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'Man Up!’ Natural Family Planning and the Formations of Catholic Masculinities in the 21st Century


Abstract for Online Program Book (maximum 1200 characters including spaces)

This paper examines formations of Catholic masculinities in the twenty-first century. With a case study of lay, married men who practice Natural Family Planning (NFP), this paper examines three ways Catholic manhood is be performed and cultivated with a contemporary subculture in the U.S. A strong subculture of Catholic men and women practice NFP within their marriages. Examining this subculture involves reconsiderations of the contours of gender, family, and religious identities in the U.S. The gender performances of men in Catholic marriages require prayer, physical discipline, and Catholic community of men. NFP is an important site for these formations because men see this practice as challenging cultural norms. In the face of 'weak men,' NFP families often embody 'strong men.' Their Catholic masculinity is a response to a particular interpretation of men's shifting gender roles in contemporary life. These formations rely on an anxiety about these changes and a concern about how men will find their place in the landscape. Part of what happens here is that they end up crafting a particular definition of what it means to be a man'a reclamation and reworking of masculinity.