Sexual identity : same–sex experiences of young males
Joubert, Helena Elizabeth
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Same-sex experiences are more prevalent than is thought. Individuals often engage in same-sex behaviours in order to understand their same-sex attractions, which may result in the incorrect integration of a homosexual or bisexual sexual identity. Same-sex behaviour may also lead to feelings of guilt and shame, and can result in confusion regarding sexual identity, which could ultimately influence the successful integration of a sexual identity (a key developmental task during adolescence) and subsequent stages of an individual’s life. This study investigated how young males experienced their sexual identity after having same-sex experiences. In order to better understand these experiences, this study also looked at sexual identity and its development from a psychosocial approach. In addition, this study also took a phenomenological approach into account to better understand how young males understand their same-sex experiences within their socio-cultural context. The qualitative research method was used because it aims to understand how people make sense of their everyday lives and foregrounds participants’ perceptions and experiences. When researching human behaviour, context and behaviour cannot be separated and therefore a phenomenological design was used. The population included five young males who lived in the Boland and Northern suburbs of the Western Cape and who have had same-sex experiences. The participants were selected utilizing the non-probability (convenient purposive) sampling technique, however, the sampling procedure also made use of snowball sampling. Biographically, the participants were between the ages of 18 and 24, and had different sexual orientations. The participants included black and white students who spoke Afrikaans or English, and originated from different provinces in South Africa. Data were collected through a two-part semi-structured interview. The first interview focused on questions about the participants’ sexual preference and identity, same-sex experiences and support system. During the second interview participants were asked to make a collage representing how they viewed their sexual identity with regards to the same-sex experiences they have had. This interview also focused on member checking. The collages and member checking served as forms of triangulation. Data were transcribed and analysed by means of a content analysis that focused on four main categories. These categories corresponded to four main questions that formed part of the first interview. The researcher concluded that each participant experienced his sexual identity and same-sex encounters differently and that none of them experienced the development of their sexual identity as ‘natural’ or as something that was present from birth. They all experienced confusion and conflict about their sexual preference because it was in contrast to their socio-cultural context. Same-sex experiences were the result of confusion but also caused confusion and this confusion was mostly experienced in the earlier life stages. More research is needed on the heterosexual identity development of heterosexual identified individuals who have same-sex experiences, so that these individuals can also be accommodated within a sexuality. The development of programmes for therapeutic and/or educational purposes, that focus on the sexual identity and sexual identity development of adolescents, must also be considered in future research.
- Humanities