Tuesday, June 28, 2016

What Does Sex Have to Do with Procreation?

Women’s reproductive health, as it is gingerly called, has now been reduced to the right to an abortion. Supporters of Planned Parenthood insist that they want women to be able to choose when they are going to get pregnant, but sex education in schools today centers primarily on how not to get pregnant, how not to stay pregnant, how not to contract an STD and how to gain the most sexual pleasure.

What is missing from this picture? Procreation. Whatever they are peddling over at Planned Parenthood, children in American schools today are taught very little about procreation. One understands the rationale: procreation is what the dimwits are now calling heteronormativity. Thus, we are not allowed to connect sex with reproduction, because we do not want gays and the transgendered feel that their sexuality is somehow different.

For all the talk about reproductive choice, the only choice that contemporary culture warriors respect is the choice not to have a child. Unless, of course, the woman is in her late forties and magically conceives—with significant help from reproductive endocrinologists.

Freezing eggs is fine and good. Hormone treatments are great. Egg donors are wonderful. What is not wonderful is a young woman having a child the old-fashioned way.

Women have been hearing about the biological clock for decades now, but somehow the message has not gotten through. Thus, it comes as something of a surprise when actress Katherine Heigl gets pregnant for the first time at 37 and announces to the world that she and her husband were surprised that she still could. Apparently, her conscientious ob-gyn gave her information that many American women have been at pains to repress: namely that after age 35 female fertility declines precipitously.

Since male fertility does not obey the same timeline, culture warriors have worked hard to ignore the fact, lest anyone imagine that men and women are somehow biologically different.

As Bethany Mandel points out in an article about female fertility, sex education in American schools has systematically repressed the connection between sex and reproduction. It has emphasized: enjoying sex, not contracting an STD and avoiding pregnancy.

Mandel explains:

… what has been missing from health education in most schools for decades isn’t how to avoid becoming pregnant, but how to get pregnant, when the time is right. Instruction on birth control methods and the horrors of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) form the entire curriculum, but few women are taught the mechanics of their own fertility cycles, or anything about the realities of their biological clocks.

Young women know all about the shades of grey. Many of them have learned about sex education from watching porn or even from starring in their own porn movies. They know everything there is to know about pleasuring themselves. Yet, they know very little about their own fertility and do not much care to know.

This should not come as a surprise. Women today are brought up to put career ahead of family. They are taught that they must not get married young and must not have children young. Thus the norm for marriage and childbearing has extended into a woman’s thirties. From a feminist perspective, this is the only acceptable choice.

Of course, a woman who has a free and open sex life in her twenties is more likely to contract an STD. Some of the STDs compromise fertility. Yes, condoms help, but condoms are not foolproof and many young hookup artists are frankly behaving like fools. Telling women that using a condom will protect them against all STDs is a lie… and a lie that might cost them their fertility.

Mandel points out that thirtysomething women first start becoming fully conscious of fertility when they hear about failed pregnancies.

She explains:

With friends getting hitched and gestating left and right, women start hearing things we were never taught about school: most notably, that sometimes, for some women, getting pregnant isn’t so easy after all. We hear from married friends facing difficulties starting families, and we hear about infertility and miscarriage, which are more common than most millennials imagine. One in ten couples will face infertility, and as many as one in three pregnancies will end in miscarriage.

It’s not just about age. When women have careers that demand long hours and extensive travel, procreation becomes far more difficult. A stressed-out female body will have more difficulty conceiving or carrying to term.

Of course, no one discusses the point. Men do not have the same problem and we do not want anyone thinking that men and women are different. Besides, women must  work as hard as men do, and therefore asking a woman to slow down in order to facilitate fertility must be considered sexist.

As for the biological clock, Mandel describes its reality:

Fertility, the ability to get pregnant, goes into a steep decline around age thirty-five, and the risks of pregnancy increase beginning at the same age. At thirty-five, it becomes harder to become pregnant, harder to stay pregnant (miscarriage risk increases), and harder to have a healthy baby (birth defect rates also increase with maternal and paternal age). The number of eggs (women are born with a finite number) depletes, and the quality of the ones that remain decreases over time.

Of course, it is not just what is taught in the schools. Celebrity culture, Mandel notes, has been regaling us with stories of women in their late 40s or later who have gotten pregnant:

Celebrity culture offers us a seemingly endless number of stars who are apparently untouched by age-related fertility problems. This Mother’s Day, for example, Janet Jackson had extra reason to celebrate. At fifty years old, she was pregnant with her first child. Celebrity-watchers have been transfixed for years by the potential pregnancy of former Friends star Jennifer Aniston, now forty-seven. Just this week, yet another tabloid claimed the star was expecting a child with husband Justin Theroux. These examples are extreme, because the women in question are much older than the average American mother. But mothers in their late thirties or early forties, such as Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Lopez, Reese Witherspoon, and Julia Roberts, are very much the norm in Hollywood.

And yet, Mandel continues, these stories never tell us the cost in terms of fertility treatments. They do not tell us whether these women are having babies using their own eggs. They do not tell us the failure rates of women using frozen eggs:

Just as Botox erases the signs of aging on the faces of celebrities, so too the celebrity pregnancy trackers ignore the fact that many of these women most likely had to avail themselves of expensive and painful fertility treatments to become mothers. And those celebrities rarely discuss those treatments, preferring instead to portray their pregnancies as happenstance (an exception: Sarah Jessica Parker, then in her forties, who talked openly about her use of a surrogate to carry her twin daughters).

And, of course, no one knows very much about the long term effect of fertility treatments, on a woman’s health and on her marriage. Strangely enough, our national conversation about abortion suggests that pregnancy is somehow or other unhealthy, while it says nothing about the potential health risks associated with radical hormone treatments.


Ares Olympus said...
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Ares Olympus said...
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Ares Olympus said...

Labeling comment-deletions "political correctness" is also apparently grounds for deletion.

Anonymous said...

Since homosexuality is now said to be just as biologically legit as real sexuality(aka heterosexuality), should one designate enema as 'fecal abortion'?

Fetal for women, fecal for men.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...
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Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...
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Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Ares, this is Stuart's blog. He can do whatever he wants.

I just posted two comments, and deleted both of them, and it was a lot of fun. You get to see the number of comments go up, but there's nothing there. MAGIC!

Try this game: write all your long, irrelevant blather in the comment field, and post it. And then delete it! It's a gas. And we'll appreciate you more than ever. I did it, and so can YOU!

Or, even better, go back to writing your own blog, and you won't have to worry about your thoughts being deleted, and we won't have to read them anymore. It's a win-win!

Make yourself great again!

JPL17 said...

Stuart -- Under the official New Values® and Unnatural Law® decreed by Our Betters® in government, academia and the media, sex has exactly as much to do with procreation as marriage has to do with procreation -- i.e., nothing!

I'd write more, but it's time to take my Soma®.

Zachriel said...

Planned Parenthood: Sometimes, people mistakenly believe that “sex ed” refers only to sexual behavior (e.g., sexual intercourse) and not the full array of topics that comprise sexuality. These include information and concerns about abstinence, body image, contraception, gender, human growth and development, human reproduction, pregnancy, relationships, safer sex (prevention of sexually transmitted infections), sexual attitudes and values, sexual anatomy and physiology, sexual behavior, sexual health, sexual orientation, and sexual pleasure. - See more at: https://www.plannedparenthood.org/educators/implementing-sex-education#sthash.BteP7MwO.dpuf

David Foster said...

I've known several intelligent and well-educated women who have mistakenly optimistic views about the likelihood of a successful conception and pregnancy in the late 30s or early 40s...typically, this is based on an anecdote or two ('well, Suzy got pregnant for the first time at 41 and had 2 kids and they're both fine!')

So, Zachriel (nice nom de blog, by the way), what % of high school sex education classes do you think present a simple graph of fertility versus age?

Although realistically, it might not do too much good....an 18-year-old can no more imagine being 38 than he or she can imagine being a giraffe, so the information is likely to be glossed over and forgotten.

Zachriel said...

David Foster: what % of high school sex education classes do you think present a simple graph of fertility versus age?

Probably very few, as that is not an issue for most teenagers, nor does education have to stop at high school. However, we're all for more education. (We were responding to the slap at Planned Parenthood, which strongly urges age-appropriate sex education, including information on reproduction. Of note, Planned Parenthood provides prenatal care.)

Generally, lower educated women are more likely to have their first child when young. Higher educated women are more likely to delay childbirth.

While higher educated women may not be experts in fertility science, they are presumably more likely to be knowledgeable of the facts, and to have access to medical care. Nonetheless, a greater emphasis on fertility issues may be reasonable — after you get past how to put on a condom. (Even basic education has been controversial.)

"Sex education for teenagers should include fertility, says doctor"

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks for the comments. What Mandel is getting at is a cultural phenomenon: in the culture today, when you talk about "women's health" you are invariably talking about abortion and contraception. It has been shown that women are uninformed about fertility issues or believe that they can get pregnant whenever and wherever they want. We recall that when Susan Patton wrote a letter to Princeton's female undergraduates recommending that they try to find a husband when in college, she provoked a considerable amount of feminist wrath. She was attacked for inviting these women to ruin their lives by marrying young and having babies when young. So, I agree with Mandel that we should examine why women have gotten the ideas that they have; who is pushing the discourse. If an educated woman's life plan must involve delaying marriage and children, then persuading women to pursue this plan must involve somehow or other allowing them to believe that what really matters about sex is not getting pregnant. And it must also allow them to believe that they will be able to get pregnant whenever they want... after they marry the man of their dreams.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

It's amazing how everything today is about delay, delay, delay. Wait, wait, wait. Young women blindly believe "I wish I'd have waited before I had kids!" or "You don't know what happens when the little buggers come."

When is the right time? My goodness, WHEN is the right time? There isn't one!

Fertility is treated as a disease. It's the population myth writ large.

There is something insidious about equating "women's health" with fertility. They are equated, while everyone knows it's about ending life, not making it possible and bringing it to term. We are too worried about insulting women who've had abortions, and I believe they are legion. It's another politically correct sensitivity complex. Who wants to relive their abortion while seeing all these happy families with kids? Who???

We study every other oathetic phobia it disorder, but we never look at it consider the after-effects of abortion on the female psyche. Could you ever imagine something more vilified or vociferously attacked than the possibility of a woman's regret? My goodness!

Zachriel said...

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD: We study every other oathetic phobia it disorder, but we never look at it consider the after-effects of abortion on the female psyche.

The American Psychological Association (APA) formed the Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion to examine the scientific research addressing mental health factors associated with abortion, including the psychological responses following abortion... The Task Force concluded that there is no credible evidence that a single elective abortion of an unwanted pregnancy in and of itself causes mental health problems for adult women.

Anonymous said...
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