Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"This used to be such a great country..."

The title is a line spoken by Mee-Ma in the wedding episode of The (American) Office. Jim has accidentally announced to the whole wedding party that Pam is pregnant, and Mee-Ma, Pam's very “traditional” grandmother, is dismayed.

So, the birth control pill. It allows women to take control/responsibility for birth control, and is very good at preventing pregnancy. On the other hand, it does so by messing with their hormones, which can have really complicated side effects.

I'm not a woman, so it's not a trade-off I've had to consider personally. I've heard that researchers are working on male hormonal birth control, though, and my first impulse is that I wouldn't take it. The value proposition of hormonal birth control for men and women is quite different, because the consequences of unintended pregnancy are so different. Certainly a man should share equally in the responsibility of raising a child he's fathered, but that's not enforced biologically as it is in women. So this urge on my part has a selfish side. It also can come down to a question of values and priorities. Would I risk all the possible side effects of hormonal changes, especially being somewhat physically unusual (I tend to be very sensitive to drugs generally), for the sake of more sexual freedom? It doesn't seem like the right trade-off to me. But clearly it is for a lot of people, especially for women, for whom the trade-off is quite different.

To some traditionalists this seems like a generational question. It reminds me of my parents, who were talking about some political sex scandal a few years ago, and one of them said, "I don't understand it. They risk their whole careers just for sex?" There are definitely people that see people choosing to take various risks for sexual freedom and think it's evidence of changing priorities and values, especially of a decline in morals.

The problem with that idea is that people have always taken risks to have sex. It's not a new thing. We have the technology today to have more sex more safely than in the past, and people probably have more sex as a result. But people have always taken risks for sex. They've risked their careers and they've risked their health in days when death by syphilis was common. If they had the technology to have more safe sex in those days they would have done it. Proud advocates of debauchery alongside those that claimed celibacy. I doubt improvements in sexual technology are the result of changing values. It's possible they've changed values, but more than that, I think they've just given people new ways to express values they already had.

1 comment:

olyphant said...

what? are you implying that people have *always* liked sex? piffle, i say. back when this was a great country, we *hated* sex! that's why we called children "fuck trophies": they proved that we'd put up with the horribleness of fucking! goodness, child, but you've got some learning to do.