Sons and fathers/boys to men in the time of AIDS: Learning masculinity in Zambia

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The spread of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa is driven, at least in part, by particular expressions of heterosexual masculinities, especially those that entail aggressive sexuality. More needs to be known about how boys come to construct, experience and define themselves as men and about how hegemonic constructions are, and might be, contested. The recognition that masculinities are historically, socially and economically constructed, and that gender is a process, offers the potential for change. Many studies have described women's vulnerability to HIV along a number of dimensions, among them biological, economic, social and cultural. What is perhaps less self-evident in view of the real power exercised by many men in everyday life in Zambia and elsewhere is the vulnerability of men because of the demands made upon them by particular constructions of masculinity. This article draws upon life-histories collected from a cohort of men educated at a Zambian Catholic mission to explore their recollections of how they learnt to be men and their discovery of themselves as engendered sexual beings. The roots of many understandings of masculinity are to be found in domestic and extra-domestic worlds where boys observed the ways in which men took precedence and exercised power over women and children. The particular contributions of the father and the male peer group to the development of masculine identities are the focus of this discussion. © 2005 The Editorial Board of Journal of Southern African Studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)568-586
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Southern African Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2005


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