I’ve said this before, but I think it bears (bares, in this case) repeating.
Far too many people talk about pregnancy as if conception happens by spontaneous human combustion. She wasn’t using birth control. She got pregnant. It’s as if a he wasn’t even there.
As a mother and a writer, I am confused by the sole use of the female pronoun in conversations about pregnancy, especially when it comes to the unplanned kind. Not only do phrases like “she got herself knocked up” misrepresent science, they let whoever came knocking off the hook.
These words also arm me with vivid images of vaginas as vacuum cleaners – sucking sperm out of an otherwise reluctant vas deferens. Of course we know the opposite is true – semen roars out of the shaft in hot pursuit of a rather lethargic egg. So how is it that women carry the
blame, as well as the baby, for what men put into motion?
With less than nine months until the primary elections, this feels like an apropos time to start a grassroots campaign of another kind. Call it shifting the burden back to the shaft, if you will. And we commence by sending this message of condom nation to all the members in Congress: conception begins at erection.
Then let’s head off to Iowa – where, according to studies conducted by the Guttmacher Institute, 43 percent of all pregnancies in 2010 were unintended. If men in the Hawkeye State limited fertilization to their farms, I think we’d see a lot fewer pregnancies cropping up. Some fields get covered on cold fall evenings, right? Let’s be sure that courtesy is extended to chilly willies.
We don’t have to linger long in New Hampshire, however, where the unintended pregnancy rate per 1,000 women actually dropped from 36 to 32 between 2004 and 2010. The Granite State is rock solid when it comes to providing comprehensive sex education in schools – including information about condoms.
Residents here got the message even before the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement in November 2013 supporting “the use of condoms by their patients to prevent unintended pregnancies and STIs and address barriers to their use.”
When a male Republican member of the Georgia House of Representatives put forth bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, a group of female Democratic tried to turn the conversation – and legislation – on its ear.
“Thousands of children are deprived of birth in this state
every year because of the lack of state regulation over vasectomies,” one of the ladies said about their counter-bill. “It is patently unfair that men can avoid unwanted fatherhood by presuming that their judgment over such matters is more valid than the judgment of the General Assembly, while women’s ability to decide is constantly up for debate throughout the United States.”
Needless to say, the argument went limp. The women of the House were accused of being frivolous with their words and careless with human life. Meanwhile, the menfolk managed to escape their seeds’ role in the deed.
Moving on, did you know there is a city in Pennsylvania named Intercourse? The movie “Witness,” starring Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis, was filmed there. Located 60 miles East is the University of Pennsylvania where an extraordinary student named Jason Parad launched a new discourse on the subject. His campaign, The Condom Pledge, calls for young men and women worldwide to promise to use condoms during sex and then to publicize that oath.
While Parad’s commendable goal is to reduce the incidence of HIV by “normalizing condoms,” decreasing the rate of unintended pregnancies is a welcome parallel benefit. The Condom Pledge Facebook page has reportedly engaged more than 30,000 youth across more than 60 countries. The impact has been profound in places like Zambia where the BBC quoted past president Frederick Chiluba in 2001 as saying, “I don’t believe in condoms myself because they are a sign of weak morals on the part of the user.”
Okay, I admit that getting the world on board with the whole “conception begins at erection” argument may be an uphill battle. But trying to shift attention toward the shaft when it comes to fertility isn’t a complete exercise in futility. In fact, the trend toward couples saying “we’re pregnant” (though also scientifically inaccurate) shows that men are starting to take a place in the conversation.
Let’s all try it on for size, shall we?