'We go to the bush to prove that we are also men': traditional circumcision and masculinity in the accounts of men who have sex with men in township communities in South Africa

SOURCE: Culture, Health & Sexuality
OUTPUT TYPE: Journal Article
PUBLICATION YEAR: 2016
TITLE AUTHOR(S): I.Lynch, M.Clayton
KEYWORDS: CIRCUMCISION, HOMOSEXUALITY, INITIATION RITUALS, MEN
DEPARTMENT: Human and Social Development (HSD)
Print: HSRC Library: shelf number 9339

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Abstract

In predominantly isiXhosa-speaking township communities in South Africa, men who have sex with men negotiate their identities and sexual practices alongside heteronormative cultural scripts of what it means to be a man. Such idealised notions of masculinity are predicated on the selective appropriation of cultural practices that preserve (heterosexual) male privilege and power. In this paper, we explore the identity work done by men who have sex with men, with particular reference to male circumcision as a cultural practice widely drawn on to inform and regulate normative masculinity. Through a narrative-discursive analysis of the accounts provided by men who have sex with men from township communities, we highlight how participants' dissident sexualities are constructed as compromising their masculine identities. Participating in cultural practices such as traditional circumcision aligns participants to the idealised forms of masculinity that afford men full citizenship in their communities. Study findings suggest that sexual dissidence is less troubling to participants than deviating from gendered markers of hegemonic masculinity, and point to ways in which marginalised men might have an interest in maintaining the dominant gendered order. We conclude with implications for research and programmatic work with gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.