erotic netsukeNow that I’ve got your attention, I want to talk about, well, sex. I’ve been thinking about sex a lot lately.

On the positive side, I’m thinking about sex a lot because I’m getting some after a very long drought, and I’m having an insanely good time.

But on the negative side, I’m noticing the effect of such things as the Hobby Lobby ruling and the right wing campaign against women’s reproductive rights on both our freedom and our sexuality.

And, of course, sexual harassment and the sexual objectification of women are not things of the past.

Despite the advent of good contraception – one of the most significant accomplishments of the 20th Century – and the free love adventures of hippie boomers in the 1960s, we are still fighting those who reject women as sexual beings and oppose their right to control their sexuality.

People who are treated in the media as credible presidential candidates come right out and admit that they’re opposed to birth control, not just to abortion. And we’ve even got a modern term for criticizing sexually active women: Slut-shaming.

These actions are having very real effects. In Texas, a number of clinics that provided reproductive health coverage and abortions have been forced to close, meaning that in large swaths of this very large and very populous state women can’t even get a pap smear and a birth control prescription, much less an abortion. This, of course, affects poor women and young women in particular.

It’s also affecting our culture. Even in a time when many young women are speaking out on their sexuality (as well as against sexual harassment and rape culture), there’s a lot of self-censorship when it comes to sex. Obvious Childwhich I wrote about a few weeks back – is the only movie I can think of that treats abortion as a positive choice.

In a comment on my post a couple of weeks ago on the Hobby Lobby ruling, Sara Stamey said:

As an instructor of creative-writing at the local university, I’ve noticed a sort of self-imposed reproductive censorship in student stories, possibly reflecting the larger cultural trends. 20 years ago, if a student wrote about a young woman getting pregnant accidentally (a common theme), there was a consideration of abortion as an option. That is never mentioned in such stories now — almost as if the writers know they will meet disapproval. Is anyone else disturbed by this?

Yes. It freaks me out. How can anyone write a story about an accidental pregnancy and not have a discussion of abortion come into it at some point? Let’s face it: women do have abortions. According to the Guttmacher Institute, half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended, and 40 percent of those pregnancies end in abortion.  It’s part of the story, even in the cases where the woman decides to have a child.

Of course, if you want to reduce the number of abortions, the obvious answer is contraception. And we’ve got wonderful contraception these days. But there’s a backlash against that, too. A couple of years ago, Vonda N. McIntyre did a blog post on here about the ongoing struggle.  She concluded:

But that is what the discussion is about: Women who use contraception for the purpose of contraception — preventing pregnancy — so women have more control over their lives.

That’s why some people are fighting so hard against contraception and abortion. They’re opposed to women having control over their lives. They’re also opposed to women enjoying their sexuality.

A heterosexual woman who is past puberty but pre-menopause has to have access to contraception to both control her own life and enjoy sex.

Women who are past menopause, lesbian, or transgender can enjoy sex and control their lives without contraception. But even those of us who fall into those categories should still be part of this fight, because the core issue isn’t just contraception or even sex, but who is in charge of a woman’s life. The anti-contraceptive crowd don’t want any women to control their own lives or enjoy sex.

I’m in charge of my life. I’m having sex regularly. I like it. I plan to keep doing it. And I will continue to fight for the right of every woman to enjoy her sexuality and control her life.

Posted in Culture, Feminism Tagged permalink

About Nancy Jane Moore

Nancy Jane Moore's science fiction novel, The Weave, is now available in print and ebook versions from Aqueduct Press. Some of her short stories are now appearing as reprints on Curious Fictions. She is a founding member of Book View Cafe. Her BVC ebooks can be found here. She also has short stories and essays in most of the BVC anthologies. In addition to writing fiction, Nancy Jane, who has a fourth degree black belt in Aikido, teaches empowerment self defense. She is at work on a self defense book that emphasizes non-fighting skills.


SEX! — 23 Comments

  1. Every time I hear a voice out of America that talks common sense it gives me a flicker of hope! As someone from the outside looking in, when every news item seems to be more of the right-wing war on women, I sometimes despair and wonder what on earth we can do to help if we don’t get to vote in US elections!

    • I do vote in US elections and I wonder the same thing! Right now the best thing I can come up with is to speak out on the subject. A majority of the people in the US do not agree with the extremist stand on contraception and abortion, but the virulent anti-women campaign has overshadowed the moderate voices and kept people from speaking their minds.

      • And yet women in the USA do still have the vote — and keep voting people into office whose bought and paid for job is to restrict their, and our, freedom.

        What is it that persuades them to vote so strongly against their own interests?

        Why are we surprised when people who are up front about their plans to end legal contraception then do their best to fulfill that campaign promise when they’re in office?


  2. It is sobering to think that women have had the vote for only a hundred years. We must never become complacent, because these rights can be clawed back from us.
    The other comforting thought is young people. Millennials have never known a time when there was not birth control. And it is they who will inherit the world. I contemplate my daughter, and our American Taliban deserve only pity. Little do they know that they should indeed support Obamacare, because when she’s done with them they will wish it included dental.

  3. Nancy–The Cider House Rules, both the book and the movie, treat abortion sympathetically. As does, weirdly enough, Sinclair Lewis’s Ann Vickers. And apparently the TV show The Fosters just did an episode where a late-term abortion (of a loved and wanted child) was necessary. There are things out there. I wish I thought the tide was turning for a more nuanced view–no one gets up in the morning thinking, “Hey, what to do today? I’ll get an abortion, that’s what I’ll do!”–but I suspect these, and The Obvious Child, are outliers.

    • I’d forgotten about The Cider House Rules. I read the book, but never saw the movie. I never heard of The Fosters, but I’m glad to know someone has done a piece on that issue. Ann Vickers, which dates back well before Roe v. Wade, was a very radical statement given that abortion was illegal and contraception inadequate at best and probably hard to come by. But it should be an artifact of its time now, instead of still being seen as a radical statement.

      Of course, I’ve never written a story with an abortion in it. For that matter, I doubt I’ve ever mentioned contraception, though in all my stories that have a sex scene, I’m assuming the people used it. Perhaps I should consider writing fiction on this subject myself. Although while many of my stories are political, I usually find that if I start with a political premise, the story doesn’t work. Sigh.

      • My hypothesis in Dreamsnake is that reproductive freedom depends on both (or all) partners in a relationship. Fertility is regulated by biocontrol, which is learned by women and by men. It includes abortion. One subplot is about a young man who has not learned biocontrol, to his shame.

        I think the story is still relevant, and I still occasionally get asked if it’s possible to learn biocontrol; I reply that one reason I wrote the book was that I hoped someone would research how to achieve biocontrol. So far, no one has.

        Most folks who communicate with me about Dreamsnake tell me they enjoyed it, though most retrospective reviews dismiss it with a sneer.


  4. Post-menopause women need protection too, because of STDs.

    Seniors are among the fastest growing STD infection demographics, because they don’t use protection, because — duh — the only reason for protection is to keep from being pregnant. Many seniors have lost their long-term partners for a variety of reasons. So they’re also part of all the dance of romance on the way to finding love again, the second or third time around.

    Which highlights yet again that one cannot slice “reproductive” health matters off from any other health matters.

    Hot diggity on your behalf for your current great time! 🙂

    Love, C.

    • Ah, yes. STDs are another issue. Everyone needs to take those into consideration when having sex. That’s mostly about condoms, though, and I don’t think any of the anti-contraceptive movement has targeted those. Though I think the general tone of the conversation has probably made people feel too embarrassed to purchase them.

      And thanks for the kind words on my sex life. I’m very happy to have one!

  5. I hope we get more stories of mothers having abortions for reasons related to the kids they already have. Because it’s actually a common thing, and a very natural one.

  6. Thanks, Nancy, for speaking out on this important topic. Friends who work in health care remember the horror days of illegal abortions — women will get them even if they’re illegal, and some have paid horrific prices. And I know married women who have had abortions for family-management reasons (sometimes contraception fails), though that seems to be another taboo topic. I like to bring up the topic in the classroom when assigning the Hemingway story, “Hills Like White Elephants.” It’s good to make students uncomfortable so maybe they’ll start asking why. I’d love to see the shaming go away, so let’s all keep working to keep these hard-won freedoms.

    • It occurs to me that most of the stories I’ve ever read about illegal abortions make the experience sound horrific — dirty places, nasty “doctors”, etc. Though it also seems to me that, except for the stories about a woman who dies, or nearly dies, from one, that the general feeling of the woman who had the abortion is one of relief. (My mind is refusing to come up with specific examples; this is the impression I have from a lifetime of reading and could be inaccurate.)

      I’m sure there were lots of ugly situations in the day of illegal abortions, and I know there were far too many deaths. But I wonder if there are some other stories that didn’t get told. I know that women helped women, especially in the Sixties. Sara Paretsky uses a network of women who helped other women get abortions in the Sixties and early Seventies as part of the background story for V.I. Warshawski in her novels.

      Hmm. Seems to me someone could get a hell of dissertation out of fictional portrayals of abortion over the years. If someone hasn’t already done it (and if they have, I’d like to read it).

      • Thanks, Nancy — we teachers need all the help we can get!
        Responding to your thoughts about illegal abortions, yes, it’s possible we hear mostly the horror stories. A friend’s father was a gynecologist in the Bay Area in the 50s and 60s and saw a lot of terrible results with women coming to him after the botched jobs. So that may be coloring my thoughts about it.

        • I’m really curious now, though I’m sure there’s not much real data on this. I’ve heard all the stories of botched abortions and there are plenty of stories of women who died. Illegal abortions of necessity involved a lot of shady characters, and I’m sure many were done by incompetent people looking to make an illegal buck. And everyone involved had the specter of the law hanging over them, which would have affected the way people experienced these things.

          OTOH, I suspect that the stories about the horrors of illegal abortion were used to scare women out of trying to get one. And it would really be nice to read the stories of feminist groups who helped women get decent help.

            • A friend pointed me to a movie about Jane, which was the feminist collective that helped people get abortions in Chicago prior to Roe v. Wade. And that page in turn pointed me to this website that gives some of their history.

              BTW, I’m not saying that a lot of abortions done back when it was illegal weren’t horrific. The very fact that people could go to prison for providing abortions or seeking one made it a terrible experience even if every thing went well. I just think the stories about dirty motel rooms and ending up in the ER are not the only stories.

              • Nancy Jane, thanks for these links! This is powerful and empowering to hear about what these women did for themselves and other women.