I was trolling around Facebook last night when I came across an interesting post. A friend of a friend had posted that she had been at the movies, and before it started there was an ad on the screen from a family planning clinic that said something like “Don’t get caught on the naughty list.” Her post goes on to say she was offended by this (as I would be), and asks if it isn’t even misogynistic.
I have several questions about this ad. Who exactly gets placed on the naughty list? The woman? Probably, because she is the one who will have the telltale signs that sex happened. She will be the one who will be asked if the child was planned. If she has more than one child, or if someone has decided she has enough children, she will likely be asked “don’t you know what’s causing this?” But it’s all in good fun, right? And what about the father of this child? I remember from my biopsychology course in college about paternal confidence. Any mother is confident the thing kicking the crap out of her uterus is her child. No doubt about it. Males can only be so certain. Stuck on a desert island together, only two people, okay, he can have 100% certainty. But how does he ever know for sure that’s his kid (If he was certain, Maury wouldn’t have a job)? There’s an interesting phenomenon observed, and I don’t have the source to back this up, but some study showed that the mother’s family usually makes comments about how much the baby looks like the father. Some evolutionary explanation about ensuring the mother and child’s survival is at stake and the mother’s family wants to protect that. Yay anthropology. Now that we have that out of the way, does the father make the naughty list? Meh, maybe. But he usually gets the “you dog, you!!” comments about virility.
After reading Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler, she points out that women are by far expected to be more responsible with pregnancy prevention, something kind of unusual for the sex who is only fertile for a certain number of days each cycle, whereas men are always fertile. Think about all of the birth control methods available for women. Now think of birth control methods available for men. A bit of a discrepancy in numbers there? Thought so. So who is this ad aimed at? I think it’s safe to say women. So is this playing on the virgin/whore dichotomy women face? A woman shouldn’t want to be seen as a whore, pregnancy is an indication that she has had sex, sex means she’s a whore, so if she prevents pregnancy she can keep up the ruse that maybe she’s pure? Remember all of the birth control discussion going on at Capitol Hill last year? I do!!!
Biologically, sex is supposed to happen to ensure survival of the species, and not just in the reproductive sense. It keeps couples in sync. It releases hormones that are good for the brain and immune system. It’s a form of exercise. It relieves stress. The biochemist with a psych minor could go on and on about this. So, sex is a good thing. This ad says don’t be naughty! So, sex is naughty? Hasn’t that message been sent enough? We all know we are here because of sex, right? But we’re supposed to pretend it isn’t happening. We’re not supposed to talk about it. But it’s all over the media. But not in real life. And certainly women shouldn’t be enjoying it. Or at least, shouldn’t give off the impression they are.
I can hear “But Sara, maybe this ad was aimed at unmarried couples.” So? Let me break the news–most unmarried couples are having sex. It may not be geared towards your values, but they aren’t doing it in your bedroom. And if they are, they’re probably not doing it while your there, so it really doesn’t affect you. I think generally speaking, most couples having sex has little impact on anyone else (and I don’t want to hear ‘that unmarried pregnant woman is going to be on welfare using my taxpayer dollars! Bite me). So, shockingly, people have sex. Sex leads to babies. Protected sex can prevent babies, but remember, nothing is 100%! My doctor told me couples are more likely to have sex when the woman is ovulating, and the most likely to forget to use birth control. Oops! Nature has a built in method to keep us having babies.
This ad was shown before a movie geared towards teens. What kind of message is this sending to teens (assuming they were paying attention. Who knows)? That anyone who has sex is a whore? That there is some shame to it? If a teen wanted to go to this clinic to learn more about birth control, this ad doesn’t send the message that they will be met with no shame. So let’s make an uncomfortable teen unprepared. Better yet, shame the uncomfortable teen away before anyone can talk to him or her about sex to let him or her know that if they are uncomfortable, it’s a bad idea. If every teen were perfect and had perfect parents, they could have the sex discussion and include the family’s point of view on values and talk about protection and what not. But, not all families work like that. Even if the perfect parents exist, the teen may be uncomfortable talking to them. Shouldn’t a family planning clinic be a welcoming place for someone looking for answers? And before anyone gets riled up on giving teens access to birth control and information, let me break more news to you. Teens have sex. Whether you want them to or not. And shaming them hasn’t worked in centuries.
The message this ad sends is not positive. It was probably drawn up innocently enough, playing on the season, but the impact is there. I know, I know, I’m reading too much into this, but maybe family planning clinics aren’t the place for cutesy advertising. Maybe I’ve read too many women’s studies books and took too many women’s courses in college, and maybe it’s late and I’m tired, but there you go. I’m tired of seeing these messages out there that undercut women.