Childfree Sterilization: A Normative Rhetorical Theory Analysis of Paradoxical Dilemmas Encountered by Childfree Patients and Providers

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Elizabeth Hintz


Guided by normative rhetorical theory, this study utilizes thematic analysis to explore narratives about sterilization consultations posted by childfree patients and medical providers to Reddit. This study explores the multiple meanings of sterilization, the paradoxical dilemmas competing conversational purposes create, and the communicative practices, interpretive lenses, and environmental resources patients and providers employ to manage dilemmas. The analysis reveals that voluntary sterilization inheres task, relational, and identity meanings for both patients and providers, creating paradoxical dilemmas and rendering sterilization consultations additionally challenging to navigate. Patients and providers both accept and confront paradox, adopt cultural and contextual interpretive lenses to evaluate others’ talk, and rely on childfree patient and physician social networks as environmental resources to shift the context in which talk occurs. The conclusion offers theoretical implications for normative rhetorical theory and practical implications, including: illuminating features influencing interactions in which sterilization requests are made and evaluated, and underscoring the multiple meanings that constrain patients and providers during these consultations. 

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