Military men and sexual practices: Discourses of ‘othering’ in safer sex in the light of HIV/AIDS
Despite recent reports that there is increasing condom use, generally resistance to condom use is still high. This paper focuses on factors inhibiting condom use and explores issues of responsibility for safe sex practices to prevent infection among a group of 14 South African male soldiers. Military men are particularly vulnerable to HIV because of their working conditions; for example, working far from home and being among communities where they have greater economic and political power, as well as in relation to their identities and sexualities as men, and how that is exaggerated by the institutional framework of the military. The data in this paper were drawn from a larger qualitative study exploring a group of military men’s narratives on their masculinity, sexuality, sexual relationships and HIV/AIDS. Semi-structured interviews were the main data collection method, and the interview transcripts were analysed primarily through interpretive discourse analysis. Findings of this study show that most participants used the socially desirable discourse that safe sex practices (specifically condom use) should be everybody’s responsibility. However, there was also the discourse of the ‘other’ responsible person, which was linked to gender, race, ethnicity, education and rank. The paper concludes with a recommendation that tackling HIV in the military needs to involve the rigorous examination of social factors such as gender, race and ethnicity.