'It’s kind of me taking responsibility for these things': men, vasectomy and 'contraceptive economies'

Terry, Gareth and Braun, Virginia (2011). 'It’s kind of me taking responsibility for these things': men, vasectomy and 'contraceptive economies'. Feminism & Psychology, 21(4) pp. 477–495.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0959353511419814


This article examines vasectomy as a gendered practice of (non)reproductive masculinity. Reporting on interview-based data, in which a number of New Zealand men made sense of the operation, this article used critical thematic analysis to extract themes from semi-structured interviews with participants who had vasectomies in ‘typical’ circumstances. Primary themes of ‘taking responsibility’ and ‘vasectomy as an act of minor heroism’ were extracted from the data. We will argue that men constructed their ‘new found’ responsibility (and the heroic slant they added to it) within an ‘economy of gratitude’, meaning any involvement by men in the reproductive/contraceptive sphere is worthy of particular praise and value. While there may be some strategic value in these ideas, they draw upon existing discourses of orthodox masculinities and in this way may perpetuate (rather than challenge) the notion that men are doing something ‘special’ by having a vasectomy. This ‘specialness’ has the potential to ratify ongoing male privilege within heterosexual relationships, rather than the disruption that (at face value) it appears to be generating.

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