African Migrant Women’s understanding and construction of sexuality across Shona-Zimbabwean and Anglo-Australian cultures

seminar presented by Dr Tinashe Dune (University of Western Sydney) and
Dr Virginia Mapedzahama (University of New England)

13th of November

This pilot study explored how Shona-Zimbabwean women living permanently in Australia understand and construct sexuality in the context of migrancy. This investigation addresses the role of cross-cultural understandings of sexuality in sexual wellbeing for African migrant women. Main concepts within sexuality under scrutiny included: gender, embodiment and intimacy. This project was informed by feminist methodology and therefore collected data using in-depth, semistructured focus groups. Data was collected in August 2012 in Adelaide, South Australia drawn from fourteen women, between the ages of 29 and 53, across four focus groups. The focus groups took from two and a half hours to just over four hours each to complete. Nvivo 10 was used to analyse the transcribed data.

The women primarily constructed sexuality in the framework of gender (womanhood) and thus understood both concepts synonymously. The women perceived that the body and intercourse were culturally constructed as means for procreation only. Intimacy and intercourse for relationship-building were perceived to be Western concepts but became a welcome addition to the migrant women’s constructions of sexuality post-migration. A better understanding of how sexuality is understood across cultures highlights the relevance, or lack thereof, of Western concepts of sexuality for older African women. This pilot study also brings to question the appropriateness of current policy, service delivery and health promotion in regards to sexual wellbeing in a contemporary and multicultural Australia.