Absent sexual scripts: lesbian and bisexual women's knowledge, attitudes and action regarding safer sex and sexual health information Academic Article uri icon


  • Despite recent evidence demonstrating that lesbian and bisexual women are at risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), there is a common perception that STIs cannot be transmitted between women. This paper reports on a study in which a self-report questionnaire, completed by over 300 lesbian and bisexual women and a comparison group of heterosexual women, was undertaken to determine lesbian and bisexual women's levels of knowledge about the human papillomavirus (HPV) and their attitudes toward the HPV vaccine and cervical smear testing. Alongside this, a series of in-depth interviews with lesbian and bisexual women explored how they perceive their level of HPV risk, the reasons why they do or do not feel at risk and how they manage their sexual health in relation to their lesbian or bisexual identity. The study concludes that lesbians generally feel at low risk for STIs because they are excluded from dominant sexual scripts that inform the negotiation of safer sex practice. Lesbians are unlikely to engage with sexual health promotion targeted toward gay men or heterosexual women, yet lesbian-specific sexual health promotion does not adequately construct an alternate discourse on safer sex that lesbians can relate to their own sexual practice.

publication date

  • January 2009