3.1 Demographic changes

From the selective feminist historiography of fertility decline covered in the previous section, we can see how a historical approach that focuses on gender can illuminate the relationships between sexuality, personal lives and social policy. A feminist theoretical perspective concerned with agency and power in gender relations has been particularly helpful in exploring the changes in sexual practices that resulted in fertility decline. It has also drawn attention to the connections between p
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1.6 Using a historical approach

By adopting a historical approach we gain some distance from the present and everyday, viewing more clearly our taken-for-granted assumptions. Today's formations of parenthood and sexualities did not suddenly appear fully formed, but are the results of centuries of change. By looking at a particular historical phenomenon, fertility decline in Britain, we can explore some of the tensions and contradictions between deeply embedded and newer ideas and practices emerging at that time. These strug
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1.5 The personal

The close relationship between parenthood and sexuality illustrates the importance of the personal in social policy in a number of ways. First, it shows that the growing interest in procreation, sexuality and parenthood by policy makers was never a one-way process whereby policy was simply imposed on people. Rather, individuals who set new terms for their experience of parenthood through changes in procreative sexuality were also helping to shape the policy formations within which they found
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1.3 Sexuality and parenthood

In this unit sexuality is used to refer to heterosexual reproductive sex, relationships and relations, and the meanings and discursive constructions which are associated with these. Sexual practices resulting in conception and the experience of parenthood are among the few remaining areas that are considered a ‘natural’ part of human existence. Just as sexuality has been seen as a ‘natural’, elemental drive in human identity, parenthood has also been closely associated with
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Learning outcomes

By the end of this unit you should be able to:

  • use a feminist historical approach to critically examine theories about how and why fertility decline in Britain occurred and to explore the importance of gender and power in reshaping parenthood and sexuality in social policy and personal lives;

  • use histories of marriage, sexuality, parenthood, birth control and population policy to illuminate the connections between procreative sexuality, personal live
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Introduction

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,
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References

Abernathy, W.J., Clark, K. and Kantrow, A. (1983) Industrial Renaissance: Producing a Competitive Future for America, Basic Books, New York.
Berndt, E.R. and Rappaport, N. (2000) ‘Price and quality of desktop and mobile personal computers: a quarter century of history’, paper presented at the National Bureau of Economic Research’s Summer Institute 2000 session on ‘Price, Output and Productivi
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