MRC/info4africa KZN Community Forum | July 2014 | Youth Sexualities | Mz Kerry Frizelle

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Kerry Frizelle, Counselling Psychologist and Psychology Lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal presented on “Vulnerable Sexualities” at the July 2014 MRC/info4africa KZN Community Forum. …

Kerry Frizelle, Counselling Psychologist and Psychology Lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal presented on “Vulnerable Sexualities” at the July 2014 MRC/info4africa KZN Community Forum.
Kerry’s presentation showcased the findings of a research survey conducted by two Psychology Honours students, Olwethu Jili and Khanyisile Nene, under her supervision. By critically analysing media reports that highlighted youth sexuality, Kerry and her students uncovered a variety of assumptions and underpinning principles that negatively portrayed youth sexuality in South African newspapers that are aimed at an adult readership.

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  • 1. Vulnerable Sexualities Kerry Frizelle UKZN frizellek1@ukzn.ac.za
  • 2. Background HSRC 2014 • In 2012 1.2% population HIV positive (6.4 million). • 15-24 – Incidence: 139 000 (male 26, 000, female 113,000) • HIV incidence has declined in 15-24 age group • 2.8%: 2002-2005 – 2.3%: 2005-2008 – 1.5 2008-2012 • Significantly higher percentage (58.4%) of condom use than other age groups. • However, condom use across age groups reduced. • 15-24 more likely to believe at risk, and more knowledgeable about transmission and prevention. • However, overall, only 26.8% had accurate knowledge. • 62.2% HIV positive males and 45% positive males are not aware of their status.
  • 3. Our study • 1980’s social research – based on taken for granted assumptions about youth as ‘high risk’. • South African materials – turbulent transition from adolescence to adulthood. • View youth as ‘innocence’ = prohibiting, banning, punishing. • Paternalistic, patronising programmes – child hostile. • My role as a lecturer ‘disrupt’ and ‘trouble’ these ideas. • Examine ‘historically imagined’ assumptions. • Make youth differently visible. • Anyone working with youth.
  • 4. Childhood, youth and sexuality • Law extended childhood in Africa to age of 18 – a period of immaturity warranting differential treatment. • Innocent and in need of protection. • Global standards has portrayed all youth as dependent, immature, incapable of assuming responsibility. • Protectionist stance. • Sexual socialisation within the South African context – not always as it is now. • Psychology – ‘storm and stress’ model of youth.
  • 5. Newspaper Articles • How are these ideas (re)produced in newspaper articles targeted at adults? • Grand narrative – or a dominant story – of negative and problematic youth sexuality. • What ‘sub-stories’ are activated in the articles?
  • 6. Legal/Criminal Discourse • Either a perpetrator of a sexual crime or a victim of a sexual crime. • What is rendered invisible is the possibility of a consensual, pleasurable and active sexuality. • Research shows youth are having sex as young as 15 – not all victims. • Youth sexuality only acknowledged when framed as a crime. • Protectionist stance – future sexual subjects – prepared to avoid risk. • Adolescent sexuality is equated with violence. • Danger and disease. • Female youth sexuality = a moment of victimisation. • Do not acknowledge the complexity of sexuality – negative and positive.
  • 7. Developmental/Transitional • Youth are represented as being primarily experimental, explorative and driven by internal developmental forces. • Sex-crazed – raging hormones – unable to control their behaviour that is driven by biology, bodily changes and/or peer pressure. • Inherently chaotic, out of control, easily influenced and hyper- sexual,
  • 8. Gendered discourse • Females feature more than males - teenage pregnancy is a female problem. • Female youth are represented as sexually immoral – male sexuality normalised. • It is female youth who are more often explicitly and implicitly reported as being sexual victims. • Pregnancy = abuse • Woman binary – either sexually immoral or victims. • Missing discourse of desire and agency. • Males are the perpetrators. • Almost exclusively heterosexual.
  • 9. Parental discourse • On one hand they are positioned as adults who are ultimately responsible for guiding and monitoring. • On other hand the are seen as failures and to blame. • Primarily working or unemployed parents who are represented as unavailable, permissive and irresponsible. • Low and middle income youth more likely to be sexually active than higher income.
  • 10. Racial Discourse • Although racial category ‘black’ is not used, reference to particular geographical spaces, surveys and visual representations suggest black children’s behaviour particularly problematic. • Black youth sexuality is foregrounded and seen as a problem, while white sexuality remains hidden and normalised. • Interventions for black youth.
  • 11. Expert Discourse • Full of references to experts. • Professionals become the ultimate experts and regulators of youth sexuality because of the ‘failings’ of women. • Youth seen as irresponsible and incapable of contributing.
  • 12. Scientific Discourse • Serves to verify the problematic nature of youth sexuality as scientific using statistical evidence. • Using statistics means that you can claim something is a ‘truth’. • Claims about a problematic youth sexuality become difficult to question in the face of scientific evidence. • Surveys are a sight of a close surveillance and control – where lives and relationships of youth are closely monitored and controlled. • 1980’s research – while data to confirm high risk behaviour – the data that showed they were making healthy decisions overlooked. • Youth remain marginalised.
  • 13. So… • South African youth sexuality is constructed as problematic. • Active (black) youth (hetero)sexuality is authoritatively rendered problematic, inherently out of control and in need of the intervention of experts and professionals. • Risk focused interventions. • Unless we challenge sexist, classist and racist notions of sexuality we will fail to empower youth. • Missing discourse of desire. • We need to read our textual worlds more critically and examine our often ‘imagined’ fears.