In examining women of African descent, as with women of other backgrounds, the variability and variations of women must be asserted, while seeking common ground. There is no one African or Black com munity; differences require sensitivity and insight and should not be glossed over as trivial. Sexuality in Jamaican and other West Indian cultures rep resents a paradox. On the one hand, propriety is taught with West Indian women learning to sublimate or repress their sexual drives and to concep­tualize sex as an obligation (Gopaul-McNicol, 1993). From birth, girls are taught to be modest, which typically causes a sense of embarrassment about their bodies. On a woman’s wedding night she should not be concerned about receiving any sexual pleasure, as at the point of marriage she is expected to be ignorant about sex. Her only concern is to be a good mother and sexual partner to her spouse. This is particularly true of upper – and middle-class women (Gopaul-McNicol, 1993).

As in Black communities, although sexual propriety is regarded as important, premarital sex and children bom out of wedlock is not uncom mon and is not necessarily frowned on. How the family feels about a child bom out of wedlock depends in large part on the role that the child’s father assumes. If the father is without ambition or income, then he will be scorned and the unwed child will be regarded in a more negative light. Related to this, unwed pregnancies by older women who are mistresses to married men may be viewed either positively or negatively, depending again on the role of the father. Some people may find her to be morally lacking, whereas others may admire her ability to gain entry into the upper class by connecting with a financially capable man who is able to take care of her, his child, and his other family (Brice-Baker, 1994).

Marriage is important in West Indian culture, and the role of a woman is sharply defined by her marital status. Unmarried women are regarded as a source of embarrassment and are referred to as old maids and seen as barren if they are childless (Gopaul-McNicol, 1993). This stigma is not placed on an unmarried man, who may be seen as taking his time to choose a wife or may be called a “sweet man” because he has many ladies (Gopaul-McNicol, 1993).

In discussing the sexual expectations of Latina women, it is important to consider the diversity of the variety of Latin American groups (Durant, Pendergast, & Seymore, 1990; Vega, 1991), socioeconomic status (Bean & Tienda, 1987; Staples, 1988), and degree of acculturation to Anglo society (Pavich, 1986). In addition, across the various groups (e. g., Chicanas, Cu bans, Puerto Ricans, and others) Catholic traditions are a major influence on a Latina woman’s sexuality.

The Catholic church advocates premarital virginity and prohibits contraception and abortion. In Latino cultures, marianismo, the cultural counterpart to machismo, represents this view of the woman as chaste before marriage. Once married, the woman must conform to her husband’s macho behavior. Marianismo is based on the Catholic cult of the Virgin Mary, which dictates that when women become mothers, then and only then do they attain the status of Madonna, and in so doing they are expected to deny themselves in favor of their children and husbands. The cult of the Virgin Mary considers women morally and spiritually superior to men and therefore capable of enduring all suffering inflicted by men (Reid, & Comas-Diaz, 1990; Salgado de Snyder, Cervantes, & Padilla, 1990). In deed, the role of martyr is expected to be fulfilled by good Latina women.

Implicit in the concept of marianismo is women’s repression or subli mation of sexual drives and consideration of sex as an obligation. Thus, if a Latina woman engages in premarital sex, she will lose face—she will lose the man’s respect, a man will not marry her, and she will bring dishonor and disgrace on her family. Furthermore, she will be labeled a puta (whore) and will not receive the respectful title of dona given to married women that signifies she is a lady worthy of respect. Depending on the strength of their convictions, Latina women may experience guilt and confusion when using contraception (Pavich, 1986). Traditional Latina women were found to be more negative toward birth control and less likely to use it than more acculturated women (Ortiz & Casas, 1990). Among bicultural Latinos, there may be gender role conflict (Salgado de Snyder, Cervantes, & Padilla,

1990) .