Gender and sexuality in the context of HIV and AIDS: sexual risk and sexual agency amongst coloured high school girls in Durban.
This qualitative study is an exploration of the sexual subjectivities of a group of Coloured high school girls aged 16-17. These girls emerge from both working and middle class backgrounds in the former Coloured suburb of Sydenham in Durban. The study sought to understand what the Coloured girls in this study regard as risky sexual behaviour, what types of risky sexual behaviours they engage in, as well as how they both accommodate and resist male power, with regard to their sexual attitudes and practices. Gender-power and poststructuralist theories were used to show how gender and (male) power are implicated in sexual risk. The findings show that these Coloured girls accommodate, challenge and resist persisting gender norms, traditional sex roles and racial stereotypes. Focus group and individual interviewing techniques elicited responses that show the variegated sexual identities and evidence of sexual agency crafted in their attempts to assert themselves as young women who are able to subvert discourses of male sexual privilege and power. The findings also illuminate how many of the girls in this study demonstrate a certain amount of agency, where they are able to negotiate safe sex practices with their partners. Such resistance and agency has important implications for sexual decision making and girls’ empowerment. Findings of this study were used to develop strategies in order to raise greater HIV and AIDS awareness, encourage safer sex practices as well as build more caring, loving and cohesive relationships.