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Cult Health Sex. 2010 Nov;12(8):857-70. doi: 10.1080/13691050903471441.

'I just need to be flashy on campus': female students and transactional sex at a university in Zimbabwe.

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Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, Centre for the Study of AIDS, University of Pretoria, South Africa.


This paper challenges two common perceptions regarding transactional sex relationships particularly in Africa: that they are primarily resorted to as survival strategies by economically disadvantaged young women and that sex and money are always exchanged within these relationships. Instead, I show how, in reality, young women and the men they date may use these relationships primarily to compete for social status in their peer groups as well as to fashion themselves as high-status, successful modern subjects. Often, for these particular female students, and indeed the men they date, transactional sex often involves more than a straightforward exchange of sex and money. Ethnographic data was collected at the University of Zimbabwe between August 2006 and December 2007 using participant observation and in-depth interviews. This paper focuses on the experiences of ten female students who were, or had been, involved in transactional sex as well as on interviews conducted with four male students who were 'mediating' transactional sex relationships on campus. Findings suggest the importance of taking into account the contexts in which transactional sex occurs. Transactional sex takes different shapes and holds different meanings depending on where it manifests itself.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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