‘Men value their dignity’: securing respect and identity construction in urban informal settlements in South Africa

Background: Urban informal settlements remain sites of high HIV incidence and prevalence, as well as violence. Increasing attention is paid to how configurations of young men’s masculinities shape these practices through exploring how men build respect and identity. In this paper, we explore how young Black South Africans in two urban informal settlements construct respect and a masculine identity.

Methods: Data are drawn from three focus groups and 19 in-depth interviews.

Results: We suggest that while young men aspire to a ‘traditional’ masculinity, prioritising economic power and control over the household, we suggest that a youth masculinity emerges which, in lieu of alternative ways to display power, prioritises violence and control over men’s sexual partners, men seeking multiple sexual partners and men’s violence to other men. This functions as a way of demonstrating masculinity and their position within a public gender order.

Discussion: We suggest there are three implications of the findings for working with men on violence and HIV-risk reduction. First, there exist a number of contradictions in men’s discourses about masculinity that may provide spaces and opportunities for change. Second, it is important to work on multiple issues at once given the way violence, alcohol use, and sexual risk are interlinked in youth masculinity. Finally, engaging with men’s exclusion from the capitalist system may provide an important way to reduce violence.

Read the full report: 23676-120609-1-PB



Publication Type Paper
Publisher Global Health Action
Year 2014
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