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Saying Yes to Whose Pleasures? A Feminist Study on the Acceptability of Pregnancies for Young Women
This research is a qualitative, feminist inquiry into teen girls’ experiences of sexuality, their deliberation, and agency in the context of social relationships, sexual and reproductive health regulations, and the acceptability of pregnancies. Through qualitative interviewing and focus group discussions with teen girls or young women ages 15 - 24 from the provinces of Bulacan, Zambales, Bicol, Negros Occidental, Cebu, Davao, Baguio City, and Metro Manila in the Philippines, the research finds that pregnancy acceptability among young women is a social norm supported by a strong network of moral imperatives and gender norms about motherhood, the lack of safe and legal abortion services, and the regulation of young people’s sexuality. It is also facilitated by supportive families. For teenagers, pregnancy acceptability is a source of limited power - from choosing to make the most of an undesirable situation, to defying moral judgment by fulfilling their desires for love, connection, and relevance. To expand the space for teen empowerment, it becomes important to eliminate the stigma against teen pregnancies and teen sexuality in general. The study recommends the following public health and social policy interventions: a.) implementation of comprehensive, sex-positive, pleasure-centered sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services that support people in transforming embodied experiences into autonomous voices for consent, refusal, and help-seeking; and, b.) provision of social services that improve the capability of young mothers to meet parenting responsibilities and their own self-care needs. These interventions will support teen girls and young women in finding greater power in their pleasure.