When did safe sex make when slutty?
Lately, significant buzz has circulated around President Obama’s Contraception Mandate, which states that private employers must provide contraceptives and other preventive services without co-pays or deductibles to women who request them. The mandate was swiftly met with outrage by segments of the population, despite the President’s insistence that religiously affiliated organizations would not be required to provide these services and that insurance companies would instead. The compromise has not stopped social conservatives from slamming President Obama, going so far as to compare his administration’s view on religion to Nazi Germany.
Many organizations — religious and others, but namely the Roman Catholic Church — have stated that the use of contraceptives is a sin and that religiously affiliated hospitals should not be forced to distribute an item they consider to be amoral.
I have a problem with the Church’s hypocritical logic: according to a 2011 report from the Guttmacher Institute, an organization dedicated to providing factual resources on reproductive health, 98 percent of Catholic women (of legal age) have used some form of birth control. I’m guessing the other 2 percent are the ones driving pickup trucks full of cats.
It does seem absurd that in this day and age we are more angered about the idea of providing a service to women’s health then — oh, say, our tanked economy? Or perhaps the increasing threat of nuclear warfare? It’s been 50 years since birth control was first developed, and I thought we had stopped arguing over the morality of it around the same time that polio stopped being a threat.
What’s next? A resurgence of McCarthyism? After all, didn’t you hear our president is a communist? I wonder which Atheist, Commie scum they would get rid of first. Billy Joel? Bruce Willis? Dear God, just don’t let them take Kevin Bacon.
But I digress.
There’s a real issue beneath the surface here: Why aren’t more women being vocal about this contraceptive conundrum? It appears that all of the most in-your-face protesters of Obama’s mandate have been middle-aged men, including Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, who wrote an opposing bill that claims employers should be able to opt out of Obamacare’s regulations based on moral or religious reasons.
This isn’t a question of First Amendment Rights. It’s a question of power. If an institution has the power to deny access to preventative services based on their religious convictions, then who’s to say it will stop there? Had Blunt’s bill been passed, it would not only have included contraceptives, but any other drug or service the individual in charge has a “religious or moral” opposition to. This has sparked a surge of anti-women bills being passed, including a Georgia bill that would require women to continue to carry stillborn or dying fetuses, which could put her own life at risk. Or an Arizona bill that would give employers the right to fire a woman for being on birth control unless they present proof that they are not using it to have sex (i.e. for hormonal or acne treatment). From bills such as these it seems as though we have stopped caring for the living woman and taken up the role of champion for the zygote.
One such embryonic-crusader is none other than presidential candidate Rick Santorum. Apart from statements made to CNN in which he insisted a woman should have to carry a child conceived out of rape because it is “making the best out of a bad situation,” he has also shown his ignorance to why women need birth control in the first place. In the February 22 GOP debate, John King asked him about his view on the “danger of birth control,” to which he responded that the danger was the increasing number of children being born out of wedlock. My follow up question to that is: How is using preventative measures creating children? The point is to prevent that from happening.
Santorum’s statements reflect the ignorance of these middle-aged male politicans when it comes to women’s issues. There is no way Santorum or any other candidate is going to stop people from having premarital sex. It’s just not going to happen. We live in a world where sex, and even teen pregnancy, is glamorized in film and on television shows and has been for quite some time. Sex is becoming less taboo, and it needs to be talked about.
So, instead of simply saying that girls should “hold an aspirin between their knees” to prevent pregnancy, as Santorum enthusiast Foster Friess so eloquently put, perhaps it’s time to stop this war on contraception and for women to start teaching teenagers that while abstinence is the only guarantee, there are a variety of other measures that can be taken to be safe when it comes to sex.
Conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh sparked enormous fire last month when he made demeaning and offensive comments about Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke, one of the few females who has been vocal about the bill on a national level. Limbaugh claimed Fluke was a “slut” who wants to be “paid to have sex.” These comments were meant to imply that a woman who is on birth control is a dirty whore — or, since we have clearly gone back to the most archaic reasoning, perhaps the better word to use would be “harlot.”
We better start mass-producing iron-on scarlet A’s because, according to the Planned Parenting website, an estimated 99 percent of women in America have used contraception. And if women account for 50.8 percent of the population in this country (according to the 2010 Census), that means about half the people in America, according to people such as Limbaugh and Santorum, are sluts. Don’t ask me to do the exact math, I’m a film major. But we could totally just turn Nevada (the state with the most teen pregnancies, according to a 2006 study, also conducted by the Guttmacher Institute) into the national slut-scaffold.
Another thought to consider is, what about the men? Women are not the only ones using birth control tactics. Men use condoms all the time, yet who has bothered to bring that up? I guess we are, once again, reverting to a patriarchal society where women have no rights or control over their body. We are becoming property, as we were once seen as before the days of women’s suffrage.
This Puritanean way of thinking is atrocious and degrading to all women, whether they are on birth control or not. “Slut-shaming” is no way to pass judgment on someone, particularly because, like most of the GOP’s arguments, it is based in little to no fact. It is a scare tactic to embarrass a young, ambitious woman like Sandra Fluke — in addition to the millions of girls and women she represents.
During this drawn-out debate, many have voiced their opinions against the birth control mandate. Reasons have not been concrete, with many individuals resorting to doing nothing more then making degrading comments toward women who take birth control, or toward those who advocate its benefits. The most conservative right-wingers would like everyone to believe that all women who have sex are sluts, and that birth control is unacceptable because a child is seen as punishment for the “sin.” What many of them fail to realize is that we are not advocating its use to be a culture of free love. We just want control over our bodies and what goes in — and grows — in them. It is not a battle cry for polygamy, but rather a cry of help for those in need, those who the real “war” is being fought against.
Rachel Maus is a freshman cinema and photography major who thinks our country has bigger things to deal with. Email her at rmaus1[at]ithaca[dot]edu.