Abortion and Heterosexual Culture: The Teenage Question
He’s not really worrying about what’s going to happen to you. He’s only worrying about himself. This time I think what I really thought was if you don’t think about it, maybe you’ll get something out of it. So I guessed it wouldn’t be a hassle, I wouldn’t worry about it. And I did get a lot more out of it, not worrying about it. I had thought about getting birth control pills with the boyfriend before, but that worked to where it was a one-way street for his benefit, not for mine. It would be mine because I wouldn’t get pregnant, but safe for him, too, because I wouldn’t put him on the spot. So I get sick of being used. I’m tired of this same old crap, forget it. I’m not getting pills for his benefit. So I never got them and I never thought I would have to ’cause I wasn’t looking for anyone since I was tired of being used. Sex was a one-way street. He gets all the feelings, girls have all the hassles. She gets more emotional and falls head over heels while he could give a damn. I’m sick of it, so I thought hang it all.
luker, Taking Chances
"No Pill when you were in high school? What did you do?" a high school senior in Queens exclaimed. "Oh, that’s terrible!" … I found myself feeling like a historical relic when I told them in college, we had curfews, weren’t allowed apartments of our own and could be expelled for setting foot inside a boy’s apartment! High school and college girls alike shrieked and hooted when I told them that girls in my high school were automatically suspended from school if they were pregnant, even if they got married. And they sobered when told that abortions were illegal and available only at great risk to a girl’s life.
burkhart, Growing into Love
A number of women, especially young women, engage in heterosexual intercourse neither using birth control nor intending to get pregnant. That fact is undeniable. Not all of them are victims of ”contraceptive failure," even broadly defined. Why they get pregnant when pregnancy is avoidable, when relatively safe and reasonably effective contraception is available, has usually been approached from a psychological perspective: The woman’s "noncontraceptive behavior" is the consequence of "unresolved conflicts" or "unconscious motives" that make her act in contradictory ways. Even the conceptual framework of "risk-taking," I would argue, is essentially behavioristic in orientation, focused on the individual woman and her strategy for resolving the dilemma of an unwanted pregnancy (though here the strategy is seen as conscious and rational rather than irrational).1
My approach to the problem of noncontraception is one that understands its psychological and irrational dimensions in cultural terms. The more subtle and unacknowledged roots of unwanted pregnancy have to do with the contemporary heterosexual culture and the dilemmas it poses for women. They develop through patterns of meaning, dominant moral values, and social relationships—between parents and children, between women and men—that are by and large learned and that bear down with a heavy weight on the "choices" of individuals. Like the social, economic, and medical circumstances we considered in assessing the underlying conditions of abortion, these cultural norms and patterns—the social relations and ideology of sexuality—play an important part in constructing women’s reproductive behavior. They too exist objectively in the society and act on individuals sometimes in spite of their conscious "will."
This chapter explores the relationship between abortion, noncontraception, and some of the cultural dilemmas, or double binds, of heterosexuality, particularly for unmarried teenage women. There are two reasons for focusing on teenagers: (1) because the issues of sexual identity, and therefore of socialization into the dominant sexual culture, are most concentrated for them; and (2) because politically it is their sexuality that has been the object of so much of the recent abortion debate.