[From "Stop Putting Your Daughters on Birth Control "]
Earlier in the summer, I was vacationing at the beach with a dear family friend. As we lounged in the sunroom listening to waves break in the distance one early afternoon, she brought up her 16-year-old daughter, Sally. A few weeks’ prior, Sally and her boyfriend of three years (we’ll call him Mike) had broken up. Mike had just spent his first year away at college. Sally generally tells her mother (who is a bit of a gossip) very little, but her mother had gathered through Sally’s sisters that Mike had been unfaithful.
Sally’s mom expressed the situation to me as a “shame,” because a few weeks before the breakup, Sally had requested the birth-control pills that her mother had long touted as a possibility for each of her daughters. Now, between sips of pinot grigio, she hoped aloud that her daughter wouldn’t “go crazy” and sleep with too many people to make Mike jealous.
Since the breakup, Sally has begun making darker and more suggestive choices in fashion, makeup, and social media posting. She’s always been sassy, but her attitude has become detached and bitter with an air of rebellion. Even a casual observer would be able to detect a thinly veiled resentment toward her parents.
“It’ll probably just pass,” her mother says. “Same thing happened to me in high school.”
Growing up in the Deep South, most of my good friends (whose parents were Christians, Republicans, and leaders in the community) began taking “the pill” at 14 years old, no questions asked. Chelsea got a pimple? The pill will fix it. Tori has bad cramps? Take the pill. Julia can’t regulate her mood or appetite? Sounds like a job for the pill. Never mind that the pill can make you break out, worsen bodily pain and mood swings, and make you gain weight—and often did all of those things at once.
At some point, the pill became a rite of passage, an irrational tradition to which all upstanding WASPs adhered and one they perpetuated whether because of inertia or fear. The explanation was rarely that the pubescent girl was actually having sex—in fact, most didn’t start with that until years after beginning the pill. But the understanding was that eventually she would. And this little magic trick not only would insulate her from the adult consequences of her adult decisions, but, perhaps primarily, insulate her Baby Boomer parents from the social shaming a teen pregnancy would generate in their circles.
The issue of birth control cuts to the core of the diabolical disorientation of the family in the Western world. When your daughter, sister, wife, or girlfriend swallows that pill, not only does she ingest all the artificial hormones that increasingly are linked to breast cancer and strokes later in life, she ingests our society’s judgment of her worth. Whether she takes it with explicitly naughty plans like those of Sally, or for the diversionary purposes of my teenage peers a decade ago, she always absorbs all of the presuppositions that the pill represents. As the soul is more sensitive than the body, these presuppositions are what cause the most damage.
They deserve a good dismantling.
That Fertility Is an Illness
With the exception of the new transsexual mutilation procedures, fertility and pregnancy might be the only natural, healthy functions of the human body that are treated as illnesses by the medical community at large. If we were to compare the state of fertility to any other healthy capacity of the human body, and then consider how a doctor might cancel that healthy capacity according to patient preference, we begin to see what is certainly a violation of the Hippocratic Oath.
Imagine treating someone’s ability to run by cutting off their legs or giving them an immobility pill for the years during which they are at their physical peak. Imagine then still calling oneself a “healer” in light of this.
That Young People Are Incapable of Virtue
Boomers assume that because they were unable or unwilling to control their own urges and achieve for the sake of virtue, it is therefore beyond their children and grandchildren. This is projection from the generation that, in their teens, squandered the stable social systems into which they were born. These greedy self-adulators who robbed future generations of social capital and real capital by their risky behaviors and insatiable desire to be cool, cannot conceptualize that young people could be anything greater than the degenerate pleasure-seekers they once were and still aspire to be.
So rather than instructing Sally that her virginity was something to be cherished and reserved for the bonds of marriage, my friend, whom I love, operated on the assumption that virginity was something to be lost, helplessly, like a feather in the wind. When she handed her daughter the little brown bag of Lo Loestrin Fe, she handed her the keys to a door she never should have opened. But the priority for Sally’s mom wasn’t that Sally not go through that door; it was that Sally avoid the potentially embarrassing consequences of going through that door.
The best you’ll get for your complacency is spiritual malaise. The worst you’ll get is a dead kid. If you love your daughter, stop giving her birth control.