At 15, my best friend and I knew what we had figured out. Things like: don’t mix tequila with whiskey, stage left is our left when we’re on the stage, and don’t go to Dunkin’ Donuts with Mike Flannigan* unless you want to be an accessory to theft.
We also knew what questions remained. Questions like: what is love? And how do you know when you’re in it?
We came to the conclusion together that we were probably going to disobey our mothers and have sex well before marriage. Seventeen seemed like a fine age, but more than the numbers, we were concerned with making sure we waited for love — not infatuation — true-capital L-Love.
I decided to get birth control well in advance of the need for it. No reason to let the threat of pregnancy get in the way of my romantic future. If the whole infatuation vs. love question suddenly became clear, I wanted to be ready.
So, at 16, I made myself an appointment with Planned Parenthood, had my first “complete exam,” and admitted to an adult for the first time ever, “I want to go on the pill.”
Which is like saying, “I want to have sex.”
And I did want to have sex.
Not because I was “fast” or “forward” or slutty or unusual or abused or needy or bad.
I wanted to have sex because human beings are designed that way.
Why — even now, 26 years after my first visit to Planned Parenthood — is the American attitude towards sex so twisted?
Planned Parenthood provided a place for me to be an authentic human being in a culture that stifles and mutates normal drives.
This week, we’ve been talking about “poor” women’s right to affordable mammograms. I get that the Susan G. Komen grant money is for the early detection of breast cancer and that’s what’s driven the story.
But why, when we talk about supporting Planned Parenthood, doesn’t the conversation include sexuality? If it does, please correct me, but I haven’t seen it. I’ve heard stories about how Planned Parenthood has saved lives, and helped rape victims — incredibly important work.
Empowering women — even young women — even teenagers — to explore their sexuality safely is also important work.
Do you know what I want for the young people I love (true Love with a capital-L)?
I don’t want them to have sex. I want them to have good sex.
I want the young people I love to be in the habit of listening to their inner voices, to ask themselves deep questions, to be patient for worthy partners to come along — partners they trust, who demonstrate mutual respect.
I want the young people I love to have full access to good medical care, whether or not that involves their parents’ knowledge or consent.
I’m not a mother. This isn’t a conversation I’ll ever get to have with my own children.
But I am a person in our country who is tired of seeing our puritanical roots continue to limit and poison conversations. It’s not as innocuous as that, either. When I look at what some organizations do in the name of religion, the misogyny is blatant.
So I’ve written this post to add my voice to the dialogue.
Thank you, Planned Parenthood, for being the first place where I felt I could say, “I want to have sex.”
Also re: my relationship with Planned Parenthood — my 2008 post, “Ode to Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston” (linked here).