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"That means I'm all in": masculinities in contraceptive management and abortion decision-making

Ann Fefferman, MA, University of California, Irvine

Research on reproduction tends to focus on women. However, men can be quite influential to women's reproductive decisions. Past research has found that young men perform a hybrid masculinity in which they can support women with contraception but still eschew responsibility for pregnancy prevention. The proposed research uses interviews with 40 American young low-income men and women of color to determine whether a similar masculinity is enacted in abortion. This paper adds a staged reproductive masculinity theoretical lens, comparing expressions of masculinity in contraceptive management and abortion. This comparison serves to better understand men's place within and between different reproductive stages and how gender shapes reproduction broadly. My preliminary analysis suggests that men maintain a hybrid masculinity not only in contraceptive management as prior work has shown, but in the inconsistencies in their understanding of responsibility between reproductive stages. These inconsistencies are rooted in how men discuss women's bodily agency and their social conceptions of fatherhood. Men maintain a secondary and deferential status in managing pregnancy risk but an equal, and even at times primary, status in asserting their preferences for or against abortion in unintended pregnancy. The disconnect between men's place in contraception and abortion hold women accountable for pregnancy prevention but allow men to restrict women's choices after conception, thus perpetuating gender inequality in a particularly insidious way. This work embodies a theory of change for men to support women with their choices throughout the entire reproductive process to achieve mutual pregnancy intentions.


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