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Narratives of Sexual Abstinence: A Qualitative Study of Female Adolescents in a Cape Town Community

Year: 2006
Author: Kahn, Lauren
Unit: SSU
Journal: Social Dynamics
Volume: 32
Issue: 1
Pages: 75-101
Abstract:

The paper draws upon critical health psychology to explore decision-making around sexual abstinence among adolescent girls in Ocean View, a poor, 'coloured' neighbourhood in Cape Town, South Africa. These girls 'deviate' from the norm in that they have chosen sexual abstinence in a context characterised by high levels of adolescent promiscuity. Their sexual decisionmaking is found to be a means whereby the participants attempt to challenge destructive sexual norms operating within their community. Abstinence might be seen as part of a broader strategy of making and taking opportunities to escape from the destructive cycles of life in Ocean View, and is bound up in both instrumental and symbolic concerns. This paper finds that sexual decision-making is informed more by the psychosocial and material context than by cognitive factors; in this sense, HIV/AIDS interventions based upon educating adolescents about sexual health are unlikely to have a significant effect upon sexual decision-making and behaviour.


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