these topics are navigated in the classroom, and integrated into coursework and professional practice, this study suggests the imperative to further expand this dialogue into other realms such as research.
Taken together, these studies form a new research platform for identifying components of sexual health across diverse populations. With unintended pregnancies and STIs disproportionately impacting the lives of the most vulnerable Americans, the importance of addressing these concerns within research and practice is clear. In order to effectively develop and implement evidence-based interventions relating to individual sexuality and sexual health, social workers require a greater understanding of the research surrounding how sexuality impacts diverse individuals. Additionally, social workers must understand the process through which this knowledge is constructed and understood. Altogether, this symposium will create a space in which this long overlooked area of focused practice can be examined.