privacy policy

‘Safe’ Technologies, Sexual Ambivalence: A Study on Experiences of Young Women in Urban Delhi


· Himani Bajaj Ambedkar University, Delhi (New Delhi, India)


07/27 | 10:00-10:20 UTC+2/CEST


The availability of an extensive range of medical technologies and increasingly globalized items, such as pharmaceuticals for contraception, conception and sexual dysfunction has not only influenced the global public health discourses but also ideas about sexual and gender relations. While the global focus on politics of non-normative sexualities and public health have developed as a discursive field, the experiences and issues of heterosexually active women have got only marginal attention in this respect given the history of feminist struggle for women’s sexual autonomy. The public health discourse on ‘safe sex’ in India is still struggling to address the question of sexuality holistically and theoretical engagement with heterosexuality remains practically absent from this discourse.

This work attempts to fill this gap by building on the contemporary understanding and negotiations of women’s intimate and gender relations. An analysis of the interviews of 35 middle-class unmarried women in Delhi – a population seldom considered ‘sexual’ or primary consumers of contraceptives– reveal the gendered nature of conversations and negotiations around contraceptive practices of young men and women. Not only is it tied to the ‘dichotomous’ idea of risk and sexual freedom but also experiences of sexual ambivalence faced by women in establishing heterosexual partnerships, say through different digital platforms. It is imperative to understand these negotiations within the constantly shifting cultural and technological arrangement of sexuality, reproduction and gender which as argued are (re)defining the contours of ‘sexual autonomy’, ideas of ‘safe sex’ and ‘choice’.