The Trump Effect on Sexual Health in Africa

By Robert Wyrod

As the Trump presidency enters its third month, we are beginning to see the implications for the U.S. role in promoting global sexual health. Trump’s reinstatement and expansion of the Mexico City Policy, aka the global gag rule, has rightfully received much attention. By prohibiting U.S. foreign aid from funding any organization providing or promoting abortions, it severely limits America’s ability to improve sexual health in the Global South. For the many health clinics across Africa that rely on U.S. funding for reproductive health and family-planning services, this may likely mean dramatically scaling back services or shuttering clinics.

Efforts are underway to challenge the reinstatement, most prominently the Global Health, Empowerment, and Rights (HER) Act led by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). But there is another, less-discussed issue that could have an even greater impact on sexual health worldwide, especially in Africa. Will Trump defund the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief? The PEPFAR program, launched in 2004 during the George W. Bush administration, is the largest health initiative in history focused on fighting a single disease. To date, over $70 billion has been spent on PEPFAR programs, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. This makes PEPFAR a tempting target for the current administration, especially given Trump’s deep skepticism of foreign aid. In mid-January, the Trump transition team sent a series of pointed questions to the State Department about U.S. aid to Africa, asking “Is PEPFAR becoming a massive, international entitlement program?”

In a strange twist of fate, however, it seems the PEPFAR program may dodge the budget ax. This is due in part to PEPFAR’s unusual origin story. The program was conceived in an alliance between conservative evangelical Christians and their political allies, including Jesse Helms, who convinced George W. Bush to act decisively to “save” Africans from the scourge of AIDS. This backstory has made PEPFAR a darling of the religious right—a constituency that Trump is eager to keep in his orbit. To date, the Trump administration has said nothing about the fate of PEPFAR but it is a rare program in which an Obama-appointed director, Deborah Birx, has been allowed to stay at her post. And the fact that Birx is a lifelong evangelical Christian may have played a role in her retention.

PEPFAR has been rightfully heralded as a success in addressing AIDS in Africa, in particular the crucial funding it provides for AIDS drugs across the continent. PEPFAR’s HIV prevention programs, however, have had a much more checkered history. The conservative Christian influence strongly shaped the first iteration of prevention programs, notoriously reserving one third of prevention funds for programs promoting abstinence and “being faithful,” relegating condoms to a maligned fall-back strategy for the morally suspect. Recent studies, including one examining 22 African countries, have shown that these prevention programs, and the roughly billion-and-half dollars spent on them, did nothing to prevent new HIV infections.

These controversial prevention programs were largely phased out in the Obama years. But the question remains if they will gain new-found favor under a Trump presidency. This would indeed be a tragedy for the sexual health of millions of Africans. The science of HIV prevention has now firmly moved away from such puritanical approaches to fighting AIDS. The emphasis today is on addressing HIV prevention more holistically, including ameliorating the effects of broader social-structural drivers of infection, from gender-based violence to unemployment. Even more central to current efforts is the emphasis on getting AIDS drugs to people as soon as possible because that dramatically reduces their ability to pass on HIV to their sexual partners.wyrod_kampala-uganda-condom-billboard

In my own research on AIDS in Uganda, I’ve seen firsthand the negative impact of prevention strategies focused on abstaining and being faithful. These approaches only serve to make sexual health issues more morally charged, and their simplistic focus on individual behavior change can shame HIV-positive people, fueling AIDS stigma. More crucially, exhortations for a person to “choose” abstinence or monogamy do nothing to address economic inequality and gender inequality, both of which are central to women’s and men’s vulnerability to HIV infection in Africa.

While PEPFAR’s emphasis on abstaining and being faithful has declined, about $50million per year is still being spent promoting abstinence and faithfulness programs. This is hardly a trifling amount and increasing it would squander scarce resources for fighting AIDS. Trump needs to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to PEPFAR but not at the expense of returning to ideologically-driven HIV prevention programs that have been resoundingly discredited.

The fundamental roles the twin axes of economic and gender inequality play in the AIDS crisis were glaringly evident in my decade of fieldwork in one community in the Ugandan capital Kampala. Unemployed men would sometimes try to compensate for being failed family providers by having multiple sexual partners. At the same time, some more-successful men would exhibit their economic status by also having multiple partners. Women, however, were stigmatized if they had multiple partners, even if such partners were economic survival strategies. Monogamous women, in turn, often had little ability to challenge their male partners’ sexual behaviors, making them more vulnerable to HIV infection. Addressing these inequalities is key to a true solution to the AIDS crisis in Africa, something well beyond PEPFAR’s simplistic, puritanical preoccupation with changing an individual’s sexual behavior.

Robert Wyrod is an assistant professor in the Women and Gender Studies Department and the International Affairs Program at the University of Colorado Boulder. His first book, AIDS and Masculinity in the African City: Privilege, Inequality, and Modern Manhood, was recently published by the University of California Press.

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Thinking beyond gender: Why does sexuality and race matter in the tech industry?

By Lauren Alfrey  and France Winddance Twine

How do women negotiate male-dominated workplaces of the tech industry? In the February 2017 issue of Gender & Society, we address this question by building upon foundational work on occupational inequality. Inspired by Joan Acker’s concept of inequality regimes, we offer the first qualitative study and intersectional analysis of women tech workers from a wide range of backgrounds. We show how race, class privilege and gender expression shapes the occupational experiences of “geek girls.”alfrey_video_game

In our interviews with 50 men and women employed in a variety of positions in the San Francisco tech industry, we discovered that the gender-fluid, LGBTQ, White and Asian female workers reported a greater sense of belonging among male co-workers when compared to heterosexual women. In contrast to the gender conventional women in our sample, they were perceived as “one of the guys.” However, the gender-fluid Black LGBTQ women we interviewed did not experience the same inclusion or degree of belonging. Neither did conventionally heterosexual White and Asian women, who, like the Black women, also described routine micro-aggressions and sexist interactions that undermined their ability to be seen as competent equals in their workplace.

We argue that this represents a racialized and gendered spectrum of belonging—the dynamic forms of inclusion and exclusion that women experience according to their race, sexuality, and gender presentation. In occupational cultures where masculinity and hetero-normativity are the norm, fluid gender expression provides some women with conditional acceptance. Continue reading

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Blinded by Love

By Cristen Dalessandro and Amy C. Wilkins

Amber, a 26-year-old woman living and working in the Western U.S., recalls a romantic relationship she had with a man named Matt, which did not pan out the way that she hoped. Though the relationship has been long over, early on when things were going well Amber decided to tell Matt that she believed they had the potential for a “healthy” relationship, and she could see them making a long-term commitment. Amber’s words, however, did not go over well with Matt. She said, “…that was a lot of pressure for him. I shouldn’t have, you know, told him that was what my expectations were.”

From then on, their relationship was never quite what Amber had hoped for. Although they had moved across the country together, Amber said Matt grew increasingly emotionally distant and critical of her, and she suspected he was cheating. Despite Matt’s poor treatment of her, Amber blamed herself for almost everything that went wrong in the relationship: “I did make a big sacrifice to be with him, but I don’t want to resent him…It was my choice [and] I depended on him too much.” Even in retrospect, Amber thinks about what she could have done to make the relationship better and to take the “pressure” off Matt. Though Amber was hurt by Matt, she believes the relationship was worthwhile because it helped her realize that she “wanted to be treated right” and it was only through making past mistakes with partners  that she could come to understand what she wanted for herself and her relationships. Continue reading

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The Unconditional Love and Exploitation of the Black Male Athlete

By Angela J. Hattery and Earl Smith

It seems every few weeks or so we have this conversation about Black male athletes who violently abuse their White wives and girlfriends (from Mitch Lee to Corey Batey to OJ Simpson to Lawrence Phillips to Ruben Patterson to Ezekiel Elliott and others), and the fact that they are almost never held accountable, in any meaningful way, for their violent actions.

These are certainly not the first or only cases, but they shine a light on a perplexing phenomenon we have been observing, researching and writing about: the unconditional love of the Black male body – as long as he can throw, run, catch, dunk and score in an athletic contest, entertaining fans and making hundreds of millions of dollars for White coaches, owners and athletic administrators.There seems no better American football player in red jersey and helmet holding ball against blacktime to have this conversation again than now, on the heels of the recent college football bowl game season and on the eve of the SuperBowl, games that have or may involve athletes who have been accused of acts of violence against women.

During the last days of 2016 and the first days of 2017, several college football teams faced scrutiny for their protection of Black men accused of heinous crimes, including 12 football players at the University of Minnesota who are accused of gang-raping a White woman in October and a player at the University of Oklahoma, Joe Mixon, who is seen on video punching a White woman in the face, leaving her unconscious

During the last few days of January 2017, six federal lawsuits have been filed against Baylor University where, since 2012, 32 football players have been accused of committing 52 rapes (5 were gang rapes involving 10 players raping one woman).  At Baylor, most of the accused players are Black and all of the victims are White. Data from 2014 reveal that of all NFL players arrested, 55% were arrested for intimate partner violence and another 38% were arrested for sexual violence, in other words 4 in 5 NFL players arrested between 2000 and 2014 were arrested for acts of violence against women. Continue reading

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Bud-sex: Sex between rural straight men

By Tony Silva

Scholarly interest in straight men that have sex with men has increased in recent years, and for good reason: the narratives of men in this population highlight the social construction of sexualities and masculinities. How individuals identify, understand, and express their sexuality and gender reflects culture, time period, social structures, and personal interpretations. My ongoing interview research project explores how rural straight men that have sex with men understand their gender, sexual practices, and sexual identity. While there is a framework to describe women’s sexual flexibility—“including straight women kissing each other (Hamilton 2007; Rupp and Taylor 2010) or having sex with other women (Budnick 2016)—there is no such framework for men. As my Gender & Society paper details, the narratives of my participants demonstrate the flexibility of male heterosexuality, the centrality of straightness to rural masculinity, the importance of geographic location for how individuals identify and express their sexuality and gender, and how similar sexual practices carry different meanings across contexts and populations.

Consider the narratives of a few of these straight men, who interpret their sex with men as compatible with straightness and rural masculinity. Jon describes himself as “pretty much masculine” because “I’m a… straight guy that likes to hunt, fish, camp, and I raise cattle for a living.” He loves his wife, raises several children with her, and occasionally meets men on Grindr and has sex with them in his barn. Marcus is not sexually attracted to men, but has oral sex with them to satisfy a specific “craving.” He seeks particular male sexual partners on Craigslist: “A guy that I would consider more like me, that gets blowjobs from guys every once in a while, doesn’t do it every day. I know that there are a lot of guys out there that are like me… they’re manly guys, and doing manly stuff, and just happen to have oral sex with men every once in a while.” David is retired and describes himself as a respected and visible figure in his community, and has sex with his male “friend with benefits” to maintain his sex life as he and his wife grow older: “I’m not getting sex at home, and I want sex… older men are a lot more receptive to sex, they’re more enthusiastic,” because “senior women have kinda lost their desire to do much of anything.” While their reasons for having sex with men are diverse, the participants share an identification with straightness and masculinity, as well as interpretations to reinforce both.

silvaThe men in this study engaged in what I call bud-sex to reinforce their straightness and rural masculinity, which distinguishes them from other groups of straight men who have sex with men. They reinforced their straightness through unconventional interpretations of same-sex sex: as “helpin’ a buddy out,” relieving “urges,” acting on sexual desires for men without sexual attractions to them, relieving general sexual needs, and/or a way to act on sexual attractions (see also my forthcoming paper in Sexualities). They reaffirmed their sense of themselves as “normal,” masculine rural men through their choice of male sexual partners on the axes of masculinity, race, and sexual identity, as well as through the type of sex they prefer. By having sex mostly with other men like themselves—conventionally masculine, white, and straight or secretly bisexual—and by enjoying secretive and romance-free same-sex sex, the participants framed their encounters as straight and masculine. “Bud-sex” captures the participants’ unique interpretations of their sexual practices, as well as how they had sex and with whom they partnered. Through complex interpretations, the participants reframed sex with men, usually not compatible with heterosexuality or rural masculinity, to reinforce both.

The implications of straight, masculine men open to sex with other men are complex. On one hand, unconventional expressions of heterosexuality and masculinity demonstrate that normativity can be challenged, though unintentionally, from within dominant identities. Relatedly, it is encouraging that some straight men are willing to enjoy sex with men despite the “one-act rule of homosexuality,” the widespread perception that any man who has sex with men is gay. On the other hand, the participants’ masculinity reinforces inequality. All nineteen maintain straight privilege by publicly identifying as straight and keeping secret their same-sex sexual encounters. All of the straight men avoid effeminate men, and several insulted male effeminacy, contributing to the widespread devaluation of femininity. Moreover, thirteen were married and had extramarital sex without their wife’s knowledge, underscoring their male entitlement and unwillingness to consider ethical non-monogamy. The participants enjoy marginalized sexual practices, but they are unwilling to challenge heterosexism or other forms of domination, maintaining numerous systems of inequality.

Tony Silva is a doctoral student in the Sociology Department at the University of Oregon. His primary research interests include sexualities, gender, rurality, and qualitative and quantitative methods. His dissertation includes interviews with rural straight men that have sex with men to explore how they understand their identity, practices, and gender. His article,”Bud-Sex: Constructing Normative Masculinity among Rural Straight Men That Have Sex With Men,” can be found in the February 31 (1) issue of Gender & Society here.

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Genderless? Not quite

Three colleagues in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Mississippi sat down and had a “sociological jam session” after reading the recent NYT article on “genderless danshi” (genderless Japanese men)sport-1685854_1920

Who can “play” with gender?

Judith Butler’s concept of “masquerade” has always thrown me for a loop. When I first read her work, I was excited by the possibility of “gender play” and wanted to believe in the idea that it could bring down the gender structure, one bodily subversion at a time. But I was always asking, “Where do these people go to work every day? Can they really do masquerade and still get paid?” I was stuck on how the organizational structure keeps us all in line and I still find myself focused on the conditions under which people are “at risk of gender assessment.” Toman, a model and pop band member in Japan, and other young musicians and talent agents wear make up and play with fashion that is seen as traditionally feminine, but continue to define themselves as men. Their work in an artistic field may allow for the embrace of a more fluid gender presentation. And it actually may be required because that “look” makes money! The article mentions that “genderless danshi” was a term “coined by a talent agent” interested in “capitalizing on their social media followings to market fans.”  What about fast food workers? Construction workers? Teachers? Bankers? Can they engage in gender play and still get paid? What “aesthetic labor” is required in their workplaces? Even if Toman and other danshi turn out to be cultural trendsetters who open up the rigid binary bodily performance of gender across more societal work contexts in Japan and beyond, it’s going to take more than men wearing foundation and eye shadow to take down a system of masculine power.

– Kirsten Dellinger, Professor of Sociology Continue reading

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Explaining Trump

By Claude S. Fischer

Explaining how such an unfit candidate and such a bizarre candidacy succeeded has become a critical concern for journalists and scholars. Through sites like Monkey Cage, Vox, and 538, as well as academic papers, we can watch political scientists in real time try to answer the question, “What the Hell Happened?” (There are already at least two catalogs of answers, here and here, and a couple of college-level Trump syllabi.) Although a substantial answer will not emerge for years, this post is my own morning-after answer to the “WTHH?” question.

I make three arguments: First, Trump’s electoral college victory was a fluke, a small accident with vast implications, but from a social science perspective not very interesting. Second, the deeper task is to understand who were the distinctive supporters for Trump, in particular to sort out whether their support was rooted mostly in economic or in cultural grievances; the evidence suggests cultural. Third, party polarization converted Trump’s small and unusual personal base of support into 46 percent of the popular vote. Continue reading

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Will working class men go into jobs mostly done by women?

By Janette Dill

The election of Donald Trump has brought attention to a group of voters that helped to bring him into office: the working class, and especially working class men. The shift from a manufacturing-based economy to a service-based economy, referred to as the New Economy, has been a difficult transition for working class men: the percentage of men working in manufacturing and production jobs – jobs that used to be “good jobs” for men without a college degree – has declined by over 50% since the 1970s, and men’s wages have also dropped over the same time period. Working class men’s support for Donald Trump, who has promised a return of the manufacturing economy, shows their frustration with the labor market and their careers.construction-worker_1-24-17

As male-dominated manufacturing and production jobs have declined, there has been a concurrent rise in demand for many female-dominated occupations, such as nursing assistants, home health aides, and child care workers. However, few working class men are entering these female-dominated occupations, despite high demand for these workers. Why? A recent article in the New York Times explored this issue, asking why men don’t want to do work that is mostly done by women. The article primarily focuses on the masculine identity; men don’t want to do jobs that require doing tasks that are associated with femaleness, such as caring for an elderly person or child. Indeed, the swagger and machismo of Donald Trump promises not only a return of men’s manufacturing jobs, but a return of the working class masculine identity. Continue reading

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Is there a chilly climate for women faculty?

By Dana M. Britton

chilly-climatePicture a professor.  Who comes to mind?  These are the pictures I found in a Google Search for public domain images of a “Professor.”  The first 22 above are a diverse group, at least in terms of their eyewear, neckwear, and hair (facial and otherwise).  They are real and fictional, live and animated.  And they are all white men.

This group of images captures an enduring cultural stereotype about who discovers and possesses scientific knowledge.  It also captures an aspect of reality.  Women are more likely to hold university faculty positions than ever before, yet they remain underrepresented in the highest prestige institutions, the highest paying disciplines and at the highest ranks.  As of the academic year 2013-2014, men were about three times as likely as women to be full professors at degree-granting postsecondary institutions.  As this image suggests, most of these men were white.  Of all full professors, 57% were white men, while men of all other racial and ethnic groups made up 13%.  White women were 25% of all full professors, women of all other racial/ethnic groups, 5%. Continue reading

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The Invisible Workload That Drags Women Down

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By Lisa Wade

“I am the person,” wrote Ellen Seidman, a wife and mother of three, “who notices we are running out of toilet paper.”

It was the beginning of a poem she wrote for her blog, Love That Max, about a role she plays in her household – that of worrier, organizer, rememberer, and attention-payer. The poem was about the work she does involving thinking, a kind of mental labor that, she says, “enables our family to basically exist.”

“I am the person who notices,” she writes.

  • I am the person who notices we are running low on coffee pods…
  • I am the person who notices we are running low on toothpaste/dental floss/mouthwash/anti-cavity rinse in bubble gum flavor.
  • I am the person who notices we are running low on granola bars, brownie bites, dried fruit, kale chips, cheese sticks, Pepperidge Farm Goldfish and other lifesaving snacks.

She is the person who knows not only that coffee is essential, but also that using the wrong toothpaste is the kind of thing that can seriously ruin a child’s morning—not to mention their parents. Continue reading

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