>"I Love You": Coercion and Consent In Sexual Relations in Postapartheid South Africa

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"I Love You": Coercion and Consent in Sexual Relations in Postapartheid South Africa Judith L. Singleton This dissertation is an ethnographic study which explores and documents several discourses and practices surrounding sexual coercion and consent in the black South African township of Mpophomeni. I trace and examine discourses and practices related to gender relations, sexuality, sexual violence and law through space and time starting from the colonial to the postapartheid eras. In writing about sexual violence in South Africa, I historicize and contextualize some of the origins of sexual violence in an attempt to destabilize the state's conception of the problem. In December 2007 South Africa passed a new Sexual Offenses Bill which included new legal definitions of rape and consent. In lieu of South Africa's new legal definitions, I examine the sexual experiences of young black South African women and men who live in the Zulu township of Mpophomeni and their understandings of sexual coercion and consent. Proponents of South Africa's new democracy often ignore poor, young women's and men's local understandings of rape, the violence they encounter on a daily basis and the economic transactions embedded within sexual relationships.This study provides historic and ethnographic insight about gender relations, sexuality and sexual violence in South Africa. It offers new findings about AIDS and the impact of the virus on sexual relations. The dissertation explores how AIDS has affected sexual behavior and addresses race, gender and economic inequality over space and time in the South African township of Mpophomeni in the postapartheid era. Overall, I situate the problem of sexual coercion in South Africa within a historical, political, economic, social and theoretical context. I conclude that discourses about rape historically shaped public policy, societal beliefs and practices and continue to have an effect on South African society today. This study also illustrates the wide disparity between discourses produced by the state through laws about rape and consent versus local beliefs about the meanings of these terms. Contested definitions of rape and consent in South Africa exemplify tensions between universalism and cultural relativism concerning sexuality, sexual violence and the law. Unequal social and economic relations between women and men also add to the tensions between black South African women and men regarding rape and sexual consent.

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  • 10/01/2018
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