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Nuances and shifts in lesbian women's constructions of STI and HIV vulnerability


  • Dolan, Kathleen A.
  • Davis, Phillip W.


This study examines the subjective side of vulnerability as a social construct rooted in interpersonal relationships and community membership. Analysis is based on a survey of an especially diverse sample of 162 lesbian women, 67 of whom also participated in depth interviews. Another 24 of the original sample also participated in transcribed focus groups. One third were African American, Latina, and Asian, and two thirds were white. This sample reported an overall infection rate of 23%. Three subjective stances, or risk frames, are identified: essentially invulnerable, socially inoculated, and fundamentally vulnerable. Some women describe shifts in their interpretations of their own vulnerability, moving from one stance to another in response to obtaining information, becoming infected, having friends or acquaintances who become infected, and becoming involved with new partners. It is suggested that these shifts comprise a subjective "vulnerability career". The significance of lesbian women's constructions of vulnerability is examined, and the implications of this study for a better understanding of their risk for STIs are discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Dolan, Kathleen A. & Davis, Phillip W., 2003. "Nuances and shifts in lesbian women's constructions of STI and HIV vulnerability," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 57(1), pages 25-38, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:57:y:2003:i:1:p:25-38

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    Lesbian risk STIs HIV USA;


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