Scrolling on twitter last night before bed I came across a thread that caught my eye.
The thread was from last year, and originally I scrolled past it, thinking it was just the same argument I had seen rehashed for years. But something made me go back and read the thread, and I'm glad I did.
In her 63-Tweet long thread, blogger and mom Gabrielle Blair details one of the most profound abortion arguments I have ever read.
Men have been fighting women's right to an abortion for centuries, blaming women for being irresponsible during sex leading to unwanted pregnancy.
Except here's the thing: pregnancy is rarely the women's fault.
In fact, women can really only get pregnant 2 days out of every month. Men, on the other hand, have the ability to impregnate a woman 365 days a year, from puberty until death. A man on any given day could impregnate multiple women, and cause upwards of 1000 unwanted pregnancies in a year, just by ejaculating irresponsibly. The people who have to live with the consequences, however, are the women.
Women are pressured into taking birth control in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies, which itself comes with a multitude of uncomfortable and serious side effects, that is, if the woman is even capable of getting her hands on it. Most birth controls are expensive, often not covered by insurance, and require diligent upkeep on a woman's part.
All this, just to prevent unwanted pregnancies after a man has already failed on his end to do so.
Women are incapable of getting pregnant from sex if a man's ejaculate is not involved. A woman can have as much sex as she wants, achieve as many orgasms as is physically possible in her lifetime, and still not get pregnant, if male ejaculate is not present. The only association between women's sexual freedom and pregnancy is the irresponsible orgasming of a man.
So there is an obvious culprit: sperm, ejaculate, cum, whatever you want to call it.
Now, you might stop and say, wait, men don't want to get women pregnant either. That might be true, and to that, we say there is a great way to prevent sperm from ever reaching a woman's reproductive organs: condoms. Condoms, the cheap, easy, and convenient contraceptive option drilled into us since middle school could be hailed the greatest invention since sliced bread. Except, sometimes men don't feel like using them. Yup. Men who decide they don't want to risk a minuscule fraction of pleasure during sex decide that putting a woman at risk of pregnancy is worth the trouble.
Even when women successfully convince their partner to use a condom, sometimes it doesn't stay on the whole time. A trend, known as stealthing where the man removes a condom without their partner's knowledge (which by the way is a form of sexual assault) is increasingly popular among men who value their own momentary pleasure over the general well-being of a woman. To these men women say: why not just pull out? Sure pulling out is only 96% effective, but isn't that surely better odds than the much riskier decision to cum inside a woman? Well, for some men, that's still not enough. Cumming inside a woman again provides marginally more pleasure for a man. And this incredibly poor statistical analysis on the part of a man during sex is causing 87 million women per year to become pregnant unintentionally.
Photo via Bish.com "What is Stealthing"
But unwanted pregnancies affect both parties don't they?
Unfortunately, not always. Unwanted pregnancies are associated with shame, guilt, loss of social status, and being socially ostracized, but only on the part of the woman. When faced with an unwanted pregnancy, many women get an abortion, put up the child for adoption, or even bear and raise the child all without the male parent's knowledge. Women are pressured to go through nine months of mental and physical pain and exhaustion, or risk a life-threatening procedure, all because of a man's actions, and without their knowledge. Even when a mother decides to inform the father, child support is questionable and poorly enforced, leading to thousands of struggling single mothers, and children raised without proper support systems.
The logical option is to prevent pregnancy at the source, not after the deed has been done.
Blair draws the parallels to vaccines. In the context of pregnancy, sure, abortions are a cure to unwanted pregnancy, but stopping male ejaculate at the source is the vaccine. There are many non-invasive, extremely safe methods to preventing male ejaculate from entering the equation during sex, however, as you can probably guess, this doesn't really fly with the male crowd. Vasectomies: cheap, effective, reversible, easy, and only marginally painful could prevent millions of pregnancies a year, but only 1 in 1000 US men choose to receive them. Male birth control has massive potential to prevent even more pregnancies, but funding has been shot down repeatedly after reports showed side effects at a fraction of those experienced by women on birth control.
So, after all this, why do we continue to blame women for unwanted pregnancies.
Why do we blame women for trying to do the best they can to avoid or terminate unwanted pregnancies? The answer is that it has never been about women getting pregnant, the fight has always been against women and their bodies. Society has a problem with women being sexually liberated. Men have had free reign to release as much pregnancy inducing ejaculate as they desire without any negative repercussions for centuries. However, as soon as women demand agency over their bodies and their futures, they are shot down, shamed, blamed, and rejected from society. It's time to change the conversation. It's time to start funding the right studies and start creating the right policies. Let's focus on the vaccine for unwanted pregnancy, not banning the cure.
Thanks so much to Gabrielle Blair, whose thread is what much of this article is inspired by and based on.