Living in a Paradox: How Older Single and Widowed Black Women Understand Their Sexuality

Margaret A. Salisu*, Jagadisa Devasri Dacus

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The current phenomenological study explored how single and/or widowed older Black women understand their sexuality in the context of their Black matriarchal role and through their relational interactions with their children, families, friends, and their extended social networks. The women spoke about their sexuality in the contexts of Black matriarchy, concept of self, and communication. Black matriarchy was defined as the tenacity with which, as Black women and Black mothers, participants occupied a centralized role in their families, while concept of self reflected heavily on conflicting perceptions they held of their understanding of themselves as sexual beings. Regarding communication, many participants felt constrained in self-disclosing their sexual feelings and relationship status. Living in a paradox exemplified our interpretation of the women’ struggles as they tried to balance the expectations of the roles they occupied in society with their own identity as a sexual being. Our findings offer a nuanced exploration of the various dimensions about how they understand themselves by providing invaluable insight into their world as older Black women. The implications for policy and practice pertain to assessing the fundamental historical and contemporary issues that older Black women face while simultaneously considering the convergence of race, gender, and sexuality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)303-333
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Gerontological Social Work
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2021


  • Older Black Women Sexuality
  • Race and gender
  • Sexuality
  • Widowed and Single Black women
  • minority sexuality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Nursing (miscellaneous)


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