Sexual Decision-Making by Inner-City Black Adolescent Males

Gilmore, Sonia, John DeLamater, and David Wagstaff
Working paper no. 1995-04


This research was designed to illuminate the cognitive and emotional bases of the sexual decisions made by young black men. We hypothesized that the black male’s understanding and expression of his sexuality reflects a socially constructed interpretation of who he is. More specifically, we believe that sexual decision-making is guided by sexual scripts. Focus groups were conducted with black young men ages 15 to 19. Analyses of the transcripts of these discussions identified four sets of beliefs which influence sexual decisions: what it means to be a man, good and bad things about sexual intimacy, beliefs about condoms, and beliefs about AIDS. Analyses also identified seven concerns: 1) good girls, bad girls; 2) asking for sex; 3) “running the game;” 4) being “hooked up;” 5) the relation between sex and love; 6) fatherhood; and 7) conflicts with other men. Quotations from the transcripts illustrate each of these concerns. The analyses suggest that these young men view sexual behavior, sexual partners, and condom use as elements within a complex script which governs heterosexual interactions.