n Journal of Educational Studies - Choosing to be unsafe : young adults' sexual decision-making within the context of HIV and AIDS

Volume 10, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1680-7456



It is important to understand why young adults continue to engage in sexual practices that place them at risk of exposure to infection, despite having higher levels of knowledge about HIV and AIDS. The data presented in this paper are drawn mainly from single-sex and mixed-sex focus group discussions and individual interviews in a secondary school in South Africa. Employing the theoretical lens of identity, I attempt to understand the gendered responses of these young adults about their deliberate choices to engage with sexual practices that they know to be risky. I have selected those aspects of the interview data that addressed unsafe sexual practices as a choice rather than that which is based on ignorance or violence, and generated four categories for discussion in this paper: flesh to flesh is best; knowing your partner; love, sex and trust; and boys will be boys. The findings indicate that even though young adults are aware of the risks associated with unprotected sex, they often chose to engage in unsafe sexual practices. I argue that while they present these as choices based on well thought-out reasons, they are merely succumbing to performances associated with conventional versions of femininities and masculinities.

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