The local knowledge of transactional sex in a sample of tertiary education students in KwaZulu-Natal.
Glasscoe, Anne Elizabeth.
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Background: Transactional sex has been cited in considerable public health literature in terms of its critical role in HIV and STI transmission (Stoebenau et al., 2011). Much of this literature has focused on women’s experiences, their role, and their vulnerability. However, limited research has investigated the role, motivations, and understandings of men in transactional sex relationships. This project attempts to explore and elaborate on this gap with a focus on men as well as the dynamics between men and women in these relationships. Methods: This study investigated the local knowledge and understandings of transactional sex amongst tertiary students. Focus groups were conducted in order to gain an in depth view of tertiary education students' knowledge about these relationships. The students were sampled from two different tertiary institutions to achieve comparison of the two. Results: The research found that both men and women could act as both the provider and the beneficiary in transactional sex relationships. The position of women as beneficiaries was found to sit on a continuum of agency and vulnerability. Meaning, women were described as having power and control within transactional sex relationships regardless of their role as provider or beneficiary. In addition, transactional sex relationships also exist in homosexual as well as heterosexual communities. New terminology used to define both men and women was also uncovered through the focus group discussion(s). Discussion: Although the findings recognized the often-cited risks of transactional relationships including HIV and STI transmission, this study found an emphasis placed on the dimension of emotional dangers and relationship-morality issues such as divorce, betrayal, deceit, and dependency.