Yesterday, Rick Santorum’s primary financial supporter, billionaire investor Foster Friess, announced to the world in an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell that birth control was simpler and cheaper years ago: “You know, back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly.”
The implication of this comment, of course, is that today’s women should just keep their legs closed and not have sex, as was the case years ago. Since he said “gals” one could also speculate that he may be referring to unmarried women, although this wasn’t explicitly stated. However, it is quite clear his opinion is that young people today are more and, perhaps, too promiscuous.
Married Couples Prefer Family Planning
First of all, birth control is not just for single folks. The vast majority of married couples use some form of birth control during their marriage. This is because most couples prefer to be responsible and plan to have children when their financial and life situation allows them to best care for and support a family rather than just leaving everything to chance. Although some couples choose to have as many children as their biology will allow (e.g., the Duggar family of “19 Kids and Counting”), these families are the exception rather than the rule.
If Mr. Friess was not referring to unmarried women, is he also suggesting that married women should keep their legs closed around aspirin? Surely, even extreme conservatives recognize that sexual intimacy is part of a healthy, loving marriage.
The Myth of Purity and Chastity in Previous Generations
Older individuals tend to perceive the youth of today as having diminished morals no matter when “today” happens to be. The flappers of the 1920’s were chastised for their behavior as were young people during the 1960’s. However, when we examine actual data about sexual behavior, this myth that young people are more promiscuous and immoral than their elder counterparts is shattered.
In a 2007 study entitled “Trends in Premarital Sex in the United States 1954 – 2003”, Dr. Lawrence Finer found that “almost all Americans have sex before marrying” and the proportion of individuals engaging in premarital sex “has been roughly similar for the past 40 years”. According to his findings, the median age of first sexual experience was either 17 or 18 during these 40 years.
We need to stop this ridiculous cycle of implying that today’s young women are sluts with loose morals. If they are, so are today’s young men and, according to the data, so were almost all young people for the last 40 years.
Where the Boys Are
In a recent discussion with a close friend who is a conservative, he stated, “women have more responsibility for unintended pregnancies because they can always just say ‘no’ to sex”. I was flabbergasted and outraged by his comment. I asked if men should be allowed to pursue sex with every woman they meet with the responsibility falling only on the woman if she says yes. He walked his comment back and finally agreed that the responsibility was indeed shared.
Unfortunately, there is a good deal of sexism in how we talk about and think about issues of contraception and pregnancy. Mr. Friess’ comment was clearly sexist in that he indicates the responsibility is on the “gal” to keep her legs closed. Why should we not say that we should put a lock on young men’s zippers instead?
Adding insult to injury, the Congressional committee chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa convened yesterday to discuss women’s health issues with an invited panel full of men. I commend the female Representatives who exited in protest when adding a female panelist was refused. Any men who think this was an acceptable practice need to ask themselves how they would feel about a committee largely comprised of women calling a panel of only women to discuss possible legislation stipulating mandatory vasectomies or castration. Obviously, this would never happen but the example illustrates the point. I am sure men would not be in favor of a select group of women attempting to craft legislation making decisions about the fate of their reproductive organs.
Vote Like It’s 2012 – not 1612
Presidential candidates and elected Congressmen and Senators who are jumping on the bandwagon to exploit the birth control controversy are either too backward to be serving as an elected leader today if they really believe in these positions or they are opportunistic slime balls if they know better but are riding this wave for political exposure.
Rick Santorum needs to hop in a time machine and run for President in another century. Taking the position that birth control is “not OK”, women shouldn’t be in the workforce, and women shouldn’t be in combat (despite the recommendation of Major General Gary Patton) does not really work in 2012. This type of discussion is probably why President Obama is ahead of the Republican field by 20 points among women.
I truly hope that all those who believe in an egalitarian society in which everyone has the opportunity to pursue their passions and dreams in the professional realm, family life, or both remember those elected officials who are pushing this anti-liberty agenda and vote accordingly in 2012. The good old days are largely a myth similar to the sexual purity of the youth in former generations. To make things better we must move forward, not back.