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Moral and ethical dilemmas of young African men in intimate heterosexual relationships: a dialogical perspective.

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While there is a growing body of knowledge on the study of masculinities, only a few studies have tried to understand the moral and ethical dilemmas young African men experience in relationships with women. The main objective of this study was to understand the moral and ethical dilemmas experienced by young African men in their intimate relationships with women. The study also sought to understand how various scripts of manhood/masculinities available in their social and cultural milieus shape these dilemmas. Non-probability sampling making use of purposive samples was adopted and a total of seven African male undergraduates and postgraduate students at a local university, between the ages of 21 and 35, participated in the study. Thematic analysis and the voice centered relational method, developed by Brown and Gilligan (1992), were used to analyze the data. Findings indicate that young African men are influenced by the sociocultural constructs of manhood when faced with making decisions in intimate relationships with partners. Dialogical tensions created by multiple voices of the individual self, culture and society, complicate the process of decision-making. At times men are required to choose actions that are contrary to their beliefs, in the desire to conform to the dictates of culture, society or peers. African men in this study shared feelings of guilt and regret due to certain interactions with women, which they later regarded as unfair. At times the participants also found it difficult to ‘be men’ because of women’s social and economic empowerment. There exist a need for further research aimed at the dialogical self, which recognizes the interplay of different voices within an individual, and examines how individuals construct meaning out of this multiplicity of voices.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.