Sex Is Not Punishment

The following post is about the ongoing abortion debate and sex ed. Proceed with caution.

I was trolling Twitter yesterday, looking for links to click on because that’s how I roll, and I saw this hashtag:

#PraytoEndAbortion

Which was, several tweets later, followed by this one:

#ProtectChoice

Then Emmie Mears tweeted this article at me. After I managed to pop my eyes back into their sockets, I sighed. Because apparently this is still a thing. Politicians trying to legislate a woman’s body.

Um, hello? *knocks on politician’s head* It’s my body. It should be my choice.

Emmie had an excellent point:

“Abortion is a symptom, not the source problem.”

Family planning organizations and pro-choice groups have pointed out that access to birth control plays a large part in preventing the need for an abortion in the first place. But I found a statistic that set off an alarm bell in my brain. According to Abort73, in 2009 54% of women reported having an abortion despite using birth control. Of that 54%, 76% of pill users and 49% of condom users reported they didn’t use the chosen method of birth control consistently.

Guys, the thing about birth control is it’s not going to work if you don’t use it properly. Which leads me back to Emmie’s point. The source problem to me here isn’t just righteous men thinking they control a woman’s body (pretty sure we left that behind centuries ago. Or do they think because of the recent surge in D/s erotica that women are now okay with men controlling their reproductive choices?). There’s a distinct lack of education around birth control and sexual education. Not just for women, but for men. How many of those women are with men who could give two shits about whether the birth control’s working properly? They’re not the ones who have to deal with the pregnancy and the decision to go through with it or terminate it.

Dan Savage comments on sex education in his most recent book American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love, and Politics. “Sex Dread” covers the deficiencies in abstinence-only sex ed programs and the so-called “comprehensive” programs offered in high school today. What both types of programs have in common? They leave students with a feeling like they’re preparing for a disaster. Not sex.

If they’re lucky, the course will cover not only reproductive biology, but STI’s and various methods of contraception. But Savage points out they’re failing to cover one huge component: sexual pleasure and where and how to deal with sexual desire.

Let’s face it. America is a country of fucking prudes. We titter behind our hands when someone mentions boobies or penises (despite what Sex and the City might say). We’re relieved we can read our “naughty” books on e-readers so those embarrassing covers aren’t on display for all to see. We do it behind closed doors (I firmly believe this is appropriate) and we don’t talk about it (here’s the inappropriate part – we should be talking about sex). And of course there’s the male and female stereotypes: men are confident about their prowess between the sheets and should they choose to go looking for it, and looking for it frequently and with multiple partners, this is okay. Women who are confident in their ability to blow a man’s mind and do it often and with multiple partners are sluts, whores, terrible role models, bad influences, and occasionally home-wreckers.

I went on a date (a single date) with a guy who pointed out that if foreplay had been taught in sex ed, there’d be a lot fewer teenagers having sex. According to him, he and his high school girlfriend waited a year to actually have sex because they fooled around, spent time learning about all the other ways they could please the other. While we never went out again, that conversation has stuck with me for years. It’s an excellent idea. It’ll never fly in schools, thanks to the aforementioned prudish nature of the citizens of this fine country.

Look, I’m not saying that foreplay should suddenly be included in sex ed curriculum. But as Savage points out, kids aren’t being taught about the emotional and mental repercussions of having sex, and that’s just wrong. They’re getting the information from other sources – friends, the internet, magazines, rumors and innuendo. They’re not learning that most sex is recreational and is all about feeling good. They’re not learning that there are many, many ways to give and receive pleasure, and not all of them involve penetration. So if they’re told they should for fuck’s sake use a condom, they do (sometimes) but there’s no dialogue about what happens emotionally if they don’t.

With the way our sex ed programs are now, it doesn’t surprise me that the US has the highest rate of teen pregnancies amongst developed nations. And, logically, I’d expect that as those teens mature, they’re still not learning from their mistakes. Wait. That’s not always the case. I do believe that it’s possible for two people to be mentally, emotionally, and physically ready to fuck, and still not be prepared to handle a negative outcome. Sex is a powerful force. It can heighten emotions in the moment that may not be there when your hormones calm. Birth control packaging does come with a warning that it’s not a fail safe. There are instances where that happens, resulting in an unwanted pregnancy, and one or both parties, for one reason or another, is not prepared, capable, or even want to handle it. By making abortions more and more difficult to obtain, sex becomes a punishment, rather than a reward. We start avoiding it because on that off off chance something bad might happen, our ability to fix the problem in the manner we’d like isn’t an option.

At the end of the day, it comes down to choice. Politics and religion have been at odds in this country for quite some time, and the abortion debate is an outgrowth of that problem. Many pro-lifers are religious. Many pro-choicers are pinko-liberal commies. But just like I ask that you don’t force your religious views on me (and indeed, this country says you can’t, though that sure as fuck doesn’t stop people from doing it anyway) I ask that you don’t force your stance on abortion on me.

It’s a choice I hope I’m never in a position to make. I can’t imagine what goes through a woman’s head as she walks through that door to her appointment. Is she blaming herself? Is she blaming the man? Is there no blame? Regret? Shame? A sense of security in knowing she’s doing the right thing for her?

Sometimes I wish the universe could be flipped on its ear. In this alternate reality, men would have deal with this. They’d be the ones getting pregnant, forced to make a decision they may not have been prepared for. They’d be the ones walking past protesters with grotesque signs. They’d be the ones called sluts, or sinners, or whores.

But they’re not. And I think until they’re put in a position where they have to make that choice, they need to stop trying to take it away from us.

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