By Jill Richardson
In the past few weeks, my Facebook feed has exploded with posts about abortion. If you use Facebook, probably yours has too.
There’s a lot to say about abortion, especially now that Georgia, Alabama, Missouri, and Ohio have passed extremely restrictive laws banning abortions in cases where they previously would be legal. But I think there’s a bigger picture to look at too.
The bigger picture is women’s sexuality. Straight men’s sexuality is treated as more legit than women’s. The differences start at a young age.
How many families teach boys the correct names for their genitals, but do not do the same for little girls? Some families simply do not talk about female genitalia, or they call it something euphemistic (I’ve heard “privates,” “bottom,” and even “front butt”).
Consider the movie Pitch Perfect 2, in which a fictional a cappella group gets in trouble after Rebel Wilson accidentally flashes President Obama. In the film, the incident is reported on the news, but the very name of the body part is portrayed as so taboo that the news bleeps it out.
Little boys talk about their penises openly, and later they discuss masturbation and even porn with one another. While parents might not want their preteen or teen boys consuming porn, they often shrug off boys’ expressions of sexuality because “boys will be boys.”
In sex ed at home and at school, girls learn about avoiding sexual harassment and assault, pregnancy, and diseases. It’s taken for granted that men want and enjoy sex and that they will be the sexual aggressors. Often not discussed? Women’s desire for sex and sexual pleasure.
Science on female sexual pleasure is lacking because funders of science saw it as a frivolous topic to study. Many women experience pain during sex and are often written off by doctors.
How are women supposed to enter safely and healthily into sexual relationships when they are taught from the start that their sex organs are so shameful they are unspeakable? And that their role in sexual relationships is saying “no” until someday, at an appropriate time (once they are married?), they will say yes and then everything will magically fall into place?
Author Linda Kay Klein wrote about how impossible it is for women to simply shut down their sexuality for years and then, once married, instantly turn it back on again.
Men regulating women’s bodies through restrictive abortion laws is the tip of an iceberg in which women’s sexuality is stigmatized, de-legitimized, silenced, controlled, and misunderstood, even by women themselves.
Women and girls try to walk the impossible line between being seen as a prude or a slut, while hookup culture makes young straight women feel they need to give men access to their bodies in hopes that eventually the man may want to start a relationship. Sociologists study the “pleasure gap” in which men are more likely to climax than women in heterosexual sexual encounters.
Banning abortion denies women autonomy over their own bodies and treats women as if they lack the agency to know what is best for themselves. So does this larger picture of how society treats women’s sexuality.
Raising girls who understand and do not feel shame for normal, healthy sexuality — and boys who see women as sexual agents in their own right, not objects for male pleasure — is a first step toward reducing sexual assault and unwanted pregnancy.
And towards raising a generation of young people who will be capable of creating smarter policies around reproductive rights and health.
Jill Richardson is the author of “Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It.” She is a columnist for OtherWords.org See her previous column, “Sorry, I Can’t Give Trump a Chance.”
Janet R Fonseca says
“[I]t is her body, her life, and men, to that extent, are not similarly situated. [Men] don’t bear the child. […] It is essential to woman’s equality with man that she be the decisionmaker, that her choice be controlling. If you impose restraints that impede her choice, you are disadvantaging her because of her sex.”
–Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg during her
Senate confirmation hearing, July 21, 1993.
Robin Polletta says
“If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.”
I like how when it is Convenient “we” are NOT equal………………..This occurs in many instances. I guess it is “convenient” here.
Im against the total banning of all abortions BUT at some point in a pregnancy the conversation must address that we ARE talking about a distinctive HUMAN life. If you don’t want women to have an abortion if your a woman dont have one if your a Man cover it up.
Traveling Rep says
Trying to conflate women’s sexuality and the murder of a human being is non-sensical. Abortion has nothing to do with how a woman is or is not treated. The decision to not use contraception (or abstaining altogether) has not the first thing to do with your absurd argument.
Get an education says
Or, why not educate both sexes on responsible sex so they won’t have to have an abortion. If a female gets pregnant, that baby is not her body anymore. The whole “my body, my choice” doesn’t make sense. Abortion is literally ripping a HUMAN apart bit by bit to pull them out of the womb. It’s inhumane and morally wrong. Close your legs, wrap it up, whatever to prevent a human you don’t want to raise.
Mary Fusco says
Women know where babies come from at the age of 12 or less. Many are pregnant in their teens. Women want to control their bodies. Contraception is the place to begin, You don’t get Mr. wonderful because you are having sex with him. Ever hear the old saying “why buy the cow when the milk is free” Many single women choose to have a child because they are financially capable of raising said child. The rest are having children because they can. Guaranteed if the Government stopped paying for these kids for 18 years he population would drop drastically and women would learn about birth control available.
Ms. Richardson should stick to writing the food articles. This article is nonsense and missed the point completely, in fact, she seems to be grabbing unrelated non-issues out of the air and trying to make them into an argument for abortion. This makes about as little sense as her writings against Trump.
Iva hadit says
Look at all the judgmental know-it-all’s spouting their unsolicited opinions about women who have abortions. News flash: IT’S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS! I’m sure you have plenty of things that actually concern you. MYOB.
Ignorance about sexuality is just that-ignorance! It is in no way an excuse for the murder of your pre-born child!
I, at first, thought I was reading a throw/back article from decades ago.
Women, in general, should not be talked about like they are victims and children. We teach our children the correct names for their body parts even though they may refer to such parts with euphemisms in public (as we also teach them). This article is non-feminist and portrays women as stupid among other things.
It is not the women that abortion controls, it is the innocent children. Women can control the outcome, not so the children. Women can also read the science and use the info before they make decisions. And it is the men on the Supremes that made the decision in Roe before a lot of the facts were out about when heartbeats begin as well as viability. Time to look again at the issue — with compassionate exceptions. For the most part, we can prevent abortion.
Jill has done a great job with this article. Unfortunately, her observations are still quite valid. . .. just read some of the comments here. Women in the 21st century are still treated as lessor human beings who often carry the burden of full responsibility of child birth and rearing. While men are often allowed to just . . . what?. . . “sow their seed ” and walk away.
Jill certainly proves her point when people write typical asinine comments like “women should just cross their legs” or degrading statements like “why buy the cow when the milk is free.”
Why aren’t “dead beat dads” castigated in society and comments here? Why aren’t they told to “keep it in their pants” ? Why. . . because Jill still has some very valid points!!!
Randy Jones says
1) Am I going to have sex;
2) With whom am I going to have sex; and
3) Am I going to use birth control?
Given, rape denies these three choices.
I DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHEN WOMEN IN THE UNITED STATES HAVE SUCH A FIT WHEN AN IMMIGRANT BABY DIES IN OUR CUSTODY BUT THEY DO NOT MIND THE KILLING OF AMERICAN BABIES! WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?
Laura Howell says
Women have been in this reproductive business for a long time and they have proven to be successful at it. I trust women to make the best decision for their own bodies and their health and for the welfare of their families – just as I trust a man to make the best decision for his body and health.
Very good article. Abortion is not murder. Abortion is not wrong; it is not shameful; it is not something to hide or lie about; rather, it is a medical procedure that is legal and is supported by the majority of people in this country. People need to stop the hand-wringing, vitriol and angst over something that has nothing to do with them. Women have an absolute right of autonomy over their bodies and we will continue to have that right no matter how forcefully the misguided try to stifle our choices.