History has shown that women have skills and talents that often exceed those of men, despite the worldwide tendency for all societies to place women in a lower status. Men may indeed be the physically stronger gender. However, women have the ability to process complex emotions and make decisions, which are best for all concerned, and not just what benefits them as an individual or as a gender. These abilities are often not exhibited by men. In the United States, there is a double standard in men verses women, especially on the subject of sexuality.
There continues to be political uproar in the United States regarding the issues of birth control and abortion. It has been said on numerous occasions, by many different people, “If men could get pregnant…”, there are several endings to that sentence, such as, birth control would be free, abortion would not be an issue, or it would never even have been a discussion. In her article titled, Two to Tango: Why Women (Shouldn’t) Have to Fight for Contraception, Remy M. Maisel notes, “For all the progress we as a society have made toward equality for women, there remains a double standard on the issue of sex. It is still far less acceptable for women to be sexually active, if their intent is not to bear children, than it is for men.” Since it takes both a man and a woman to engage in sex (in a heterosexual relationship), it seems fair that they should be equally judged.
In further evaluation of the double standard in regards to sexuality in men verses women, Bud Wright, in his article, Taking a Giant Leap Backward on Contraception, brings to everyone’s attention the historically typical “all-male House of Representatives hearing on birth control with all (conservative) male witnesses.” He also reminds the reader about a recent political comment when “Rick Santorum’s primary financial backer [billionaire, Foster Friess] publicly reminisced about ‘the good old days’ when birth control was an aspirin that women put between their knees [to keep their legs together].” Further in the article Wright says “…if men could get pregnant, this debate would have ended decades ago.” One of the questions Wright poses in his article is, “what drug was approved faster than any other in the history of the FDA?” The answer is quite telling. Wright points out that the FDA is influenced largely by the two legislative chambers comprised mostly of old, [wealthy] men. What were these old men so excitedly anticipating that they got it passed by the FDA in record time? It was Viagra. What is the only purpose of Viagra? To allow men, who have trouble achieving or maintaining an erection, to be able to achieve and maintain an erection for the sole purpose of having sex. The majority of men who use this medication are older, finished having children, and are NOT needing it for the purpose of procreation. And just to note, Viagra is administered by mouth, not held between the knees.
Men have been, and still are, making the decisions about women’s health and women’s access to birth control since the beginning of the nation, even though men are NOT the ones who can get pregnant. Women are the ones who have to go through all the good and bad that pregnancy entails, including sometimes having to make the heart wrenching choice to have an abortion, or the equally difficult decision of carrying the child to term, delivering it, and giving it up for adoption. Perhaps, with that in mind, women should be the ones making the decisions about birth control and abortion, and not men.
In an article by Carrie Andrews, who is the assistant minority leader in the Monroe County Legislature in New York, she also reiterates the absurdity of the previous “congressional panels composed solely of men… condemn[ing] women’s rights to access preventive healthcare.” She goes on to say “Not for one minute could anyone really believe that if our gender roles were reversed, these same men would ever be voting to deny themselves, or publicly damning, access to free contraceptives. They certainly aren’t discussing limiting coverage for vasectomies or ED [erectile dysfunction] prescription treatments.” She also goes further in indicating that men in office do not vote against what is in “their own self interests.” Ms. Andrews solidifies her point by stating “…male politicians have used arguments of “religious freedom” as a pretense for deciding what health care services women should be ‘privileged’ to have access to.” It seems that men are making restrictive decisions on women’s health issues, but not for themselves.
In an article by Sarah O’Leary, titled Bend Over and Cough: Gender Bias and Birth Control, she points out the financial burden on women verses men when it comes to birth control. Women must pay for an examination from their doctor, as well as exorbitant costs for birth control pills if they want 99%+ coverage against pregnancy, whereas a man requires no medical intervention whatsoever before he can go into the local 7-11 and pay $2 for a condom, which may or may not prevent pregnancy (often depending on the commitment to use it). Then if the interlude does culminate in pregnancy, it is the woman, not the man, who has decisions to make that will affect her for the rest of her life. Ms. O’Leary notes, “if men could get pregnant…the pharmaceutical companies, insurers, medical personnel and a host of others with skin in the game wouldn’t be allowed to charge exorbitant prices to sexually active males or force them to navigate through the sea of white coats [as they do to females].”
Why is sexuality a guilty burden for women to bear, but a badge of honor for men? Sarah O’Leary addresses this in her article as well. “In the endless debate about sex before the age of 18, the regulation of contraception almost entirely focuses on the girl’s, not the boy’s, access to it.” She goes on to ask questions that should make all Americans think twice. “Should the government require boys who want to be sexually active meet with a doctor and get a prescription? Parental permission? If a teen male has sex with a partner who doesn’t have access to the Pill and they become pregnant, should he be forced to witness the invasive [and unnecessary, vaginally inserted probe] sonogram performed on his female companion required in some states [including Texas] before a pregnancy is terminated?” Ms. O’Leary is pointing out the discrepancy between the way women and men are treated when it comes to sexuality, and all that surrounds it. “The moral-free truth of the matter is that politicians and the Religious Right leaders, the vast majority of whom are male, don’t want to think about the man’s role in sex.” In closing, Ms. O’Leary notes that if birth control pills become readily available over the counter, more women who truly need it will have access to it, it will eliminate almost all unwanted pregnancies, the price of oral contraception will go down due to the competition between the pharmaceutical companies, and “millions more women will feel the same power over their bodies that men do today.”
There was a conclusive study done at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis which provided free birth control to women. Some of the choices available were semi permanent birth control devices such as IUD’s which have a high up-front cost, and are seldom covered by insurances, but which also have a very high effective rate. This type of contraceptive is often not affordable when the insurance does not cover it, or if the woman has no insurance. In the study at Washington University, having access to this type of previously unaffordable contraceptives, cut unwanted pregnancies and abortions by 62-70%. So organizations that are very strongly opposed to abortion could prevent up to 70% of abortions by taking their marketing and advertising budget and putting it toward free birth control. Because they choose not to do this, it seems apparent they do not really want to prevent abortion as much as they want to control women’s sex lives.
It’s clear there is a double standard in society in the way that women and men are treated when it comes to sexuality. It is important for all of us to really ponder the motivations behind our way of thinking. Is it really fair for our daughters to carry the entire burden and responsibility of something that actually takes MEN as well as women to do? I think not. If we REALLY want to prevent abortion, and not just put our noses into women’s sexual lives where they don’t belong, then we need to provide birth control to those who need it most, but can afford it the least. If we really want to help the women in our society to better themselves, and respect themselves, then we need to stop promoting sexuality as bad negative thing for women, while continuing to promote it as a badge of honor for men.
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