Constructions of masculinity and masculine identity positions within a group of male university students.
This research project is based on the key assumption that in order to slow the rate of HIV infections amongst young men (and women) it iscrucial to direct interventions towards changing the constructions of masculinity which put adolescents at risk of HIV infection. As such, this study investigates the constructions of masculinity and masculine identity positions that are evident within the narratives of a small group of young black, white and coloured male university students. The research participants were engaged in a limited number of individual, semi-structured interviews. This report draws attention to the fmdings that have arisen from an analysis of the initial two interviews, the first of which revolved around photographs taken by the participants in order to illustrate what it means to be a young man in contemporary South Africa. An important finding is that there are numerous commonalities as well as differences in the constructions of masculinity that exist amongst these young men. A sense of uncertainty and ambivalence regarding the nature of masculinity is also common. Situated with an emphasised masculinity, various risk-taking behaviours, such as the consumption of alcohol in large quantities, visible affluence, a compulsory heterosexuality, and strength, in diverse forms, are identified as common constructions of masculinity. All of these young men define their sense of masculinity through the adoption of subject positions in relation to and in opposition to young women and other young men. The male peer group is a particularly significant site for masculine identity construction. A further key finding is that a number of these young men are able to reject one or more hegemonic norms of masculinity, yet are apparently able to maintain a sense of masculine acceptability. This finding has direct implications for the design of future research as well as of interventions around HIV/AIDS. As such, this thesis draws attention to the range of strategies utilised by these young men to maintain an adequate sense of masculinity in the face of non-conformance to particular hegemonic norms. Although these young men identify predominantly with the dominant, hegemonic norms of masculinity, there are multiple, often contradictory, subject positions that they occupy in relation to these norms and standards. As a result, this study raises questions for those involvedin similar research as well as for those designing interventions in the field of HIV/AIDS prevention.
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