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 Child – which I wrote about a few weeks back – is the only movie I can think of that treats abortion as a positive choice.
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.