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Am J Public Health. 2008 Oct;98(10):1803-13. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2007.115790. Epub 2008 Aug 13.

Pleasure, power, and inequality: incorporating sexuality into research on contraceptive use.

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  • 1Office of Population Research and Center for Health and Wellbeing, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA.


We know surprisingly little about how contraception affects sexual enjoyment and functioning (and vice versa), particularly for women. What do people seek from sex, and how do sexual experiences shape contraceptive use? We draw on qualitative data to make 3 points. First, pleasure varies. Both women and men reported multiple aspects of enjoyment, of which physical pleasure was only one. Second, pleasure matters. Clear links exist between the forms of pleasure respondents seek and their contraceptive practices. Third, pleasure intersects with power and social inequality. Both gender and social class shape sexual preferences and contraceptive use patterns. These findings call for a reframing of behavioral models that explain why people use (or do not use) contraception.

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