Date June 23, 2017
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Toulmin Foundation awards Brown research on male sexual and reproductive health

With the goal of impacting policy, Matthew Gutmann will lead a collaborative research project studying youths’ and men’s experiences around sexual and reproductive health in Mexico.

Matthew Gutmann
“There is a great need to better understand and address masculinities and male sexual and reproductive health through rigorous empirical research," Gutmann said, "and to translate this research into clinical practice.”

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] —The Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation has awarded Matthew Gutmann, a Brown University professor of anthropology and director of the Brown International Advanced Research Institutes, a two-year, $300,000 grant to lead a study on masculinity and the role men can play in reproductive health, with a specific focus on Mexico.

Gutmann, an expert on shifting cultural understandings about male identity in Mexico, has studied the diversity in expectations and beliefs about what it means to be a man and how those expectations impact sexual and reproductive health behaviors.

“If you think about birth control, the most readily accessible and widely used form of birth control is for women,” Gutmann said. “Does that mean that managing reproductive health is for women only? Couples argue about this; societies argue about this. How do we involve men of various ages in thinking about sexuality and reproductive health so it’s not just women’s issue?”

In his research proposal, Gutmann cited growing evidence that involving men in confronting gender inequality leads to favorable outcomes for both men and women, including fostering equitable, healthy and happy relationships. One of the project’s aims is to engage men as allies in achieving gender equality. Another is to help provide universal access to sexual and reproductive health information and services.

“Men are just as interested as women in limiting the number of children, caring for children and caring for sexual partners, but it’s not always clear how to get men involved in programs around these concerns,” Gutmann said.

To generate answers to that question, Gutmann and his research team will spend the first year reviewing existing literature, collecting data through focus groups and ethnographic studies, and developing new techniques and procedures for understanding attitudes among men and boys in Mexico.

Work is beginning this month on the project, and Gutmann will oversee a collaborative partnership between two Brown research centers, the Population Studies and Training Center (PSTC) and the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, and providers of sexual and reproductive health services in Latin America and the Caribbean: the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Western Hemisphere Region (IPPF/WHR) and IPPF/WHR’s local partner in Mexico, Mexfam.

In addition to having key connections to populations, clinics, and sexual and reproductive health providers, the IPPF/WHR has close working relationships with civil society organizations and government institutions, Gutmann said.

In the second year, the team will analyze results, define best practices and publish findings that can inform policy going forward.

“Our academic research is linked to policy development,” said Gutmann, who is a faculty associate at the PSTC and a faculty fellow at the Watson Institute, centers that emphasize deploying knowledge to address complex global problems. “The research is focused on Mexico but the hope and expectation is that the results in Mexico will be more broadly relevant not only in Latin America but in the rest of world. This study is poised to have regional and global implications.”