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Strategic Silence: College Men and Hegemonic Masculinity in Contraceptive Decision Making

Dalessandro, Cristen and James-Hawkins, Laurie and Sennott, Christie (2019) 'Strategic Silence: College Men and Hegemonic Masculinity in Contraceptive Decision Making.' Gender and Society. ISSN 0891-2432

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Abstract

Condom use among college men in the United States is notoriously erratic, yet we know little about these men’s approaches to other contraceptives. In this paper, accounts from 44 men attending a university in the western United States reveal men’s reliance on culturally situated ideas about gender, social class, race, and age in assessing the risk of pregnancy and STI acquisition in sexual encounters with women. Men reason that race- and class- privileged college women are STI-free, responsible for contraception, and will pursue abortion services if necessary. Since men expect women will take responsibility, they often stay silent about condoms and other contraceptives in sexual encounters—a process we term “strategic silence.” Men’s strategic silence helps uphold local constructions of hegemonic masculinity that prioritize men’s sexual desires and protects these constructions by subtly shifting contraceptive and sexual health responsibility onto women. Our analysis demonstrates the importance of men’s expectations of women for upholding constructions of hegemonic masculinity, which legitimate gender inequality in intimacy and are related to men’s underestimation of the risks associated with condom-free sex.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Masculinity, Contraception, Sexuality, Reproduction, Young Adults
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Sociology, Department of
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 04 Jun 2019 11:36
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2019 12:15
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/24600

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