The construction of young masculine sexualities in rural Western Cape
Wildschutt, Alvino Vernal
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It is widely accepted that South African youth are particularly at risk of unplanned pregnancies and infection with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Research addressing the issue of HIV and reproductive health problems among young adolescents has largely focused on exploring the sexual behaviour of young women. The perceptions and attitudes of young men toward sexuality have been neglected, thus perpetuating gender bias. It is argued that the dominant focus on women is a flawed strategy for prevention and that researchers also need to listen to the voices of young men when it comes to studying sexuality (Thorpe, 2002; Morrell, 2002). The aim of this study is to explore how adolescent men in rural communities in the Western Cape experience and construct a masculine sexuality. Two-hundred-and-thirty-one Coloured adolescent men aged 12 to 20, who attend a rural high school in the Langeberg District, Western Cape, completed selfadministered anonymous questionnaires. The aim was to document (1) the range and extent of rural adolescent males’ sexual behaviour and (2) to determine the levels of knowledge and perceptions that rural adolescent men have regarding condom use and contraceptives, as well as the sources from which they receive their knowledge. Of the sample, 37.9% had had sexual intercourse before, 41% never used contraceptives when having sexual intercourse and almost 60% believed that the use of contraception is the women’s responsibility. In addition, 21 individual interviews were conducted with both sexually active and non- active rural adolescent men to understand how they construct a masculine sexuality. Interviews revealed that young men generally regret their first sexual experience and that the experience of having sexual intercourse does not necessarily prove that you are a ‘real man’. According to some of these young men, masculinity is not proven via sexual coercion or sexual intercourse, but being gentle and caring at all times. However, male-to-male sex is not considered masculine, but just perceived to be ‘morsig’ (disgusting).