n African Journal of Rhetoric - 'Living in a box' : rhetorical dilemmas in the (re)production of young heterosexual masculinities

Volume 2, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1998-2054


This paper seeks to empirically explore and theorize how one grade 11 boy creates and seek out spaces from which to enact his masculinity through traditional heterosexual discourses, including being 'at risk' of getting AIDS. The paper will draw on a year-long ethnographic study of how boys construct their gender and sexual identities in two South African high schools. In this study, the narrative of a student, nicknamed Patrick, focuses on his personal struggle with the non conventional views on heterosexual relationships of his friend, whom I shall call Siswe. This paper gives central prominence to the notion of 'doing' compulsory heterosexuality (Rich, 1980) and also to ideological dilemmas related to processes of masculinity making. Given the psychological complexity in processes of identification, it is suggested that opportunities for interventions with boys should exploit the contradictory nature of sexual identities in boys (and versions of masculinities) in peer spaces with boys and girls in order to actively challenge hegemonic discourses of heterosexuality.

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