The Only Sex Information I Got Was That Premarital Sex Was a Sin
was raised to be a pleaser like most young girls. Somehow we're never taught to find our voice and define boundaries. We're taught to be pretty and not to hurt other people's feelings. After spending the majority of my life in church with rigid gender roles, my self esteem was nonexistant.
Starting college when most of my peers were freshman in high school was the right academic decision. I loved my classes and relished homework. But I wasn't ready emotionally. I remember sitting in a lecture with 100 other students when the professor pointed in my direction and asked, "who are you?". I wasn't sure if he meant me so I put my hand over my chest and asked, "me?". God, I was nervous to speak out loud in class. "Yes, you", he continued, "you look so fresh". Everyone turned to look at me...I blushed and waited for class to end so I could run to the safety of my mom's station wagon. I wasn't used to that kind of attention.
Walking across campus made me feel vulnerable. People would stare at me. Maybe it was because I looked well rested and my clothes were ironed (not the typical college look) but it made me profoundly uncomfortable.
Between classes I would head to the lounge in the library to do my reading. It seemed like everyone else had friends to study with but I was unsure how to explain that I didn't live on campus and my mom picked me up everyday after class so I just sat by myself. That's how we met.
He had long hair tied back in a ponytail, full leathers and he was carrying a motorcycle helmet. He made a b-line for the seat next to me and introduced himself. He was so confident and good looking. Immediately he asked me out on a date. I said yes. Thinking back on it I wouldn't have known how to say no if I wanted to...we don't teach our daughters how to decline a man's advances.
We were dancing and I was following his lead. He had an apartment off campus and showered me with gifts and expensive dinners. That was what a man did to prove that he loved you...at least that's how it was in my family. In the male hierarchy, he was a bad boy and I was having fun for the first time in my life.
It took three months before I was pregnant - my worst fear. The only sex information I got was that premarital sex was a sin. I'm not sure why we assume kids with raging hormones can deny biological imperatives in a moment of passion. Of course, I blamed myself. Several times I'd snuck condoms in my bag waiting for the right moment to have the safe sex talk. But once we were alone I was paralyzed. I just couldn't say the words out loud, "I'm not on birth control so you should suit up".
There was no way I was going to be a teen mom. My education meant everything to me. I needed a plan.
My mom worked at one of those catholic pregnancy crisis centers. One day I went with her to work and stole a pregnancy test, locked myself in the bathroom and peed on the stick. I stared at those two blue lines in total shock. How could this be happening to me? I threw the test in the garbage and headed home.
This was all pre-internet so the only way for you to find a clinic was by using the phone book. Try locking yourself in your room with the family phone and booking an appointment for an abortion...it was almost impossible. But I did it. Now I had to tell the father.
He was driving me home after a date when I just blurted it out, "I'm pregnant and I'm having an abortion". He was stunned but he didn't try to make me keep it. For that, I was thankful. But I needed him to take me to my appointment because my catholic girlfriend refused to go with me. I felt so alone.
My mother was always big in the right to life movement. She even ran for congress on the right to life ticket. I'd tried to find a clinic as far away from her network as I could. When we pulled up to the clinic, they were all there with their aborted fetus signs yelling and screaming. As I got out of the car, there was one of my mom's best friends staring at me with tears in her eyes. I had to decide right then and there whether I was going to go through with the abortion now that my mom would find out or have the baby and live on food stamps.
I walked right past her and into the clinic. There were several other women sitting in the waiting room with their boyfriends. They were all stressed out by the circus outside with the same stunned look in their eyes. I had to make a joke. I don't remember what I said but everyone broke up laughing. I ended up having a great conversation with a young woman who was also pre-law.
After it was over, I walked out into the waiting room and there he was with a dozen roses. It was a sweet thought but it felt like I was being rewarded for nixing his child support payments. We got in the car and I headed to my grandmother's house. My mom and sister were there and I was supposed to meet them for dinner. I was still kind of woozy from the anaesthesia. I wondered whether my mom's friend had already called her...did she know I'd had an abortion? Time would tell.
As soon as I walked into my grandmother's house, I was put to work. They were organizing the attic - my mom pointed to several boxes of old books that she wanted me to carry upstairs. How could I say no? What was my excuse? I lifted the first box and tears ran down my cheeks. It was taking me forever and my mom was growing impatient. She lost her temper...she was yelling...I thought to myself, "just focus and move the fucking boxes". Sometimes you don't realize how strong you are until a moment like this.
It seemed like I was in the clear but several days later my mom came into my bedroom, shut the door and started crying. I'd killed her grandchild. What made things worse was that I wasn't crying. I had no regrets. That incensed her. My parents had me call my boyfriend because they wanted a sit down. With my siblings in ears reach, they confronted us about the abortion. They explained how we'd regret it...he said that he already did...I said nothing.
What was surprising was my brother's response. He looked at me with hatred in his eyes and charged, "you killed my nephew". How did he know it was a boy? It was a 6 week old fetus. That really hurt.
I watched Demi Moore in the Scarlet Letter last night and it was like reliving my abortion. After my parents found out, I wore a scarlet letter on my chest. I was a social pariah shunned by my family although I lived in my family home for another two years. Every accomplishment...every happy moment was viewed through the prism of my disgrace. There was no redemption.
I knew one thing: my sister would never go through what I went through. I taught her about birth control - bought it for her - and made sure that she knew how to assert herself. She lost her virginity at 18 and never missed a period.
This event shaped my life in so many ways. I know what it feels like to be isolated, judged, condemned and thrown away. It builds empathy. I can relate to women in third world countries living in repressive religious environments - gender segregation, forced marriage, honor killings - I get it.
And it's why I believe that sex information and education are vital to women's rights...to true equality. All we have to do is raise the next generation to appreciate their bodies and claim their sexual power for themselves. I wish I knew at 20 what I know at 40. I would have had a better life and made better decisions.