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Sexuality, parenthood and population

Introduction

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Sexuality and parenthood encompass some of the most ordinary and yet most profound experiences that life has to offer. Until recently these two domains were intricately linked, and the idea that it is possible and desirable to have sex solely for pleasure without risk of pregnancy or having children is a relatively new one. This split between sexuality and parenthood has come about through a myriad of interlinking social changes, including shifting social relations and attitudes to sexuality, and widening access to reliable contraception and legal abortion.

In this unit we look back at a time when sexual practices leading to conception were the norm, when the risk of pregnancy was an integral part of heterosexual sexualities, and when heterosexual sexuality and parenthood were inextricably connected. We will examine these interrelationships through the phenomenon known as the fertility decline, when couples in increasingly significant numbers deliberately began to limit the number of children in their families. We will draw upon a feminist theoretical perspective which places gender divisions and constructions of heterosexuality at the centre of its analysis. Class, ethnicity and other divisions are also integral to social policy and personal lives, sexuality and parenthood, and they will be explored to some extent. However, it is inequalities of gender that are highlighted and developed most fully.

This unit is an adapted extract from the course Personal lives and social policy (DD305) [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

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