Gender differences in South African men and women’s access to and evaluation of informal sources of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) information
While much research has documented unsatisfactory sexual and reproductive health (SRH) awareness among young people in South Africa, understanding of gender differences in access to and evaluation of SRH information is limited. This paper concerned itself with men and women’s informal sources and content of SRH, and gendered divergences around accessibility, evaluation, and impact of such information. Fifty sexual history narrative interviews and twenty-five narrative interviews with women were conducted with participants purposively sampled from a range of ages, cultural and racial backgrounds, and in urban and rural sites across five provinces in South Africa. Data were analysed using thematic analysis. While young women were more likely to learn about SRH information from family members, they also reported greater regulation concerning their sexuality. This could enhance stigma surrounding women’s sexuality and hinder open communication. Men predominantly learned about sex through pornography and peers, which was reported to encourage sexual prowess to the neglect of practising safer sex. Lack of adequate SRH instruction for young people as revealed through the narratives had significant and often negative implications for men and women’s early safer sex behaviours. In response to these insights, recommendations are offered to strengthen informal sources of SRH awareness.