Research Article: Feeling Under Pressure: Perspectives of the Meaning of Love and Sexual Relationships Amongst Young Men in KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa

Date Published: March 21, 2019

Publisher: SAGE Publications

Author(s): Thabang Manyaapelo, Sibusiso Sifunda, Robert A.C. Ruiter, Anam Nyembezi, Bart van den Borne, Priscilla Reddy.


This study aimed to explore perspectives on the meaning of love and sexual relations amongst young men in KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa. Gaining insights into these perspectives will help to understand the sexual behaviors of these young men better and to eventually develop more effective HIV prevention interventions. Focus group discussions were conducted in two study areas using a predetermined semistructured discussion guide. The findings indicate that the phenomenon of romantic relationship try-outs together with the idea of “feeling under pressure” to propose love to more than one woman seem to be accepted practices that often lead to multiple concurrent sexual partners and therefore potentially risky sexual behaviors. The fear of impregnating a woman is seen to be of a more significant concern than acquiring a sexually transmitted infection due to the stigma and embarrassment associated with pregnancy outside marriage. Given these findings, it is recommended that future studies investigate perspectives on sexuality and reproductive health in male populations in great detail prior to the development of behavioral change interventions because failure to do so may hamper well-intended but poorly targeted health interventions.

Partial Text

Four FGDs were conducted, two in the rural area and two in the peri-urban area. All the participants interviewed described themselves as heterosexual, and nearly all were unemployed. The rural participants were in the ages ranges of 18–25 (mean = 20.6) and 18–35 (mean = 24.4), while the peri-urban participants were in the age ranges of 18–25 (mean = 22.6) and 18–29 (mean = 23.8).

This study aimed to get a better understanding of how young men view their romantic relationships and their perspectives on the meaning of love within these relationships. The study was part of a preliminary process that sought to develop and adapt a health behavior change intervention to help address risky sexual behaviors contributing to HIV transmission in KZN. Given the history of oppression and forced labor migration in South Africa coupled with some of the highest incidences of sexual violence against women in the world, it is imperative that we learn more about men’s perspectives on their relationships with women.

The findings reflect the views and beliefs of a relatively small sample of young men from one specific region of South Africa and therefore should be interpreted with caution. A purposeful sampling method was used due to structural challenges such as the vast distances between villages and the lack of transport for the community members. The research team could only access community members who were available. This resulted in FGDs with young men who were mainly unemployed or not in school. When interpreting these results, it should also be considered that the nature of FGD can also be limiting. Given that the participants reside in the same area and possibly have an overlap in terms of circles of friends and close acquaintances, the views expressed may possibly have been sanitized.




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