Men and the Intimate Spaces of Heterosex: The Journey Towards Embracing Reflexive Masculinities

Authors: Laura Pascoe*, Bedroom Feminist
Topics: Gender, Sexuality, Africa
Keywords: Masculinities, sexuality, sexual pleasure, intimate spaces, HIV, pregnancy prevention
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Rampart, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The intimate spaces of hetersex are wrought with gender-power dynamics, the reality of which can determine the degree of safety and pleasure experienced by those involved. Pulling from in-depth interviews with men and women aged 26-39 from a variety of different backgrounds in the Cape Town area of South Africa, this paper examines masculinities in the spaces of heterosexual sexual encounters, particularly in relation to negotiating HIV and pregnancy prevention and women’s sexual pleasure. I argue that women’s sexual and reproductive autonomies in a heterosexual context cannot be achieved without the engagement and support of men. This finding diverges from some feminist scholarship that situates the realization of such autonomies in isolation from male engagement, and it also challenges the field of engaging men and boys for gender justice by insisting on a comprehensive conceptualization of sexual and reproductive autonomies as opposed to a piecemeal approach to these autonomies. I introduce the concept of “reflexive masculinities” in opposition to defensive and hegemonic masculinities. That is, this paper argues that men who demonstrate “reflexive masculinities,” defined as embodied by introspection, empathy and emotional reflexivity, negotiate prevention and women’s sexual pleasure as an act of supporting and facilitating sexual and reproductive autonomies and cultivating gender equitable intimate spaces. As such, my research strongly suggests that reflexive masculinities are critical to the constructive engagement of men, the pursuit of gender equality, and the promotion of sexual and reproductive health and well-being for both women and men.

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