Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Pregnancy as partner abuse

Pregnancy is often framed in warm and rosy tones, but it's one of the most personal issues to many feminists (especially those who, like me, are at risk of becoming pregnant). When it's seen as a problem, it's often because of its termination: we are told to shoulder on with unwanted pregnancy because it's the right thing to do.

When pregnancies are wanted by one partner but not the other, women are usually cast as the culpable party. In keeping with the gender training of romantic comedies and other harmless fluff, women in semi-tenuous relationships are seen as desperate to keep their man, any man, just so they won't be an old spinster. They will do anything to keep a man - even get pregnant accidentally on purpose. The woman who gets pregnant to keep a man is a sexist relationship boogeyman - I've never known or heard of any woman who would put their body through the serious hardship of pregnancy just to keep some loser who doesn't want to be with her.

This sexual scare tactic may be covering up something even grimmer and more malicious than just the construction of women as desperate harridans. Lynn Harris has posted a deeply thought-provoking article over at AlterNet on forced pregnancy as partner abuse:

But many violence and public-health experts agree that at least one major issue was, and has for too long remained, missing from that conversation. For girls like Janey, as you can see, partner violence doesn't show up in police photos as swollen bruises. Instead, the evidence might be their swollen, pregnant bellies.
Sexual coercion and "reproductive control," including contraceptive sabotage, are a common, and devastating, facet of dating and domestic abuse. A growing number of studies, experts and young women themselves are testifying to boyfriends demanding unprotected sex, lying about "pulling out," hiding or destroying birth control -- flushing pills down the toilet, say -- and preventing (or, in some cases, forcing) abortion.
The implications for young women's and public health are profound, among them unintended pregnancy, miscarriage and STDs, including HIV.

Go over. Read it.

H/T to Cara of The Curvature

7 comments:

  1. The politics of pregnancy scares me deeply. As if pregnancy isn't scary enough on its own! Definitely going to check out that link now...

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  2. Pregnancy. is. terrifying.

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  3. There are still plenty of men who think that if they do something to their wives, it's not rape or abuse. And they're not all fundamentalists who spout, "Women, submit to your husbands" or otherwise selectively quote the Bible (or Koran or whatever holy book).

    Sadly, I was one of those men. I never left my ex-wife or any girlfriend, bruised. But, I unconsciously acted on the belief that I could say unkind things and manipulated those women into having sex with me when they simply didn't want it at the same time I did.

    The one time I got a woman pregnant was when I insisted on having unprotected sex. She had an abortion that I tried to talk her out of, not out of any sense of morality, but because I felt that as a "man" I should be "responsible." Fortunately for me--and her--she knew better.

    And I accused those women of using sex to manipulate me!

    I feel ashamed of how I was. But, perhaps, I needed to learn what those experiences taught me before I could start living as a woman.

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  4. Thanks for sharing, Justine!

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  5. I am related to someone who lied about talking the pill and got pregnant. I don't know if she did it to keep her partner with her. She never told any why she did it.

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  6. I lived with someone who used getting pregnant as a way to try and keep a guy (my uncle) with her. There was nothing healthy about their relationship, and it was part of a much large pattern of abuse (on both their parts, really; there were no innocent parties except the poor kids.) I'd naturally believe that either partner can sabotage family planning or insist on children, but I also wouldn't discount the possibility that some women are also manipulative and abusive, including taking advantage of pregnancy and children.

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