Queering Narratives of Modernity
Memory Mulalo Mphaphuli - Everyday heterosexualities of young people in South Africa
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MEMORY MULALO MPHAPHULI
Everyday heterosexualities of young people in South Africa
I embarked on a project called ‘interrogating heterosexuality’ as a young post-graduate sociology student in an attempt to understand my own sexuality, that is heterosexuality, in post-apartheid South Africa. I believed, like Johnson (2005: 5), that heterosexuality reflects ‘ironically, the poor relation in sexuality studies but (…) privilege in social life’. In other words, heterosexuality continues to be taken as a largely silent ‘truth’, privileged by its ‘natural’ and thus ‘compulsory’ status that is rarely ever interrogated. In South Africa, heterosexuality is often examined in relation to HIV and AIDS and seldom on its own. It is never critically interrogated for what it is.
Similarly to many young women and men who have been taught ‘sexual education’, I learned how to use a condom from the numerous demonstrations given to me using a dildo. In schools, clinics, road shows and if one is ‘fortunate’ like I was even at home, one is taught how to use a condom and about ‘good’ sexual practices. I learned a good deal about sexually transmitted infections (STIs), especially HIV/AIDS, and how to protect myself from being infected. Yet none of this could satisfactorily explain how my own (hetero)sexuality is constituted by and reflective of my social and cultural contexts. We almost never openly discuss sexuality, much less how our different cultures, class positions, racial and gender identities interact in the production of our sexual...
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