Global Resources

Careful Interventions: Masculinity and the Condom Crisis

Author: J. Lewis
Publisher: BRIDGE
Publication Date: Oct 2007
Do prevailing ideas about how 'real men' should behave undermine effective condom use? This paper argues that expectations of how 'real' men must behave - particularly the pressure to be sexually potent and experienced - can undermine effective condom use. Correct and consistent condom use requires forms of communication, yet traditional gender norms make it hard for men to ask for help or to reveal ignorance or anxieties. The paper argues for the promotion of two strategies within sex education, HIV prevention and safer sex programmes to address these challenges. Firstly, we need to try and shift gender expectations and make clear the costs of not doing this. Secondly, we need to stimulate wider discussion of the myths that exist about the male body, and enable men to talk openly about their different sexual experiences and concerns. In this way, the paper hopes to move towards a situation where men can enter into sexual activities with women or men without that cliff-hanging feeling of needing to get it right, never quite knowing if they did, and fearing losing face if certain things don't happen in the certain ways that the 'masculinity script' would have them - and their partners - believe it should.