#Blessed : the blesser phenomenon : transactional sex and intergenerational relationships in urban South Africa
Abstract: Relationships between women and typically older men for gifts and money in exchange for sex in South Africa are common, and known as blesser relationships. Their increasing acceptability and accessibility has been linked to negative sexual and reproductive health outcomes among young black African women. Using focus group discussions and semi-structured individual interviews, this thesis investigates the blesser phenomenon in South Africa through societal perceptions from peers, family and the wider community, and their interaction with motivations and experiences of women engaging in blesser relationships. Bourdieu’s (1977) Theory of Practice is used to understand how perceptions and behaviours are formed, recognising the importance of intersectionality affecting the women involved in blesser relationships. This thesis finds that on the surface societal perceptions are largely negative, with families believed to hold the most extreme views. Community-wide condemnation is considered commonplace, although perceived to be slowly changing. Motivations for involvement with blessers are driven largely by material benefits, and while societal perceptions are influential, they are more prone to result in adaption of behaviour rather than abandonment of the relationship. On closer analysis however, dichotomies in perceptions are revealed and women’s motivations and behaviour are more complex than they appear.
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