This article considers the strategies that women who live within a demographic reality of widespread unemployment, infrequent marriage, and absent fathers deploy to achieve economic stability, affective commitment for themselves and their children, and sexual intimacy—in their terms, a family. Within their toolkit, women whose former partners are employed can use the Maintenance Court to sue these fathers for assistance in supporting their children. My ethnographic data reveal that these women make complex calculations about whether and how to utilize the court that situate maintenance payments within larger economies of intimacy involving exchanges of money, affection, labor, and sex. In these economies, success in the court—maintenance payments—can create a sexual debt that complicates women’s relationships with the father and new lovers.


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pp. 2-27
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