The Emotions and Reproductive Health

Alaka Malwade Basu, Cornell University

It is surprising that social demography has so little to say on the emotional basis of demographic behavior. The central proposition of my paper is that emotions are particularly important for understanding the problems of reproductive health and for promoting better reproductive health. This understanding can feed into policies for reproductive health that incorporate the usual questions of access to knowledge or services or personal autonomy, but also go beyond these to take into account the fact that much sexual and reproductive behavior is motivated by emotional states that can suppress prior knowledge, services or agency. The paper draws upon the emerging theoretical literature on emotions in the disciplines of sociology and anthropology to explore the role of emotions in what demographers call ‘healthy sexuality’ in particular and reproductive health in general. I focus especially on the cultural meaning, the ideal, and the experienced reality of the emotion of ‘love’.

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Presented in Session 39: Demographic Perspectives on Emotions, Happiness, and Hormones