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Soc Sci Med. 1998 Jul;47(2):233-42.

"He forced me to love him": putting violence on adolescent sexual health agendas.

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Women's Health, Centre for Epidemiological Research in Southern Africa, Medical Research Council, Pretoria.


Violence against women within sexual relationships is a neglected area in public health despite the fact that, in partially defining women's capacity to protect themselves against STDs, pregnancy and unwanted sexual intercourse, it directly affects female reproductive health. This paper presents the findings of a qualitative study conducted among Xhosa-speaking adolescent women in South Africa which revealed male violent and coercive practices to dominate their sexual relationships. Conditions and timing of sex were defined by their male partners through the use of violence and through the circulation of certain constructions of love, intercourse and entitlement to which the teenage girls were expected to submit. The legitimacy of these coercive sexual experiences was reinforced by female peers who indicated that silence and submission was the appropriate response. Being beaten was such a common experience that some peers were said to perceive it to be an expression of love. Informants indicated that they did not terminate the relationships for several reasons: beyond peer pressure and the probability of being subjected to added abuse for trying to end a relationship, teenagers said that they perceived that their partners loved them because they gave them gifts of clothing and money. The authors argue that violence has been particularly neglected in adolescent sexuality arenas, and propose new avenues for sexuality research which could inform the development of much-needed adolescent sexual health interventions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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