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the pill

May 9, 2010

Last night a group of us went out to the bar. Louie was in town, so of course we ended up playing a game that involved something about the sex lives of everyone at the table. That’s how Louie rolls. Games are things like guessing how many states each of us has had sex in, or rating how loudly each of us is during sex. Looking back now, the possibility of these game astounds me. Every person at that table has had sex. Some of us with one, some of us with many, but literally everyone there is doing it. Some of us have had a lot of plain vanilla sex with one partner. Some of us have had group sex. Some of the sex has been in long term stable relationships, while other times it’s been one night stands and drunken hookups. Partners have been same sex, opposite sex, and I’m pretty sure at least once there was one of each in bed. I’m also sure it hasn’t always been in bed for that group. There’s been a lot of sex had by the people of that table. We’ve been around, and I think our lives are better for it. The one constant of all that sex, though, is contraceptives. None of the people at that table, to my knowledge, is a parent.

I bring this up because today is the fiftieth anniversary of the FDA approval of the first birth control pill. For the last fifty years women have had the choice to take a pill (and now we can also get a patch, a ring, a shot, and an implant) and be nearly sure that we won’t get pregnant. For fifty years we have lived in a would where, to a high degree, we can choose exactly when we want to try to be parents.

Think about what sex was like for people in our grandparents generation. No wonder attitudes towards sex were different. For them, premarital sex meant having premarital kids. Even condoms were limited for the longest time, with people going to jail on obscenity charges for distributing information on them. There were few options for preventing pregnancy, and they were nothing resembling foolproof. Of course women were encouraged to hold on to their virtue: I wouldn’t be having sex right now if I didn’t have access to high quality birth control. I’m not ready to be a parent. I can’t imagine a life where I didn’t have that choice.

I like how are attitudes towards sex, marriage, and parenthood have changed. I think that it’s amazing that they no longer have to go together. Each is now an independent choice to make, and that’s fantastic. Mother’s Day this year for me has included thankfulness that I’m not a mother yet. Some day I want a whole pile of kids, but for now the best thing I can do as a parent is to not be one. I’m very glad I have that choice.

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