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Women's agency: Is it a matter of an individual's capacity for autonomy? Or of the social conditions that facilitate freedom? Combining theoretical and empirical perspectives, Carisa R. Showden investigates what exactly makes an agent and how that agency influences the ways women make inherently sensitive and difficult choices–specifically in instances of domestic violence, assisted reproduction, and sex work. In Showden's analysis, women's agency emerges as an individual and social construct, rooted in concrete experience, complex and changing over time. She traces the development and deployment of agency, illustrating how it plays out in the messy workings of imperfect lives. In a series of case studies, she considers women within situations of intimate partner violence, reproductive decision making, and sex work such as prostitution and pornography. Each narrative offers insight into how women articulate their self-understanding and political needs in relation to the pressures they confront. Showden's understanding of women's agency ultimately leads her to review possible policy and legal interventions that could improve the conditions within which agency develops and that could positively enhance women's ability to increase and exercise their political and personal options.


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