Boys’ and young men’s lives are shaped by powerful social and sexual relations, which limit their ability to form healthy relationships and to nurture their own and their sexual partners’ sexual and reproductive health. Typical social constructions of manhood and masculine sexuality inform males’ risk-taking behaviour, constrain their access to health services and thwart health promotion efforts. Such constructions increase the likelihood of boys’ and men’s participation in unplanned pregnancy, disease transmission, and sexual violence.
This paper outlines key aspects of the current ordering of young men’s sociosexual lives. I focus on practices, discourses and relations of gender and sexuality among boys and young men which shape their sexual behaviour, social interactions and sexual relationships. These patterns influence boys’ and young men’s involvements in a range of health issues, including contraception and pregnancy, bodily health, unsafe sex and disease transmission, violence, and sexual and familial relationships more broadly. Therefore, in order to understand both health-related behaviour and the possibilities for health promotion among young men, it is crucial to ‘map’ their social and sexual relations. It is to this exercise that I now turn, beginning with a brief explanation of the terms I use.