Sexual socialisation and gender identities : the impact on risky sexual behaviour in Ematyholweni.
In South Africa, there is a high rate of HIV/AIDS infection and 12.2 percent of the population is HIV positive (UNAIDS, 2012). This can be traced in the dynamics that exist between gender and identity. To understand these dynamics, this study explored the gender and power dimensions of sexual relationships and how this influenced HIV risk. The purpose of this study was to find out how the youth are sexually socialized about sex, relationships and gender roles. It also explored how learning about sex, relationships and gender roles influences the construction of masculine and feminine identities. The study investigated how this creates risk for HIV among the youth of Ematyholweni, a rural area in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. A qualitative research design was adopted in this study. This study sampled data from a broader data set originating in an NRF study on sexual activity and risk behaviour. Seven focus groups and 12 individual interviews with female and male participants aged between 15-30 years were sampled for this study. The total sample size for this study was 58. Thematic analysis and a discursive framework guided the analysis of the data. The analysis found that the youth are sexually socialized in and through different sites and processes such as schools, traditional isiXhosa games, clinics, the mass media, as well as through peers and parents. In this process youth learn about gender roles. For example young women learn the importance of being in a committed relationship, and young men learn the importance of sexual intercourse in a relationship. This study found that barriers to safe sex are influenced by dominant discourses and how young people learn about sex, relationships and gender roles. These ways of learning and the participants’ investments in these discourses rationalized risky sexual behaviours.