Men bring condoms, women take pills: Men's and women's roles in contraceptive decision making

  • Fennell J
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Abstract

The most popular form of reversible contraception in the United States is the female- controlled hormonal birth control pill. Consequently, scholars and lay people have typically assumed that women take primary responsibility for contraceptive decision making in relationships. Although many studies have shown that men exert strong influence in couple’s contraceptive decisions in developing countries, very few studies have considered the gendered dynamic of contraceptive decision making in developed societies. This study uses in-depth interviews with 30 American opposite-sex couples to show that contraceptive responsibility in long-term relationships in the United States often conforms to a gendered division of labor, with women primarily in charge. A substantial minority of men in this study were highly committed contraceptors. However, the social framing of contraception as being primarily in women’s “sphere,” and the technological constraints on their participation, made even these men reluctant to discuss contraception with their women partners.

Author-supplied keywords

  • demography/population
  • family
  • reproduction

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Authors

  • Julie Lynn Fennell

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