The nineteen female students interviewed for this study drew on various religious, cultural, racial and class sexual scripts in their SD relationship experiences. Exploration of their formative sexual scripts or discourses brought to light how they understand, experience, and make choices about sexuality in their everyday lives as young African women who are students, in a post-apartheid context.
From home (ekhaya) to university (evava), participants’ narratives suggested continuities and discontinuities. A discourse and content analysis of narratives revealed how these offer opportunities and constraints for young women in their attempt to exercise agency.
‘Although in SD relationships, participants challenge the traditional scripts of love, intimacy and desire, the coercive effects of dominant ideologies of femininity are ever-present,’ said Ngcobo. ‘Hegemonic masculinities in particular, function to regulate subject positions, and participants make choices within such regulations, thus highlighting the complementarity of emphasised femininity and hegemonic masculinity. It then appears that alongside choices and ability to challenge hegemonic masculinities in SD relationships, young African women’s discourses and practices also act to reaffirm them.’
The analysis of the narratives further revealed that young women are aware of the risks that SD relationships pose whether to their health, and or the ‘self’, and strategies to circumvent these risks within a neoliberal context are critically analysed. ‘While these strategies position young women not as powerless victims, they simultaneously expose the broader societal conditions that constrain young women’s choices,’ said Ngcobo.