Walking on eggshells to not offend people : experiences of same-sex student couples at a South African university
CITATION: Lesch, E., Brits, S. & Naidoo, N. T. 2017. Walking on eggshells to not offend people : experiences of same-sex student couples at a South African university. South African Journal of Higher Education, 31(4):127‒149, doi:10.20853/31-4-893.
The original publication is available at http://www.journals.ac.za/index.php/sajhe
Rules and expectations for appropriate public couple behaviour on university campuses are predominantly heteronormative and marginalise people with other sexual orientations. Such environments pose specific challenges to same-sex couples with regards to everyday open living and enjoyment of their romantic relationships. Our study sought to explore the experiences of same-sex student couples in negotiating public campus life at a South African university. We interviewed six couples and used thematic analysis to analyse the data. We found that the participating couples experienced the campus as an evolving and ambiguous environment with both safe and unsafe public spaces. As a result, couples consistently and consciously monitored their social environments and regulated their public couple behaviour to avoid negative experiences. We conclude the article with suggestions as to how university management can assist in cultivating a more supporting campus environment for same-sex couples.