South African Men Who Commit Gender-Based Violence Are More Likely to Have Transactional Sex

Article excerpt

In rural South Africa, the strongest predictor of whether a young man has exchanged money or other gifts for sex is whether he has committed intimate partner violence or rape, according to an analysis of data from an HIV prevention trial. (1) Transactional sex is also associated with high socioeconomic status, adverse childhood experiences, having large number of sexual partners and alcohol use. These associations hold regardless of whether the young man is the provider or the recipient of the gifts, and whether the sex is with his main partner or a casual partner.

The study was a secondary analysis of data from a study of an HIV prevention program that recruited 1,396 young men aged 15-26 from secondary schools in 70 villages in South Africa's Eastern Cape province. At base-line, participants completed structured, face-to-face interviews that included items about demographic variables, media exposure, childhood trauma, alcohol abuse (determined by the World Health Organization's screening quedtionnaire), resistance to peer pressure, coerced sex with men and attitudes toward gender relations and relationship control. In addition, participants were asked whether they had ever engaged in transactional sex, defined as heterosexual intercourse motivated by the provision (by either partner) of food, clothes, transportation, cosmetics, gifts for family members, school fees, a place to sleep, alcohol, a "fun night out" or money; they were also asked if they had ever been part of a transactional relationship--one in which either partner's involvement had been primarily motivated by expectations of receiving material goods. Finally, participants were asked whether they had ever engaged in emotional, physical or sexual violence against a main girlfriend and whether they had ever coerced a woman who was not their girlfriend into having sex. The researchers calculated descriptive statistics, and identified predictors of transactional sex using logistic regression.

After the exclusion of respondents who had never had sex or who had not provided an adequate sexual history, the final sample consisted of 1,288 young men. Most were 20 or younger (84%), and nearly all were students (97%) and had a main girlfriend (89%). On average, they had had seven lifetime sex partners; 7.3% had had at least one casual partner.

Although not the norm, transactional sex was not uncommon: About one in five respondents had had such sex with a casual partner, either as the provider of resources (13%), the recipient (2%) or both (5%). A similar proportion had been part of a transactional relationship, as the provider (7%), recipient (6%) or both (8%).

Gender-based violence was the strongest predictor of transactional sex with a casual partner. Men who had perpetrated both physical and sexual intimate partner violence with a main partner were more likely than those who had done neither to have had transactional sex, either as the provider of material resources (odds ratio, 5.6) or recipient (2.8). Men who had committed a sexual assault outside of a relationship also had elevated odds of having had transactional sex as the provider (1.6) or recipient (2.2). Emotional abuse against a main partner was associated with receiving resources from a casual partner (2.3), but not with giving them.

In addition, the odds of having provided gifts in exchange for sex were elevated among respondents with an alcohol problem (odds ratio, 1.6) and increased with each additional year of age (odds ratio, 1. …