POWER, PRESSURE AND DECISION MAKING
What does it mean to be a man? Young men most commonly talked about leadership, decisiveness and being the breadwinner. In both India and Kenya, young men said they experience considerable pressure to be financial providers. Girlfriends expect them to express love and commitment through gifts and money. Lack of economic means affects their self-worth and their chances of relationship success. Young men in Kenya told stories of how poverty drives risky decisions such as dropping out of school to engage in transactional sex with ‘sugar mommies.’
Being a man means putting up a strong front, despite experiences of heartbreak, pressure, and vulnerability. These young men often felt they had few people to confide in and trust with their questions. In India, ego and masculinity are central to a young man’s perception of himself and propped up by other male friends. Universally, young men talked of the pressure to impress peers and be seen to be experienced in relationships and sex.
In all four countries, 43% of men see themselves as the primary decision maker about family planning. In India and Kenya, young men are struggling to reconcile traditional values and gender norms, which prioritize men as decision-makers, with ideas of ‘modern’ relationship where men and women make decisions together. In Kenya, young men acknowledged modern relationships require more collaboration on decisions than before, but they claimed to prefer younger women as wives, as they are easier to influence. In India, though young men expected future wives to be well-educated, they argued that mens’ superior intellectual prowess better qualified them as decision-makers.
“Having sex is the ‘in’ thing. If you don’t have sex, you’re not seen as a man.”
– TEACHER, NAIROBI
“ If a man gets sterilized, he will be called a non-man.”
– YOUNG MAN, LUCKNOW
“Boys are free before marriage. After marriage you’re bound. You have responsibilities.”
– YOUNG MAN, LUCKNOW
YOUNG MEN'S PERSONAL STORIES