Do men and women perceive sexual relationships differently?: Data from matched couples on Likoma island, Malawi

Stephane Helleringer, Columbia University
Hans-Peter Kohler, University of Pennsylvania
Shelley Clark, McGill University

In sub-Saharan Africa, the vast majority of HIV transmissions occur within heterosexual couples, yet population-based couple-level studies are extremely rare. One exception is the Likoma Network Study (LNS), which gathered data from both men and women in 244 married and unmarried matched couples living on Likoma island in Malawi. Using these unique data, we compare men’s and women’s descriptions of their relationship characteristics as well as their reports about their sexual behaviors. Our (very) preliminary results suggest that men and women, by and large, agree with each other regarding their objective relationship characteristics, but they provide quite divergent reports with respect to sexual behaviors occurring within these relationships. These differences, however, do not conform to gender stereotypes. These findings lend insight into different gender perceptions within couples, while also highlighting the limitations of relying on individual, rather than couple, reports of sexual behaviors.

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Presented in Session 37: Gender, Sexuality, and Vunerability; Exploring Intersections in Human Populations