Motherhood, Sexuality, and Pregnant Embodiment: Twenty-Five Years of Gestation

Hypatia 25 (4):760-777 (2010)
My essay is framed by Hypatia's first special issue on Motherhood and Sexuality at one end, and by the most recent special issue (as of this writing) on the work of Iris Young, whose work on pregnant embodiment has become canonical, at the other. The questions driving this essay are: When we look back over the last twenty-five years, what has changed in our conceptions of pregnancy and maternity, both in feminist theory and in popular culture? What aspects of feminist debates from the 1970s and 1980s are still relevant today? And, how might what appear to be radical shifts in popular perceptions of pregnancy actually continue traditional values that objectify and “abjectify” the maternal body?Here, I will focus on three central elements of the revaluation of pregnancy and maternity as they show up in feminist philosophy and in popular culture: 1. The relationship between pregnancy and sexuality, both in terms of pregnant sexuality and in terms of the pregnant body as sexual object; 2. The “choice” to become a mother as a “feminist choice”; 3. The temporality of pregnancy and birth as marking something like “women's time.”
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