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A qualitative study exploring black women's perceptions of the impact of women's changing socio-economic status on intimate heterosexual relationships

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This study explored Black women’s perceptions of the impact of women’s changing socio-economic status on their intimate relationships. The study used the theoretical resources of social constructionism and feminism. Seven Black women (African, ‘Coloured’, and Indian) were recruited from a banking and an academic institution using convenience non-probability sampling technique. Semi-structured interviews were used to collect the data which was analysed using thematic analysis. The study found that participants viewed the change in women’s socio-economic status and roles as rendering some women more vulnerable to abuse. The participants reported that women’s shift in socio-economic status imposes a threat to masculinity leaving some men feeling intimidated, insecure, and emasculated. Most men were seen as responding to their feelings of intimidation by leaving their partners for a less financially independent woman, or by abusing their current partners. Some men were considered to use domestic violence to exert their power and control over women, express their authority, as well as police and maintain the boundaries of femininity and masculinity. Analysis indicated that for a number of reasons women continue to remain vulnerable to experiencing domestic violence irrespective of their socio-economic status. It was also evident in the study that some working women find themselves in a dilemma of choosing between their careers and family. Some self-reliant wives were seen as having to forfeit senior occupational ranks due to the expectation that their husbands would be disapproving and unsupportive. The respondents stated that other financially stable women are reluctant to marry because they fear being controlled, losing their sense of autonomy, and the ability to make their own decisions without seeking their husbands’ approval. However, it also revealed in this study that women’s changing financial status was seen as entitling them with power and control of their sexuality. As the result, women seem to perceive men as being under pressure to be romantic and satisfy their partners’ sexual needs so as to maintain the relationship. This study highlights an important area for further research as it is likely that the shift in Black women’s socioeconomic status will continue to impact and shape heterosexual relationships in particular ways.


Thesis (M.A.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2009.


Women, Black--Sexual behaviour--South Africa., Man-woman relationships--South Africa., Theses--Psychology.