Love grows with sex: teenagers negotiating sex and gender in the context of HIV and the implications for sex education

  • Deevia Bhana
Keywords: black African teenagers, gender, HIV, relationships, sexuality


How do teenagers located in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa, the epicentre of the HIV pandemic, give meaning to sexuality? This paper examines teenage black Africans investments in sex and sexuality and the gendered dynamics through which sexuality is articulated. Whilst unequal gender relations of power continue to feature prominently within relationship dynamics fuelling the gendering of HIV, attention to the micro-processes through which relationships are forged remain significant in illustrating the complex connections between love, sex and gender. Drawing on empirical findings with teenagers between the ages of 16 and 17 years old, the paper shows how relationships are conceptualised based on discourses of love. Love is inextricably bound up with sex and when teenagers talk about love and sex they also talk about condom use, multiple sexual partners and gender inequalities. What teenagers were interested in for their sexual relationships was not raised in sex education programmes at school. Implications for addressing teenage constructions of sexuality are discussed in the conclusion.

Keywords: black African teenagers, gender, HIV, relationships, sexuality


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1608-5906
print ISSN: 1727-9445