This is a late reaction to news, really, set off by reading Marty Klein’s righteously disgusted tirade at President Obama for overriding the recommendation of his own FDA and excusing the perpetuation of a ban on selling the morning-after pill to teenagers. I can’t think of a group more likely to need emergency contraception, without asinine complications involving doctors and parents.
Obama said he did not personally intervene in [HHS Secretary] Sebelius’ decision, but explained that “as the father of two daughters, I think it is important for us to make sure that we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over the counter medicine.” Sebelius “could not be confident that a 10-year-old or 11-year-old going to a drug store would be able to, alongside bubble gum or batteriers be able to buy a medication that potentially if not used properly can have an adverse effect,” he said, adding, “I think most parents would probably feel the same way.” [Source: ThinkProgress, Dec. 8, 2011]
Earth to President Obama: “common sense” is not the same as “it squicks me out.”
This whole thing reeks of a long-observed (at least by me) tendency of allegedly “liberal” or “progressive” people to be only as liberal and progressive about sex as their comfort level decrees. It’s the sexual-ethics equivalent of “but I wouldn’t want my daughter to marry one” or “I don’t mind people being gay if they don’t flaunt it.”
Obama and Sebelius, after all, can’t have bought into the social-conservative confabulation of the morning-after pill with the “abortion pill.” I’d be surprised if they really imagined that the drug — a nasty speedball of synthetic hormones good for only one thing, not anything that someone’s going to cook and snort — is going to tempt tween-agers to have sex when they otherwise wouldn’t or to abuse it in some incomprehensible way. For one thing, have you seen the price tag?
No, alas, I think this is just a permutation of what I saw back in the crazy 70s at good old Bard College, sometimes referred to as “The Little Red Whorehouse on the Hudson” after Walter Winchell’s daughter got knocked up there (maybe he really believed it couldn’t have happened at Vassar). Bard was quick off the mark with co-ed dormitories, sexual health treatment and referrals in the college clinic, and a general relaxed attitude toward cohabiting couples that only tightened up if some parent complained. Foolish me, I assumed a moral compass that tended to point in the direction of Robert Heinlein and Bertrand Russell, variously, would place me right at home, but that was before I discovered the Cheshire Scowl — Wayland Young’s deft term for the attempt of liberated-wannabes to have it both ways by finding some line to draw or guilt to trip, so as to say “I still have standards.”
You know how it goes, right? A prude is someone who’s had fewer sexual partners than you, and a slut is someone who’s had more. I met women who were living with their boyfriends in the dorm but got all sniffy and disapproving when, in a moment of idle chat, I was moved to tick on my fingers how many of the dorms I’d had sex in myself. (The organ loft of the chapel was a bonus point, I suppose.) I met guys who were all for sex outside marriage but saw something wrong with contraception (fortunately their views did not affect me personally) because it was “cheating” to “avoid the consequences.” (WTF?) I found out my own goddam best friend from high school, who had gone and gotten birth control pills in her junior year because she was madly in love and determined to sleep with Mr. Wonderful, thought I was a slut because I boinked guys with whom I was not madly in love. (Conversely, of course, there were the people who wanted to call me a prude because I did not choose to join them in threesomes, though that is a matter for another discussion. Freedom means freedom to decline on your own behalf, after all.)
You could say that this is TMI but I am not sure I can make my point without it: about the jaw-dropping personal shock of discovering that “sexual freedom” stops at the edge of some “liberated” people’s comfort zones. Outside that zone, violators are to be shamed at the least and de-legitimized at worst, by people who want credit for being “liberated” but are still looking over their shoulder for the Cheshire scowl of the parents and institutions they claim to no longer depend on for approval.
So here is Barack Obama, with the balls — if I may say so — to ignore research and medical science and the, ah, common sense observation that something which has to be asked for at the counter and sells for fifty bucks is not going to be carelessly misused, or used at all by people of any age — unless they really, really need it.
President Obama can have no direct experience of what that’s like. It’s funny though that, as the “father of two daughters,” he hasn’t wondered enough about it to keep him from talking bullshit.