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Sociol Health Illn. 2005 Jan;27(1):68-91.

What is heterosexual coercion? Interpreting narratives from young people in Mexico City.

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1
Unit for International Public Health and Development, Department of Primary Care and Social Medicine, Imperial College London, UK. c.marston@imperial.ac.uk

Abstract

Freedom from sexual coercion is frequently cited as essential for good sexual health. Sexual experiences cannot usually be observed directly, and interpretation of interview data is therefore crucial in our understanding of sexual behaviour. This paper explores the ways in which narratives can be used to understand sexual experiences, using coercion as a specific example. The narratives examined are from interviews with young people in low-income areas of Mexico City. This study demonstrates that sexual coercion is impossible to define objectively. In addition, the concept of coercion is focused too much on women, excluding men's negative sexual experiences, and can include events that the 'victims' do not see as coercive. Coercion is a highly subjective and fluid concept, limiting its value as a defining element of sexual health. An alternative way of conceptualising coercive experiences is suggested.

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