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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Masculinity, heteronormativity and young men's sexual health in British Columbia, Canada Knight, Rodney Eric


Background: Young men account for a substantial proportion of reported sexually transmitted infection (STI) and HIV cases in Canada. However, STI/HIV testing rates remain low among young men. While men’s health-related behaviour have been linked to masculine expectations that demand stoicism, independence and denial of illness, little is known about how dominant masculine and/or heteronormative expectations may affect men’s sexual health-related practices that can put them at both an elevated risk of acquiring an STI(s)/HIV and/or affect their ability to access STI/HIV testing services. The objectives of this thesis are to: (1) explore how heteronormative and heterosexist discourses function within clinical settings where young men access STI testing services to better understand the extent to which dominant masculine ideals are (re)produced or resisted in these clinical contexts; (2) identify the social and contextual conditions which facilitate or create barriers to effective sexual health communication amongst men, paying special attention to how idealised masculinities influence these interactions; (3) develop recommendations for sexual health services and future research to improve the sexual health of young men in BC. Results: The findings drawn from this research highlight how idealized masculinity influences young men’s sexual health, including their sexual health-seeking behaviour, sexual practices and the ways in which they talk about sexual health. Specifically revealed are instances in which dominant heternormative expectations ‘hurt’ all men in clinical encounters (e.g., by stereotyping gay men as ‘risky’, thereby alleviating STI/HIV concern for straight men by virtue of their sexual identity). Men’s conversations about sexual health focused primarily around their sexual encounters (e.g., using ironic/teasing humour to embody masculine identities that neither dismiss nor actively express concerns about sexual health), amid processes of ‘manning up’ to break with dominant masculinity (e.g., stoicism) to permit talk about sexual health with peers or sex partners. Discussion: By examining situations in which men (and clinicians) align with or socially reconfigure idealized notions of masculinity related to sexual health, theorists and interventions will better understand how more equitable gender relations can be produced, thereby improving the sexual health of men (and women).

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