Masculinity, sexuality and vulnerability in 'working' with young men in South African contexts: 'you feel like a fool and an idiot...a loser'

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 5
  • Abstract:

    South Africa has seen a rapid increase in scholarship and programmatic interventions focusing on gender and sexuality, and more recently on boys, men and masculinities. In this paper, we argue that a deterministic discourse on men's sexuality and masculinity in general is inherent in many current understandings of adolescent male sexuality, which tend to assume that young women are vulnerable and powerless and young men are sexually powerful and inevitably also the perpetrators of sexual violence. Framed within a feminist, social constructionist the oretical perspective, the current research looked at how the masculinity and sexuality of South African young men is constructed, challenged or maintained. Focus groups were conducted with young men between the ages of 15 and 20 years from five different schools in two regions of South Africa, the Western and Eastern Cape. Data were analysed using Gilligan's listening guide method. Findings suggest that participants in this study have internalised the notion of themselves as dangerous, but were also exploring other possible ways of being male and being sexual, demonstrating more complex experiences of manhood. We argue for the importance of documenting and highlighting the precariousness, vulnerability and uncertainty of young men in scholarly and programmatic work on masculinities.