oa Journal of Psychology in Africa - Re-negotiating sex: discourses of heterosexuality among South African women students

Volume 11, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1433-0237



This paper explores central discourses emerging from women students' talk about heterosexual relationships. Given the widespread problematisation of heterosexual sexuality (heterosex) through feminist critique and the global imperative to halt the spread of HlV infection, there has been a growing focus on heterosex among young people in South Africa. An increasing number of studies highlight widespread coercive sexuality and women's, especially young womens, lack of negotiation in their sexual relations with men. The paper presents a discourse analysis of the transcripts of 14 focus groups held with women students, in single sex and mixed groups, at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa. Three central areas are outlined: male sexual drive, repression of female desire; male power discourse; and discourses of resistance and change. Similar to other local and international studies, the analysis illuminates the pervasiveness of dominant discourses of male and female sexuality which reproduce essential differences between the sexes, male-defined and centred (hetero) sex and the silencing of a positive voice on female sexuality and desires. The analysis also highlights significant contradictions within and between discourses which participants draw on and multiple sites of resistance, which within a discourse analytic framework signifies some possibilities for positive change.

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