An exploration of the experiences of blind male students and how they negotiate their masculinity.
Masculinity is considered to be a fundamental aspect of a male identity while living with a disability has a negative impact on the construction of this identity. The notion of masculinity has been highly influenced by Connell’s idea of hegemonic masculinity which claims that masculinity is not fixed but is fluid and hierarchical in nature (Connell, 1995; 2000). The construction of masculinity introduces the notion of “masculinities” rather than a “single” universal masculinity. The idea of masculinities contends that one masculinity tends to dominate other masculinities within a particular social context. For men living with disabilities this has resulted in the subjugation of their masculine identity because of the negative attitudes and assumptions attached to living with a disability. As a result of masculinity being constructed differently with each social context as well as the construction of a disabled identity, there is a need to explore this occurrence within the university environment. This study explores how blind male students construct and negotiate their masculinity within the university environment. To evaluate how blind male students construct their masculinity, the construction and experiences of their masculinity and their sexuality was explored. The barriers and enablers experienced by blind male students in the process of performing an acceptable masculinity and sexuality were explored. This study used a sample of 7 blind male students. All participants were recruited from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Howard College campus. A qualitative research design was used as a method of investigation. Data was collected using semi-structured interviews and it was analysed thematically. The participants brought forward the negative attitudes and assumptions held by sighted male students that are contiguous to blindness. These attitudes and assumptions were directed mainly to their sexuality and sexual relationships. To mitigate the subordination of these important aspects of their masculinity, the findings put forward that blind male students take on different positions in opposition to hegemonic masculinity. Ordinary position, reformulation of the standards of masculinity, rebellious position, reliance and subordination of masculinity emerged as different positions that used by blind male students in the process of negotiation their masculinity. Therefore this study gives evidence that blind male students position themselves inconsistently in relation to hegemonic standards masculinity.