We've come to expect less for and from ourselves, and for and from one another. In part, it's the fruit of the contraceptive pill. New York magazine recently observed in a cover feature: "The pill is so ingrained in our culture today that girls go on it in college, even high school, and stay on it for five, 10, 15, even 20 years." That, of course, has had all kinds of fallout: a false sense of freedom, security. And it has ravaged women's fertility, as it seeks to mute exactly what women's reproductive power is all about.
That's why I want to turn back the clock -- to a time when we valued love and marriage and didn't expect, support and even encourage promiscuity. Life and history don't work that way, obviously, there is no actual rewind. But we do have opportunities to learn from our mistakes.I've used various methods of birth control, including the pill, over the last 20 years or so. I've valued the hell out of love--it's probably why I was using all that birth control. I've valued the hell out of marriage, too. I've had two of them. I've learned from my mistakes....which has given me an abundance of opportunities to make new ones. And I don't regret a damn thing. I don't romanticize the past and that time we didn't "expect, support and even encourage promiscuity." The reason--because women who use birth control aren't necessarily promiscuous, they just don't want babies, even if they do like to fuck. Yes, "fuck". As in, "My husband and I used a condom when we fucked because at 38, we both would like to think about 'retirement fund' not 'college fund'."
See, if I had a baby, part of our financial security could go out the window--there isn't anything false about that sense of security. Just like if I had a baby with one of my college boyfriends, that would have impacted my ability to graduate when I did. It might have cost me in the time it took to get a degree, or start seriously working. Or, if I had a baby with my first husband--would I have stayed in a marriage that wasn't meant to last (when both of us are now in kick-ass marriages that work better for us)? Would that have been good for us--and what would it have meant for baby Strangely? Two parents who don't make each other happy--how do they raise a happy kid? I might take some digs at Dr. Phil, but one smart thing I've heard him say time and again is, it's better for a child to be from a broken family than live with one. I would not want to have a child in an environment where its expectation was less than the best I could provide.
This article, and the very real attacks I'm seeing on women's reproductive freedom, touch a bunch of personal nerves for me. It was in a city-run clinic that I had my first pregnancy test, and a test for STD's that discovered I had contracted chlamydia. I had had all of two partners, and I experienced no symptoms at all, but the consequences of that fairly common infection could have been grave. I was treated with dignity and respect and educated about my body there, while keeping my sexual business separate from my parents' knowledge. And believe me--that was a huge part of getting treatment--not having all my business be broadcast to my family members.
That's why I support the kind of care Planned Parenthood provides--I know first-hand that it can be necessary. I know the value of access to birth control, too, having lived my adult life never having found the time or inclination to have or raise babies. I know that for many people, parenthood is a very meaningful and satisfying part of their lives. It just hasn't been a part of mine. But Planned Parenthood also provides services for people who are planning a wanted pregnancy. That's necessary, and valuable too.
I also want to address this:
It's about ending the surrender to a contraceptive mentality that treats human sexuality as just another commercial transaction.
Is she implying that women who want to make love (not even fuck, but the nice thing with Johnny Mathis playing in the background and soft lighting and tasteful lingerie) without having babies are....some sort of sex workers? I make it a point of my particular version of feminism not to judge people who engage in sex work, but honestly--is she implying that women don't actually have sex because they like it? Because, really--and this is just my experience and others may feel differently, while I may have gotten my share of prizes from the old Cracker Jacks, I'm there for the peanuts. Or to be more blunt--I'm not doing it because I like changing the sheets! I genuinely, honestly, have enjoyed the company of men, and have simply never wanted to surprise them with my....
"Reproductive power"? Oy. As I said before, it's more of a body function than a power. If it's at all a power, it's a power that involves bringing a new person into a complicated world. And that's why doing it should totally be a choice. It should totally be done when someone is really ready to welcome a new life into the world. And maybe I don't romanticize love and marriage--but I'm pro-choice because I do feel misty-eyed over that decision. Maybe having babies isn't right for me--but being able to choose when to have them, and ensuring the health of those babies, is so meaningful for those who do make that choice.
I just see such a fundamental difference of opinion between the social-conservative outlook on this thing and mine, it's hard to figure out what the middle ground is--but I'd hope a healthy, happy, timely exercise of one's reproductive freedom, might be a start. A healthy mother. And a wanted child.
(The picture used is a dollhouse. The reason--because it isn't about playing house, at all, at all. And also because of Ibsen. And yes, she can have my copy of The Feminine Mystique.)