Naturligt barnfri. Kroppens betydelse i frivilligt barnlösas positionering

Helen Peterson, Kristina Engwall


This article reports on the results from the two first studies

on voluntary childlessness in Sweden and draws on interviews

with 30 childfree women and 6 men. The article explores how

they managed to create a legitimate childfree position in a society

permeated by pronatalistic norms proclaiming parenthood to

be self-evident in an adult normal life. Failure to conform to these

norms results in being negatively stereotyped as selfish, abnormal

and a childhater. Women who do not wish to become a mother also

risk being called into question as “real” women since the feminine

identity and women’s social roles are conflated with ideas about


Instead of explaining their childlessness with external factors most

of the interviewees stressed the fact that they never had the desire

to have a child. Insisting on that they always had known they did not

want children, they did not even experience they had made a choice

not to have a child. In this way they positioned themselves as

“naturally childfree”.

To some extent the childfree women and men agreed with pronatalistic

norms that wanting a child is the natural order of things and

that a woman who mothers also has achieved her biological destiny.

Although acknowledging an irresistible drive towards reproduction

in most people, our informants expressed the total lack of this

instinct in their own bodies. However, they also left the door open

to the possibility that this biological urge could suddenly appear

– therefore rejecting sterilization as being a too drastic contraceptive

choice. Important for the naturally childfree position is thus the

simultaneous acceptance of, and detachment from, the biological

reproductive urge.

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