Impediments to safer heterosexual sex: a review of research with young people

Wight, D. (1992) Impediments to safer heterosexual sex: a review of research with young people. AIDS Care, 4(1), pp. 11-23. (doi: 10.1080/09540129208251616)

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This article reviews the existing British literature on the micro-social details of young people's heterosexual encounters, emphasizing the cultural factors which impede the adoption of health education advice. Most of the findings cited come from qualitative projects that relied primarily on detailed interviews or group discussions. Six issues are highlighted: difficulties in talking about sex; the gender-role expectations brought to an encounter; the primary function of condoms as contraceptives; problems in buying, carrying and using condoms; how the stage of a particular relationship affects behaviour, and gendered power relations. Several important issues are not addressed in the existing literature. The survey data on sexual behaviour suggest that HIV has had little impact on sexual activity, apart from a reported increase in condom use. Qualitative studies reveal the moral categories, gender-role expectations, power inbalances and other cultural factors that prevent a high level of knowledge about HIV transmission from being translated into safer heterosexual behaviour. Their findings provide important insights into how realistic and practical safer sex messages are. They suggest that to promote health in respect to HIV it is necessary not only to advocate specific precautionary behaviour, such as using condoms, but also to address wider cultural issues relating to the taboos around the discussion of sex and the empowerment of women.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Wight, Professor Danny
Authors: Wight, D.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
Journal Name:AIDS Care
ISSN (Online):1360-0451

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