“A man and a woman hug in a special way and nine months later a baby comes.”
And thus began my sex education. I was three when I asked my mom where babies came from and that was her answer. My mom thought it was best to answer such questions in an honest, age appropriate manner.
I grew up in a house where discussions of sex were not taboo. It wasn’t something we talked about constantly but when I wanted to ask a question here, there were always open and honest discussions. And those discussions often included the potential consequences of sex. The primary consequence was a potentially unplanned pregnancy but there were discussions of sexually transmitted infections as well. Including but certainly not limited to AIDS. But we didn’t just discuss the negative consequences of sex – we discussed all of the positives of sex. Sex can be a way to express love to your partner(s), a way to grow closer, to be intimate. Sex can be a way to share pleasure or in the case of solo masturbation, a way to enjoy your own body. There was nothing taboo about sex in my house. It had a context, though. And my mom was very clear that she hoped I would wait until I was mature enough and old enough to handle either the physical or emotional consequences of sex. But she absolutely did not expect me or want me to wait until marriage. “You test drive a car and that’s not half as much of a commitment as marriage” was heard in my house more than once.
All of this is to say that I did wait – until I was 21. And I am very happy for those early experiences as they were filled with love, respect and fun.
As I find myself in my 40s, I can say that my sex life and relationship with sex has gotten better and better as I have gotten older. I am very sexually liberal. I truly believe that as long as everyone involved is consenting and happy….anything is possible.
So it is from this position that my heart breaks for Bristol Palin as she announced her pregnancy. My heart doesn’t break for her because she is pregnant. My heart breaks for her because she felt the need to say this:
“I know this has been, and will be, a huge disappointment to my family, to my close friends, and to many of you.”
As I imagine you know, Bristol Palin is the daughter of Sarah Palin. The Palins are strong and vocal advocates of abstinence-only sex education. A method of sex education that has proven time and time again to lead to, not reduce unplanned pregnancies.
With this announcement, it sounds like Bristol Palin finds herself in her second unplanned pregnancy. Unplanned pregnancies happen all of the time, even to those who are very aware of how to reduce the chances of pregnancy. But my guess is that Bristol didn’t have a strong awareness of how to reduce the chances of pregnancy. What makes me very sad for Bristol is that she feels that having a sex life is going to be disappointing to her family and some perfect strangers. As much as my sex life isn’t anyone’s business (other than my partner), Bristol’s sex life isn’t anyone’s business but hers (and her partner).
I can’t help but wonder if the fact that she grew up in a house where real, honest and frank discussions of sex were frowned upon did make it easier, not harder for her to find herself with an unplanned pregnancy. I also can’t help but think that if she hadn’t grown up in a home where reproductive choices didn’t exist, then she would have had more choices.
There is so much that can be said about reproductive choice but I’ll leave it at this: reproductive choices of all kinds give women agency over their future in a way that few other choices do. And none of that was available to Bristol Palin. Instead she grew up in a home where religious belief outweighed science. Where conversations of control over her own body weren’t had in lieu of conversations about how God would take care of all and if you lived a certain way, you’d be immune from “sin”.
I hope that Bristol’s family quickly comes around to a place where they love and support her. Where they celebrate the newest member of their family and they support Bristol in being the best mom that she can be. And I hope that one-day, we can live in a world where no one feels like they have to have shame about their sex lives. And any of the potential consequences of their choices.
I'm a single lady living in the suburbs of Philadelphia with 2 cats named Leo and Toby (after characters on "The West Wing" - one day I will have the ability to recite the entire series by heart.That's a noble goal, yes?).
I've had a varied career doing a bunch of technical stuff that isn't that interesting to folks who aren't doing it but my real passion is writing.I also get the fabulous pleasure of coaching people from time to time and that brings me amazing joy and energy.
If you want to hang with me there are things you should know:I curse.A lot.I like hoppy beer.A lot.I like big and deep red wines. A lot. I adore my friends.A lot, a lot.I am passionate about politics (or a big geek about them - you choose).I'm an accidental but rather passionate Unitarian and few things make me happier than my dining room table surrounded by people I love.And picking paint colors, let's not forget that. Find me online here.