n Communicare : Journal for Communication Sciences in Southern Africa - Social constructions of "being faithful" among university students and the implications for their reception of partner-fidelity messages

Volume 28, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0259-0069



This paper examines how the social constructions of the notion of "being faithful" influenced university students' responses to messages encouraging partner fidelity, and their sexual practices especially with regard to concurrent and multiple sexual relationships. The discussions are based on the results of a PhD study conducted at three universities in KwaZulu-Natal to explore students' responses to communication and media strategies relating to the prevention of infection with HIV through abstinence, being faithful to one partner and the correct and consistent use of condoms. Study findings show that a significantly high proportion (39.0%) of the study participants who indicated having had sex in the previous 12 months had more than one sexual partner in the same period. Close to half (48.5%) of the currently sexually active students had more than one sexual partner. The study further established that the socially constructed meaning of "being faithful", as a commitment towards matrimonial relationship, mainly influenced individual's engagement in multiple and concurrent sexual relationships. The study points out the need for the development of social communication programmes so as to generate spaces within which socially created meanings, beliefs and values can be renegotiated.

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