Thursday, February 16, 2012

Let's Talk About Sex - Part II

 Contributed  by Katie Foley


As a woman born into the Millenial generation I find it mind-boggling that contraception, and whether I should be able to access it, is still such a hot button political issue. I was born in a post Eisenstadt v. Baird world, a world where women can determine where, when and whether they bear children without having to sacrifice physical intimacy. In a way, the pill and other forms of contraception allowed women finally to be able to “have their cake and eat it too,” when it came to sex – something that has been a strictly male domain since, well, forever.

Women have always gotten the short end of the stick where sex is involved. Since property interests were directly tied to a man’s descendants, and the only way to ensure a woman’s offspring were any one man’s was to ensure the only man with whom she had been intimate was the man in question, a woman’s life was ruined if she “gave it away.”

In fact, “ruined” is what they called a woman who had sex before she was married. She became damaged goods, a person ostracized for having “given in” to a biological urge that men were encouraged to explore. If the woman became pregnant it was seen as her fault, never mind that women were often kept ignorant of the consequences of intimate encounters. And if someone from the upper class impregnated someone from a lower class she could just about forget about having her child acknowledged by that man or his family.
It’s the same old story. Woman gets pregnant. Woman tells man she’s pregnant. Man denies the child is his. Woman proves the child is his. Court orders man to pay child support. Man pays child support reluctantly, if at all, bitterly complaining the whole time about the injustice of it all. However, if woman complains bitterly about how her life has changed, about the expense (in both monetary terms and in terms of time) of raising a child, she is told that she “should have thought of that.”

And now the right wing, led by Rick Santorum, is again raising hell about whether women should even have access to birth control. Time and again it is suggested that women should just keep their legs together. Boys will be boys, but girls will be sluts. The funniest thing about it is that the Catholic Church did not explicitly prohibit the use of contraception until 1930, well after women got franchise rights. Letting women vote was all good and well until they started using their new right to assert self-determination. Suddenly women were deciding whether to have children. Suddenly women were able to delay child bearing in a way that allowed them to pursue educational and professional opportunities. Suddenly women posed a threat to the paternalistic establishment.

However, the men in charge had an ace up their sleeves. Since women are often seen as the backbone of a society’s morality they portrayed the use of contraception as morally repugnant. The crazy thing is that almost a half-century has passed and men are still trying to tell women that they don’t deserve to set their own course in life, that they should not explore the sexuality that pervades our society on an individual level, that they should simply keep their legs closed. Why are men I’ve never met so damn interested in my uterus?

I have a couple theories.

1) In an increasingly fast paced society, skills such as communication, stress management, collaboration and multi-tasking can make the difference between mediocrity and success. It just so happens that these are things at which women are better than men.[1] It could be that as more women come into positions of power and prestige, men will use whatever tool necessary to keep them from succeeding. Since child-rearing and home-making is still a primarily female realm, it’s only natural to try to use that against us. I can’t compete against men for a high powered job if I’m taking care of kids at home.

2) The future of our country’s economy is dependent upon my generation keeping the birth rate sufficiently high to create the next generation of tax payers and corporate slaves. As the boomers age it becomes more and more important for there to be an available workforce to pay for Social Security and medicine for the three chronic medical conditions the average elderly person suffers. By not having children we are jeopardizing the tax base of the future – and we all know they aren’t going to make up the difference by increasing capital gains and inheritance taxes. Oh no, the solution is for me and my sisters to start, as George Carlin would say, “pumping out a unit now and then.”

I don’t know what men are so afraid of or threatened by; I don’t know why it is that they feel they have any right to prescribe my sex life and dictate whether I bring a child into this crazy world of ours. However, I have a friend who has a brilliant solution to the moral issues surrounding contraception. Since vasectomies are reversible, wouldn’t it make sense to put every boy under the knife at about age 8? Then, when they’ve decided they’re ready for children, men can go have the procedure reversed. But then, we wouldn’t want to tell men what to do with their bodies now would we? That wouldn’t go over well at all.

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