Gender, sexuality and risk in young women's narratives of university life : a study of selected black African women at Edgewood Campus University of KwaZulu-Natal.
This qualitative study is an exploration of the sexuality of ten black African female undergraduate students aged 18-24. These women emerge from mixed class backgrounds found within different or same areas located in KwaZulu-Natal. The study focused on understanding what these women regarded as sexual risk taking behaviour and what meanings they attach to gender and sexual risk and how they negotiate or practise agency within sexual or intimate relationships. This study presents a framework that closely examines gender ideals and beliefs that may potentially influence sexual risks. Theories of gender power relations and sexuality were used to substantiate how gender and power were implicated in sexual risk taking. Individual interviewing technique allowed for participants to express their opinions regarding sexuality and relationships on campus and how gender based violence occurs on campus. The findings reveal sexual risk taking amongst female students are exacerbated by their constructions of campus freedoms, love, trust, power, boyfriends as well as prevalence of ‘sugar daddy’ relationships. Findings reveal how the participants are able to exert sexual agency and or conform to male power and dominance. Findings also discuss how participants are not ignorant about HIV and are not in denial about the possibility of contracting the virus but some do engage in unprotected sex because they are influenced by traditional and cultural norms regarding gender. The findings of this study contribute to an enhanced consideration of the possible issues that surround sexuality, including financial pressures, leading to female students, especially black female undergraduate students engaging in sexual risk taking behaviours. Possible initiatives that should be designed or implemented, in university such as a curriculum that focuses on the other possible sexual vulnerabilities and gender inequalities faced by female students on campus in an attempt to reduce them, are discussed.