Blurring, moving and broken boundaries: Men's encounters with the pregnant body

Draper, Janet (2003). Blurring, moving and broken boundaries: Men's encounters with the pregnant body. Sociology of Health & Illness, 25(7) pp. 743–767.



This paper draws on the findings of a longitudinal ethnographic study of men’s transition to fatherhood, conducted in the United Kingdom (UK). It is concerned with their encounters with the pregnant and labouring body. Until relatively recently there has been surprisingly little work, either theoretical or empirical, on the experience of pregnant embodiment. Work in the last decade
has indicated that women’s experience of ‘being-with child’, their experience of living in and being a pregnant body, can be an ambivalent affair, as some find disconcerting the experience of simultaneously being self and yet Other. If women, who possess the embodied and therefore privileged knowledge of pregnancy, can feel ambivalence, perhaps the case for expectant men is more so. This paper draws on interviews with men making the transition to fatherhood and analyses their experiences of and relation to the pregnant and labouring body. The theoretical analysis of their empirical accounts explores in particular the blurring, moving and broken boundaries of the pregnant and labouring body and how these changing body boundaries can challenge the takenfor-granted assumption that bodies should always be contained, strong and firm. The implications of men’s encounters with this ‘differently bounded’ body are examined.

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