Sense and sensibilities: Schoolboys talk about sex in the private conversational space
Adams Tucker, Leigh
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This article focuses on the narratives of 18 adolescent boys as they engaged with issues of sex, sexuality and peer relations in their daily lives. The ethnographic research was conducted in two public secondary schools in a working-class community within KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Participants were boys aged between 16 and 19 years, who self-identified as either Black African or Indian. Theories of positioning are employed in this paper to delve into the complexity and intricacies of boys enacting their masculinities and sexual identities within a one-to-one interview space with one of the researchers. Identity performance in this private space is read in relation to public positions (in the company of peers), exposing the malleable nature of positioning and its subjective use in different spaces. Findings suggest that boys’ struggle with the concept and social practice of ‘masculinity’, and that while they may not want to be seen as aspiring to certain ideals regarding male sexuality, these values remain a standard against which to evaluate self and other. In the individual interviews, authenticity as a heterosexual man is negotiated through various rhetorical strategies, namely a tendency to self-position as mature and sensible. It is argued that positionality is a useful conceptual tool for highlighting diversities in the performance of masculinities, and that intervention strategies need to pay attention to how spaces are constructed and nurtured for boys to engage with the ideological dilemmas in their identity development.