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A sociological exploration of sexual relationships and intimacy amongst a select group of participants in an informal settlement: a case study of Cato Manor, Durban.

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Humans have a general desire to belong and to love, which is usually satisfied within an intimate relationship. These relationships involve feelings of liking or loving one or more people, romance, physical or sexual attraction, sexual relationships, or emotional and personal support between the members. Sexual relationships and intimacy are very important in family life and societal stability, because they are the outcome of complex interactions between individuals who are conscious of belonging to organized groups and who behave according to a system of learned rules communicated through symbolic language. Thus, the outcome of sex and intimacy, for many groups, globally, is procreative marriage, even though modern sexual arrangements have a distinctive character, which sets them apart from pre-existing systems. In developed countries world sex cohabitation is something that is not shun upon, unlike in traditional societies, because as married couples, cohabiting men and woman have similar cultural traits, as they have rather similar social backgrounds and are often of the same cultural level. In traditional patriarchal societies, like Africa, the male is viewed as apprehensive towards intimacy, while the female is seen as having a great capacity to commit herself to love and to be intimate. It is in this context the study of family life, love and intimacy is studied within an informal human settlement context. The assertion is that irrespective of the nature and type of human settlements, intimacy, sexual relationships are universal human needs, and this study aims to ascertain as to whether this holds true within the context of informal human settlements. Informal human settlements by their very nature are compact, densely populated, deplete of basic infrastructure and lack privacy. It is characterized by shack dwellings, made from a host of materials within proximity with each. Given this physical characteristic of informal settlement, it is assumed that residents of these settlements are prevented from leading normal family lives. It constrains the expression of one’s intimacy, sexual relationship and family life which this study hopes to unfold.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.