, Volume 43, Issue 6, pp 1087-1095,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 12 Apr 2014

Adolescents’ Beliefs About Forced Sex in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Abstract

Gender-based violence has serious consequences for the psychological, physical, and sexual well-being of both men and women. Various gender roles, attitudes, and practices in South Africa create an environment that fosters submission and silence in females and hegemony and coercion in males. One of the expressions of this power inequity is a high prevalence of forced sex, which in its turn is associated with higher risk of HIV infection. This study therefore assessed potential gender differences in beliefs about forced sex and in prevalence of reported forced sex among high school students (N = 764) in KwaZulu-Natal. Results showed that significantly more boys were sexually active (26 %) than girls (12 %) and that boys experienced earlier sexual debut by over a year. Boys also held a more positive view about forced sex than girls since they associated it more often with signs of love, as an appropriate way to satisfy sexual urges, and as acceptable if the girl was financially dependent on the boy. The perception that peers and friends considered forced sex to be an effective way to punish a female partner was also more common among boys. On the other hand, boys were less knowledgeable about the health and legal consequences of forced sex, but no significant differences were found for other sociocognitive items, such as self-efficacy and behavioral intention items. Consequently, health education programs are needed to inform both boys and girls about the risks of forced sex, to convince boys and their friends about its inappropriateness and girls to empower themselves to avoid forced sex.