The ruling that the morning-after pill is to be made available over the counter and to girls of only fifteen years of age has caused conservatives to fret and oppose the move. This blog will surprise some of my readers because I will take a feminist (?) position on it, and one that is also aware of changes in life expectancy. Some of it will be autobiographical.
Although teen-agers often perform Romeo and Juliet, Franco Zefirrelli’s film of 1968 reminded us of how young the star-crossed lovers were. It is often forgotten that until modern public health measures were taken, and the discovery of the germ theory of disease, plus developments in surgery and antisepsis, the life span of homo sapiens was shockingly short. As a teen ager I recall that life expectancy for women was 65, while men could expect to live to 62. In pre-modern times, those who made it past thirty-five were lucky.
Not withstanding our longer life-expectancy today, biology continues to prepare pubescent boys and girls for sexuality and reproduction. A general hyper-sexualization promoted by mass media and modern contraception, plus an unfortunate reading of the feminist movement (aided and abetted by ambitious pseudo-feminists), has resulted in premature experimentation with sexuality in the teen-age population.
When I was in high school in the 1950s, it was not expected that love-making would go much beyond necking and petting. To be pregnant was scandalous, and abortion was confined to back alley butchery. Even in college, girls who indulged the general animal eagerness of college age young men, kept it to themselves, for there were curfews, and the sexes were confined to separate dormitories. Many of my classmates, if they did have premarital sex, married their boyfriends. We didn’t talk about sex much at all. In those days, we might be husband shopping, but we were also intent on our education, then as now, the route to upward mobility, even if that meant marrying an engineer or pre-med or pre-law student, achieving vicariously through our husbands’ accomplishments.
After my divorce in the early 1970s, I met several men of European extraction who confessed that they never any sex whatsoever until they were roughly twenty-one years of age. They were intellectuals of middle-class parentage, and I thought nothing of their late initiation into sex.
As the feminist movement proceeded, along with my immersion in the daring life styles of the counter-culture, I had plenty of opportunity to see how differently men and women experienced the new libertine excess. Women, I concluded, took sex very seriously, and did not expect to be treated like toys, used once and then discarded. Leftist men, however, not unlike some prominent lesbian feminists, were proudly promiscuous and indifferent to the feelings of their “liberated” “community of women” and insisted that it was politically correct to sleep around, and to relate to sex as men did, not as mothers-to-be did, expecting at least serial monogamy and suffering from feelings of abandonment when their sex partners were indifferent or hostile to feminine responses.
There is no rational reason for not teaching middle school children about such matters. They should not only learn about the difference between boys and girls and how they relate to sexuality, but girls should learn to stand up for themselves and not to be doormats for predatory males (and as the comment below reminds us, women can be predatory too). The pressure on girls to conform to male demands is appalling.
Some religious parents may hide like ostriches from these facts of life and pretend that their children will be persuaded by demands for abstinence, and some children probably will conform out of religious commitments and fears. But I think that these parents are deluded at best, and wrong at least. For they are up against the most powerful impulse in the years of adolescence.
We need a national conversation on this sensitive matter. Personally, I surprise myself by a renewed interest in separate education for teen age boys and girls. Girls can then focus on their education, and not their clothes, make-up, and sex appeal. The teen age years are dangerous for the emotional and physical health of all children, for they are susceptible to the appeals of forces and social movements that do not have their best interests at heart.