The "Chick shot": negotiating gendered responsibility and risk through young women's decisions about HPV vaccination

Date

2012-04-16

Authors

Roberts, Jennafer Marie

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Abstract

This thesis explores: (1) how young women make decisions about Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination and (2) how they negotiate and evaluate public health discourses that work to promote a responsible female subjectivity to manage the risks of HPV. Public health professionals have promoted HPV vaccination as a responsible and informed choice for young women, whose sexual practices are considered to put them and their sexual partners “at risk” of HPV. I conducted semi-structured interviews with thirteen young women between the ages of 21 and 28. My interviews with women and the public health literature on HPV vaccination reflect cultural and moral priorities regarding the “right” kinds of female sexuality and individual responsibility to manage sexual and reproductive health risks. Many of the women I interviewed were critical of the identification of their sexual practices as putting them and others “at risk” of HPV and maintained that their “safe” sex practices mitigated these risks. All of the women I interviewed prioritized concerns about protecting their reproductive health from cervical cancer over the risks of HPV when discussing their responsibility to be vaccinated. Based on these interviews, I argue that women‟s decisions about HPV vaccination are practices of self-making, through which they strive to enact identities as responsible young women, who endeavour to protect themselves, their bodies and health from harm. These decisions are complex, dynamic and reflect their ability to make competent, informed decisions that are inextricably bound to their social and material circumstances.

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Keywords

gender, responsibility, risk, HPV vaccine, young women, decision-making, public health discourses, sexuality

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