Yesterday, as I was preparing for work, I heard a female TV anchorperson make the statement: “The availability of contraception often times leads to unhealthy behavior and problems.” Later on in the same day, the media was awash with pictures of an all-male panel in the House of Representatives testimony on contraception. And, if this wasn’t enough, a wealthy supporter of one of the presidential candidates made a ‘joke’ about how contraception was cheap in his day: “The ‘gals’ just put an aspirin between their knees.”
Reducing issues related to women’s (and men’s) health to pithy sound-bites or a provocative picture does not make for a healthy perspective on sexual health.
If I had the opportunity to talk to the people involved in the aforementioned situations, here is what I might say:
Female TV anchorperson: Unhealthy sexual behavior does result in a multitude of problems. However, I contend that the availability of contraception is not the greatest cause of these problems. It’s been my experience that lack of comprehensive education about sexuality, including knowledge of what constitutes a healthy relationship for people of all ages, is a larger cause. I know you have a teen-age daughter. She is bombarded by sexual images and misinformation countless times a day. Share your values with her. You want her to make choices based on education rather than ignorance, right?
All-male panel in the House of Representatives: The overwhelming majority of women in the United States – 97% – use a modern method of contraception during their reproductive years. The average woman who wants two children will spend five years trying to become or being pregnant and 20 years trying to avoid pregnancy. Half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended. Family planning helps to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions. How dare you assume to know what is right for me!
Aspirin-between-your-knees-man: Don’t you realize that what you said is not funny? You have hundreds of millions of dollars and can well afford to access any health care need for anyone in your family. Millions of women do not have affordable health care and can benefit from contraceptives. It may be cheap for you, but you are privileged. And, men are equally responsible for engaging in a sexual act that may result in conception.
We must be aware that sound-bites and pictures that reflect an individual’s belief may be contrary to our own values, feelings and experiences. As a multi-racial, multi-cultural, and multi-faith country, we need to value our common good; however, one set of religious beliefs and values should not be imposed on everyone. Human sexuality is a complex subject. Comprehensive sexuality education is the antidote to the education that comes in sound-bites. We owe it to ourselves, our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, our world.
The United Church of Christ has more than 5,277 churches throughout the United States. Rooted in the Christian traditions of congregational governance and covenantal relationships, each UCC setting speaks only for itself and not on behalf of every UCC congregation. UCC members and churches are free to differ on important social issues, even as the UCC remains principally committed to unity in the midst of our diversity.