As one of the most divisive arguments in culture, few topics share the level of passion than the pro-life vs. pro-choice argument. My hope is that women will collectively unite to combat the reasons why thousands of women find themselves in crises pregnancies and stop brawling about what to do after-the-fact. This essay explores some of the attitudes, educational deficits, legal challenges and social barriers that contribute to unwanted pregnancies and a unified call to action.
Social Stigma & Sex
Historically men do not suffer social consequences for overt promiscuity as women do. From a rape culture in the West to honour killings in the East, women have paid the price for mens’ rampant sexual appetites. Instead of holding men accountable for devaluing and objectifying a woman’s sexuality, women opted to fight for this same privilege: the right to experience a free sexuality devoid of cultural shaming and stigma. The problem with this platform is it amplifies the message that a woman’s sexuality is cheap.
“The problem with this platform is it amplifies the message that a woman’s sexuality is cheap.”
I believe a true feminist knows her worth- her mental, spiritual, relational, physical and sexual identity, placing a high value on her whole self and not offering up these identities without a reciprocal exchange. I love the feminist movement for fighting for equal pay because it demonstrates that a woman’s skill equates with a man’s skill and should be rewarded accordingly. I want women to demand a similar like-for-like exchange for access to her sexuality, and simultaneously, create a culture that disapproves of casual sex for both genders. I want the bar raised for men, not lowered for women.
The truth, women, is that our bodies are unique, beautiful, sensual, and special. This open and free exploratory sexuality that is encouraged by western society does not elevate our position. Scantily clad actresses and singers dominate our culture with little attention to female politicians, activists, inventors, scientists, teachers, and authors. The voices in Hollywood are strong against inequality, and yet, movie after movie, actresses cast themselves in roles that are disrespectful- characters who glorify adultery, appearance, promiscuity, and shallow relationships. Sex sells. We have to stop purchasing materials that reinforce that women are sexual objects, and start demanding media that reflects a woman’s honour, intellect, and capabilities. We have to be intentional to depict ourselves as the capable, equal, and strong gender that women are marching to be seen as.
We have to change what our young girls are wearing, listening to, and watching because all of the subtle and overt sexual overtones groom young women for an ideology that their success as a woman is equated to their physical attraction. We need to change the message to demonstrate that their value is actually based around character and honour, courage, empowerment, beauty, strength, grace, and dignity. We need to be consciencious to teach our girls that beauty and sexy are not equivalent. We need to disentangle a girl’s worth from her sexual attractiveness and from boys’ opinion so that maybe her self-worth will come from a college acceptance letter rather than a night of cheap thrills in the sheets- putting her at risk of becoming pregnant unintentionally.
The Appraisal of a Woman
Surely, a person is more valuable than a car. We wouldn’t advise a teenager to give away, borrow, or let a man she just met test drive her car, so why would we celebrate her giving him access to her body?
A woman’s sexuality is so valuable that a man should offer commitment, stability, trust, and emotional interconnectedness in exchange for physical intimacy. We need to give women the permission to act according to their value, to have standards, to have high expectations, to raise the bar and be intolerant of unwanted sexual advances.
Education: The Science of Sexuality
We have to emphasise in our sexual education that sex is not merely an orgasmic exchange, particularly for women. Sex releases neurotransmitters designed to create emotional interconnectedness for women. Females are programmed to be selective about our potential mating selections because our children depend on the stability offered by a partner. Disproportionately for women, sex is a bonding force. When we don’t adequately in-still an attitude of selectiveness with our sexual partners, we inadvertently put women in situations where they are emotionally connected to the wrong kinds of men-the men who are unsuitable fathers in the event of pregnancy.
I want the message of women to change from “Get your hands off my uterus” to “Get your hands out of my pants.”
Although we largely addressed the reproductive risks of sex through contraceptives which allowed for a sexual revolution, we did not take away the neurobiological components that make sexual encounters more powerful emotionally and psychologically for women. It isn’t a handshake, ladies. It changes our brains. I want women to understand this before celebrating a one-night stand. It sticks with us. I want the message of women to change from “Get your hands off my uterus” to “Get your hands out of my pants.”
Access to Reliable Contraception
On the issue of contraception, we have work to do. Every girl has to have access to reliable and free forms of contraception. We have to tell the teenage girl that if she lets the boy drive her car against wisdom, she had better have good insurance. We need to spend our energy ensuring ease of access in the legislation, and hold insurance and pharmaceutical companies responsible for breaking down barriers.
Moral conservatives argue this sends a message of approval for un-marital sex. A message of abstinence only is unrealistic, but if we can minimise risky sexual activity, unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, we have an ethical obligation to do so. Fiscal conservatives want to know how we can finance this. Birth control is so much cheaper than any after-the-fact solution, period.
I meet women (and men) who tell me that their parents did not discuss sex at all. Sex can have hideous emotional, medical, legal, and life changing consequences in the wrong context. Yet so many families do not utter a single word about it- leaving media, peers and school programs to do the educating. Some parents cannot even use the appropriate anatomical names for the penis and vagina, and yet, permit their children to watch movies with and listen to sexually themed content. This has a massive disconnect for me, and I find it irresponsible.
We need to teach parents how to talk about sex. We need to do a better job promoting healthy relationships in existing families and teaching parents to discuss partnering decisions with their children. We need to find men who are willing to be strong voices in the community that echo women’s value and worthiness- not the current athletes and movie stars (and presidents) who are frequently entangled in sexual abuse, misogamy, and adultery.
Rape & Insest
Huge discussions are generated in the pro-life and pro-choice circles about pregnancy resulting from rape and incest. It is argued that the culture of pornography contributes towards sexual irresponsibility including rape. We have to stop the cavalier attitude towards graphic mature content- it has a price to women and society.
In 2016, I helped three women bring cases forward for rape and sexual assault in the UK. Unfortunately, without extraordinary proof, it is a his-word/her-word battle despite honest efforts to prosecute. We have to discuss consent explicitly with men, help women avoid vulnerable situations, and educate women on how to collect evidence in the event that a situation occurs.
After these cases, I took a mixed martial arts class. My daughters will be enrolling in their teens. I’m not projecting a false sense of security; I’m just trying to give myself a shot. I hate typing this paragraph out because it shifts so much responsibility to female victims. But currently, this is our present reality. The beauty and fall-back of the justice system is that people are innocent until proven guilty. Add this protection to a culture where rape is justifiable depending on what the woman was wearing and other circumstantial evidence like alcohol consumption, and we find so much difficulty bringing perpetrators to justice. When abusers go without sufficient consequences, future criminal action is likely.
Sex crimes are not just physical. They start with off-handed pejorative comments and sexually suggestive advances that are easily dismissed and sometimes welcomed by women. As a culture, we have to take a zero tolerance approach to sexual harassment and disrespect. Men have to know that they will be penalised for marginalising women in speech, tone, and attitudes, not just penetration.
In the United States and the United Kingdom, rape kits are backlogged because of lack of funding. Sexual offenders have high reoccurrence rates, so the longer the offender avoids prosecution, the higher the risk to women. We have to push for adequate resources to ensure justice.
Finally, the traits of abusive men can be recognised, but rarely are the warning signs taught. Abuse always escalates, but the cycle of violence ebbs and flows with affection and mistreatment. If you can teach women to recognise red flags while simultaneously increasing their self-worth and their voice, you can alter the course of hostile and volatile relationships and prevent women from being sexually active with abusive partners. If you want to avoid unwanted pregnancies, communities have to address domestic violence proactively.
We can’t just address abortion irradiation or promotion. We have to look at the societal factors that are making sexual activity frequent and irresponsible. We have to recognise and reduce the barriers to contraception. We have to equate girls’ beauty separate and apart from their sexuality. We have to stigmatise casual sex and teach women to be aware of the risk factors for sexual assault. We have to empower women to say “no” and to be participants in healthy relationships.
And finally, to every woman faced with a crises pregnancy, having to make a decision on behalf of an unborn child, my empathy and compassion is extended towards you. My hope is that fewer women find themselves in a position of having to make a difficult choice because they know their value isn’t found on their backside with an irresponsible, uncommitted partner. My hope is that you find a community of women who are actively helping you before you find yourself here, not arguing with each other about what you should do.