My Soul Hurt, and I Felt as If I Was Going to Die: Obstetric Violence as Torture

Sara Cohen Shabot, Michelle Sadler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Obstetric violence - violence in the labor room - has been described in terms not only of violence in general but of gender violence specifically. This feminist-phenomenological analysis demonstrates features that the experiences of torture and of obstetric violence share. Many birthing subjects describe their experiences of obstetric violence as torture. This use of the concept of torture to explain what they have gone through is not trivial and deserves philosophical attention. In this article, we give several examples (mainly from Chilean women's birth narratives), examining them through phenomenological and feminist phenomenological analyses of torture. We argue that, as with torture, it is not mere pain that marks the experience of obstetric violence, but rather a state of ontological loneliness and desolation, a detachment from the previous known world, and a loss of trust in those surrounding us. But if obstetric violence is gender violence, this must be gendered torture: it is perpetrated with the goal of humiliating and controlling women, of reifying them and robbing them of their free embodied subjectivities in labor.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)607-627
Number of pages21
Issue number3
StatePublished - 18 Oct 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Hypatia, a Nonprofit Corporation.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Philosophy


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