Few studies are qualitative explorations of intimate partners’ conversations among racially/ethnically diverse adults about contraception, in particular, sterilization. Sterilization is an interesting case study given its permanency and the fact that it is a possible procedure for both men and women. More research is needed because sterilization decisions can reveal complex social relationships built on gender, class, race, and power that resonate throughout many parts of societies. The present paper draws on ideas of power/agency as they intersect with gender, race, and class in an analysis of 40 semi-structured interviews of a racially/ethnically diverse group of low-income U.S. women with male partners as they recall their sterilization discussions with their intimate partners before they themselves were voluntarily sterilized. The results offer insight into how class and racial and gender norms influence reproductive behaviors. Whereas a majority of these women displayed agency in female sterilization decisions, they had little control over male partners’ vasectomy decisions, which they attributed to their place in a racial/ethnic and gender hierarchy by utilizing ambiguous, unidimensional definitions of “machismo.” These results give insights into the conceptual complexity of contraceptive power and control as well as understandings of how gendered and racialized norms at individual and structural levels influence reproductive behaviors and perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes of both men and women.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Gender Studies
- Social Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology