What “The Pill” Did (on CNN.com) (***WARNING: I’m gonna talk about sex. If you don’t like it, don’t read it.***)
It’s the 50th anniversary of “The Pill” this year. Whether you believe the Pill to be one of the single greatest inventions of our time, or you think it’s the medicinal equivalent of the Antichrist, the impact of this tiny pellet of hormones on American life (and indeed, the lives of women around the world) cannot be denied.
Reading many of the comments on the above CNN.com article, I learned a few things. One, many people still believe that oral contraceptives are abortion. Which the Pill is not. The hormones prevent ovulation, which means that an egg will never be released from the ovary and never have the chance to be fertilized. Two, many people also believe that the Pill’s entrance into pharmacies and medicine cabinets promoted promiscuity among young women. I highly disagree.
Most people are not deterred from doing something simply because society or law dictates that they must. For example, people who choose not to do drugs do so not just because most drugs are illegal under U.S. law. They have no desire to engage in that sort of behavior. What stops people is their own personality and values, not a law in a book.
Promiscuity and the Pill works the same way. Sure, with its release in the 1960s it allowed women the freedom to have casual sex without needing to worry about pregnancy. But the truth is promiscuous women were already promiscuous. The Pill didn’t turn nice girls into sluts. People will do what they want to do, based on their own values, not based on a tiny little once-a-day pill.
Another group of comments that struck me as in need of discussion were the ones alleging that the Pill destroyed monogamy. First of all, let’s get one thing straight. Sex before marriage, whether you agree with it or not, has been around since the beginning of marriage.
Moving on. Biologically speaking, humans were designed to ENJOY SEX. If you can find an actual useful purpose for a clitoris, please let me know. Obviously nature didn’t intend for sex to be only within the context of marriage, and then only for procreation. I am a firm believer in monogamous relationships, but unlike the Protestant couple in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life, I don’t want to only have sex twice because I only want two kids.
One of the causes of the death of monogamy was no-fault divorce. While the invention of no-fault divorce liberated a lot of women from abusive, going-nowhere-fast marriages, it also meant that divorce was cheap and certainly easier than working things out. There’s a time and a place when divorce is a welcome thing. I’m not advocating that women (or men) stay in abusive relationships or marriages where there is a clear disconnect that can’t be fixed. Perhaps we can bring back monogamy not by teaching our children that virginity is a special gift that should be saved for one person, as many comments suggested, but by teaching them that committing your present and future to another person is a decision that should not be taken lightly, and a decision that, once made, should be for life.
The Pill did great things for women. It allowed working women to decide when they could become mothers without risking their jobs. In 1962 a woman could be fired for no other reason than that she became pregnant. It allowed women to decide when they were financially, emotionally, and physically ready to become a mom. Planned children are wanted children, and wanted children have better lives.
Now the Pill allows women to control their monthly cycles, and if you’re like me, it’s a welcome thing. Cramps that render you unwilling to do anything but lay in bed are not fun. My mother used to stay home from school in high school because her cramps were so bad. She had a hysterectomy at 30. Thankfully, my parents already had two children and didn’t want more. So she had the hysterectomy to get rid of the pain. Because of the Pill, I won’t be forced to do the same thing. (Though on certain days I think about it…)
One last thought. I’m quoting the following comment word-for-word: “Courtship and romance existed because the man was fighting for a unique and special gift from the woman. With today’s attitudes, thanks to the pill, the “gift” is easily available and the price has gone down. Romance, love, and commitment are dead.” EXCUSE ME? Are you really suggesting that before the pill, men only treated women with love, affection, and respect because they wanted sex, and NOW they don’t have to because we’re just giving it away??? What about treating women with love and respect because it’s the right thing to do? What about doing it because you want to commit your life to this woman and you want her to do the same for you? What about doing it because every time you have sex, you’re being given a gift, and not just the first time? It seems to be that, based on the above argument, the Pill has actually given women a way of deciding which men are worthwhile partners and which ones are unevolved chauvinists. Thanks, Margaret Sanger!
EDIT: I just saw this comment on a CNN.com opinion piece by Raquel Welch arguing that these days in America, no one is able to keep it in their pants (which is somehow the fault of Pill, according to Ms. Welch…) Anyway, here’s the comment: “However, teaching girls that their virginity should be “saved” is also telling them that their value lies between their legs, and not with their personality or heart, all the same. so it’s sort of double-edged sword.” Good perspective.