Conference presentation by Raisa Jurva on heterosexual melancholy and reproductive futurism at the 4th Memory, Melancholy and Nostalgia Conference, 9-10 December 2019, Gdańsk, Poland

Raisa Jurva will give a conference paper titled  Promise and paradox of heterosexuality for women in contemporary Finland. Reading experiences of heterosexual relationships through the concepts of heterosexual melancholy and reproductive futurism at 4th Memory, Melancholia and Nostalgia International Conference, 9-10 December 2019, in Gdańsk, Poland.


In feminist research, there is a long tradition of exploring heterosexual relationships critically. In their pivotal texts, Adrienne Rich (1980) and Monique Wittig (1980) established a ground for theorizing the connection between women’s subordination in society and heterosexuality. Since then, economic, cultural and juridical conditions for living out heterosexuality have changed in the Nordic countries and yet, heterosexual relationships continue to be patterned by gendered conventions that operate habitually (Jokinen 2004) and affectively (Seigworth & Gregg 2009).

The paradox can be characterized as follows: on one hand, woman’s position in heterosexuality is culturally hyper visible and it is made intelligible and desirable through scenarios of family and kinship in the name of reproductive futurism (Edelman 2004). On the other hand, the cultural intelligibility of woman in heterosexuality seems to invoke practices that narrow women’s lives.

In this presentation, I suggest the concept of heterosexual melancholy (Butler 1990) for exploring the paradox of woman’s position in heterosexuality. I draw on Sara Edenheim’s (2015) reading of Judith Butler’s (1990) concept of heterosexual melancholy, which emphasizes the force of stability over change. Moreover, I argue, that the paradox is strengthened by the teleological justification that reproductive futurism (Edelman 2004) provides.

As abstract forces only reveal themselves in the lived realities of people (McNay 2004), I explore the concepts of heterosexual melancholy and reproductive futurism through the research material of my ongoing doctoral study, which consists of 19 interviews with mid- to later-life women in Finland who have experience of a relationship with a substantially younger man.

The study is part of Academy of Finland funded research project Just the Two of Us? Affective inequalities in intimate relationships (31213265711).