Monday, July 15, 2013

How Casual Sex Became a Privilege of the Rich

Posted By on Mon, Jul 15, 2013 at 10:17 AM

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A pro-choice protestor at the Texas State legislature, wearing a tampon necklace.
  • A pro-choice protestor at the Texas State legislature, wearing a tampon necklace.

One of the reasons that this particular article was immediately derided by most women that I know, is that, at first glance, it seems to be one of those terribly obvious Times trend pieces, like the one on how city families move to the suburbs, that isn't really a "trend" at all, just a fact of life. Most women I know said something along the lines of: "Of course women like to have sex as much as men. What was the Times smoking when it green-lit this article?" But the issue isn't whether or not women want sex as much as men, it's whether or not they have the power to control the situation in the same way a man can. Which, let's face it, that will never be the case. It will always be the man who has the power in a sexual relationship because it is only the woman who can get pregnant. It is no coincidence that women's prominence in the workplace coincided with newfound accessibility to family planning, including both birth control pills and legalized abortion. Suddenly, women had control over the destiny of their own bodies, and a lot of the time, women chose to do exactly what men had always done, namely, enjoy their bodies—including through sex—without the burden of knowing that any wrong move could forever change the rest of their lives.

And so it would seem like the privilege of being a male, at least in the realm of certain kinds of sexual freedom, is a thing of the past. With abortion legalized and birth control readily available and—perhaps most importantly—a comprehensive sex education policy in schools to teach young women who might not already know exactly what their choices are, everyone can live happily ever after, right? Yeah, right. Except that many places in the US have abstinence-only sex ed curriculum, and places like Planned Parenthood which offer reasonably priced birth control are defunded, and access to safe abortions has become more and more difficult to find in places like Texas, Ohio, and North Carolina. Outrageous as all this is for every woman, the women who it will impact the most, obviously, are the women who don't have the funds to travel the extra distance to get an abortion, and who don't have health insurance that will pay for contraception. These are the women that Mercedes is familiar with, and that's why she associates sexual freedom with a dead-end life. Mercedes doesn't get to enjoy the privileges that her wealthier classmates do. If they have unprotected sex, they can pay fifty bucks for Plan B without even blinking an eye. For someone without the money, one night of fun could easily lead to a lifetime of responsibility.

And it is for that reason that it almost makes perverse sense that, last week, the Texas State Legislature confiscated tampons and condoms from the protestors who had come out to oppose the passage of the restrictive new abortion legislation. Tampons and condoms, you see, might be used as weapons. Guns, as usual, were allowed into legislative chambers. But in this case, condoms and tampons are weapons. They are weapons in the fight against an oppressive system that is working to make it difficult for women to have the same freedoms that men do with their bodies. And the sad truth is, the more money and the more education a woman has, the less she will be affected by restrictive laws. It's the less economically secure women who will, as they historically always do, pay the price of privilege.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen

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