There was once a time when I would gladly have picked up a friend’s birth control prescription as a favor. I tried to, in fact, one day in college, but didn’t have my roommate’s insurance info handy and so was denied at the pharmacy counter. Shrugging away a sense of relief masked by feigned annoyance toward the pharmaceutical tech, I returned home with milk and toilet paper, but without her Ortho-tricyclen. I would later reflect on her distress and my own discomfort with the situation, wondering why it bothered me so. After all, though I was personally and avowedly opposed to extra-marital sex, an idiosyncrasy which my friends tolerated with equal parts bemusement and disbelief, there was a clear understanding among all parties involved that my bizarre belief system would remain safely my own.
My faith earned me infrequent criticism in social settings, but more often it was a source of curiosity and amusement, an outlet of comic relief for my friends who took delight in introducing me at bars or at parties as “the oldest living virgin” or “Jenny the Catholic school girl.” So long as my personal beliefs remained personal, an understanding of sorts existed within our circle, facilitating a kind of unspoken truce: I wouldn’t judge their Saturday nights, they wouldn’t judge my Sunday mornings.
This arrangement worked out nicely for the majority of my college years. Once the initial culture shock of entering into the secular, hyper-sexualized environment of a college campus wore off, I eventually succeeded in numbing my conscience sufficiently in order to avoid the unpleasant side effects of guilt. The right combination of alcohol and socializing did the trick, and so I passed blissfully through freshman and sophomore year with hardly a thought given to the cognitive dissonance I might have experienced, had I been sober. I was having fun, and I was still a “good girl” by anyone’s standards. I had adopted a laissez-faire morality that was not only convenient but compassionate, and I was reluctant to ruffle feathers. Live and let live, that was the ticket to peaceful coexistence, or so I thought.
Now that I'm a few years out of undergrad and a whole lot better-read on the subject, there isn't a chance in hell I'd employ the same relativistic rationalization when confronted with contraceptive use in friends. I've learned that a difference of opinion does not two realities make: my denial of something that is true doesn't falsify it, even when I deny it really loudly. And passionately. With signs and t-shirts and petitions and everything.
When I hear about another patch, a safer pill, a new way to keep what's working properly from working at all, I can't help but wonder... who do we think we are? Yes, we've found a way to successfully suppress ovulation... some of the time. And yes, we've found a way to dispose of the unwanted products of pregnancy (people).. some of the time, but we have yet to discover that elusive switch that completely divorces sex from babies, effectively suppressing - every time - the generation of human life through heterosexual intercourse.
And we've yet to guarantee that when a woman habitually ingests a foreign chemical substance, the effects aren't going to predispose her otherwise healthy body to different forms of cancer, heart disease, infertility, stroke, high blood pressure... We've yet to figure out a way to guarantee that contraceptives aren't vouching for pedophiles and abusers, covering up the evidence of sexual use and abuse of minors. We've yet to figure out a way to guarantee to a woman that, hey, I do respect you and value you as a person, I just want to use you for a few minutes of your time without consequence or evidence. If you fully consent, agreeing to this mutual use? Even better! We can have guilt-free, mind-numbing sex without consequence.
Except there are always consequences. When two people engage in this most intimate act, something happens, no matter how drunk or how indifferent or how professional one or both parties may be. It is impossible to divorce the generation of life from the sexual act. This does not mean that every time two people have sex they are going to conceive a child. But when they do conceive through sexual activity, it should come as no great shock: that means something went right, biologically!
We aren't surprised when we successfully digest our dinners, and vomiting after eating isn't the most effective method of weight control. (Bulimia has actually been known to have adverse effects on the human person, but that's another post entirely.) The solution is not to purge what has been consumed, to undo what has been done... the solution is temperance, restraint, self-control, and a whole host of other strange and unsavory words that induce a collective cultural shudder.
We. (gasp) Can't do that! That's restrictive and oppressive. That will interfere with my plans, my happiness. My reality.