For want of a nail, the shoe was lost.
What if enthusiastic consent was a universal standard? If, instead of just the absence of a “no,” decent people all understood that the minimum standard of consent for sex was a “yes?” Rape wouldn’t disappear, of course, but gray rape* might.
For want of the shoe, the horse was lost.
What if the sexual double standard were to disappear? In a world that really accepted enthusiastic consent, women’s desire would be a necessary condition for heterosexual sex. Teenage girls who do have sex have reported in surveys that they need to feel “swept away” by the moment in order to have sex. In other words, instead of owning their desire as something natural, they go along with things (initiated by their boyfriends) and just let things happen. Not surprisingly, girls who report this are much less likely to use contraception.
For want of the horse, the rider was lost.
And we all know what happens when you don’t use contraception.**
For want of the rider, the message was lost.
What if all women had access to emergency contraception? Post-rape. Post-unprotected sex. Post-contraception failure. Everyone reading this blog knows enough about reproductive biology to know that suppressing ovulation and/or preventing implantation is hardly the same as abortion. Why can’t pharmacists understand this?
For want of the message, the battle was lost.
What if all women facing unwanted pregnancy had real choices? What if they all had access to comprehensive reproductive health care? What if they could enter a clinic without walking a gauntlet of protesters calling them murderers? What if they could go to a “crisis pregnancy center” without being coerced into “choosing” adoption? What if they never had to justify choosing their own health, or even their own life?
For want of the battle, the war was lost.
What if women carrying a pregnancy to term had a real social safety net? Health care for both mother and child. Training in parenting. Living wage laws. Child care for working mothers. Quality public schools. Social, medical, and legal support for the care of special-needs children. A non-punitive approach to drug addiction, leading to treatment instead of prison. Would fewer women give their children up for adoption, either before or after birth? Would fewer children be taken from their parents and placed in foster care? Would more families remain intact?
For want of the war, the kingdom was lost.
What if the only people who became parents were the ones who wanted to? It’s the other side of the coin of infertility. All of us in the ALI community wonder the inverse: what if all of us who want to become parents could do it? But we have sisters. Sisters who have children they never intended to have. Sisters who have children they can’t care for. Sisters whose children are taken from them. Sisters who were deprived of their reproductive choice just as surely as we have been deprived of ours.
I think adoption is a beautiful thing, but as I consider it I can’t stop thinking about my sisters, my opposites, who are doing the best they can just like I am. What if we all really had a choice? What would the world look like?
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
*Which doesn’t exist. Rape is rape.
**Well, in my case what happens is 2 and a half years of nothing, lots of doctor visits, major surgery, and crushing depression. But we’re not talking about me.