Home Institution

Washington University in St. Louis

Publication Date

Spring 2020

Program Name

South Africa: Community Health and Social Policy


Though South Africa has an astonishingly high rate of rape and sexual violence, little research has been conducted on understandings of sexual consent outside of the context of rape and sexual violence in different South African communities. Instead, research has focused on understandings and perceptions of rape and sexual violence alone, ignoring the importance of understanding how individuals approach consent in healthy sexual relationships.

Through conducting semi-structured interviews with sixteen Zulu males and females of different ages, all of whom are residents of Masxha, I hoped to learn how these individuals understand sexual consent and how consent is requested, given, and received.

Through thematic analysis, I concluded that a majority of individuals felt that getting permission, the word I used in my interviews to convey the concept of consent, before engaging in sex, was important. I also concluded that the stage at which individuals ask for consent as well as the ways in which individuals ask for and give consent are varied. Furthermore, I gained a deeper understanding of how alcohol, gender, and relationship status influence consent. Additionally, I found that while many of my participants expressed detailed opinions and thoughts on the concept of permission, many of these same participants were not familiar with the term consent or its legal definition in South Africa. In examining my data and drawing the above conclusions, I came to a larger overarching conclusion; There is a discrepancy between individuals’ understandings of consent, the research literature detailing these understandings, and the legal framework which defines consent and sexual violence in South Africa.


African Languages and Societies | African Studies | Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence | Gender and Sexuality | Law and Gender | Medicine and Health | Other Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Social and Cultural Anthropology


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