Sex Roles

, Volume 78, Issue 5–6, pp 352–366 | Cite as

Reproductive Vocabularies: Interrogating Intersections of Reproduction, Sexualities, and Religion among U.S. Cisgender College Women

  • Katharine McCabe
  • J. E. Sumerau
Original Article


Although feminists often examine the ways reproduction shapes women’s lives, such research typically only focuses on the effects of reproduction after the fact while leaving reproductive decision-making beforehand unexplored. In the present article, we flip this pattern by outlining the “vocabularies of motive” (Mills 1940) cisgender women offer for wanting to engage in or abstain from reproduction. Based on in-depth interviews with 20 class-privileged, cisgender U.S. women in college who possess the resources to forego reproduction, we analyze how they define their reproductive intentions as (a) conforming to social expectations, (b) seeking fulfillment, (c) replicating past experience, and/or (d) rejecting reproduction and parenting. Further, we compare and contrast the reproductive vocabularies of motive offered by heterosexual and bisexual as well as religious and nonreligious cisgender women in our sample. In conclusion, we draw out implications for understanding women’s reproductive decision-making and the social construction of reproductive norms.


Reproductive decision-making Vocabularies of motive Religion Sexuality 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

This research was conducted in compliance with ethical standards and received institutional board approval prior to collecting data from human subjects.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Department of History, Sociology, Geography, and Legal StudiesUniversity of TampaTampaUSA

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