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April 9, 2010

Sex.  Some say it’s for procreation not recreation. I say, you decide for yourself, why, when and with whom you have sex.

Since I started working at PPHP the way I talk about sex has completely changed. Before I was reserved, it was something I talked about with caution. Now, I share my knowledge with my friends, my siblings, my parents, and sometimes when warranted even strangers at Starbucks. For example over coffee with friends I’ll spew out facts like, did you know you can get Chlamydia and Gonorrhea in your throat? Here’s a flavored condom and a dental dam. Or yes, I’ve heard of female condoms, they are a great alternative for people with latex allergies. Here have one, this is how you use it.

It’s great sharing what I know with other people, and it’s one of the reasons I love working at PPHP. However, there are a lot of other reasons on why I choose to work here. My favorite story to tell, mostly because I’m her biggest fan, is that I am the child of a teenage mother who found out about her pregnancy at her local Planned Parenthood. The medical center staff provided her with all of her options, and in the end she made the decision that was best for her.  Most people hear that and ask, “So wait…why are you pro-choice? You know your mother could have had an abortion.” My response is always the same, isn’t that what being pro-choice is all about? She had the opportunity to make that decision on her own, without anyone else, laws or otherwise, telling her what to do. She had the support of an organization that was there to protect whatever decision she made, and for a scared 16 year old, I’m sure that support was invaluable.

Given my history, teen pregnancy has always been important to me. So, the other day when I read about Bristol Palin’s television ad promoting teens to “pause” before they “play” I thought it was a great message. Then I actually watched the ad, and suddenly I didn’t completely agree with the way the message was delivered.  In the ad, you see Bristol standing in a well decorated living room, impeccably dressed, her baby laughing as he plays in the background dressed in jeans and plaid shirt. She asks questions like, “What if I wasn’t from a famous family? What if I didn’t have these opportunities?” Then the scene shifts, she’s wearing little makeup, her hair is disheveled, the only furniture in the room behind her is a couch, and the baby is in the background dressed in a onesie.

I watched it again, and again, and all I could think was, so let me get this straight…If you’re from a famous family, and you have opportunities you can have a baby as a teenager and everything will be alright? You’ll have clothes and furniture, and your baby will be happy. If they had plastered the word privilege across the first scene it couldn’t have been more obvious.

Taking a minute to “pause” and be safe, to use a condom and/or birth control, and talk to your partner about the consequences of sexual activity is always a good idea. However, it doesn’t always work that way. Condoms break, birth control fails, and the fact is unintended pregnancies happen (to women of all ages), and it’s different for everyone. Does privilege help? Of course, but rich or poor, it doesn’t matter because it takes a lot more than money to raise a child.

It wasn’t easy for my mom to make the decision to become a mother at 16. Her parents were immigrants doing the best they could to provide for their family. They weren’t rich, they weren’t privileged, and they didn’t have it easy. But she decided that having a child at that point in her life is what she wanted, and she had the freedom to do so. She worked hard, finished high school, went to college, and became a nurse. She knew the importance of talking to her children about safer sex, and made sure I had the knowledge I needed to protect myself when I decided to have sex.

That’s why I work at Planned Parenthood. So that women and men, of every age, can continue making their own decisions about their sex lives without anyone else dictating what they can and cannot do for themselves.

And just in case you’re interested, you can see the Bristol Palin ad I mention above here:

Bristol Palin’s teenage pregnancy PSA @ Yahoo! Video
One Comment leave one →
  1. Mary Ellen Jones permalink
    April 10, 2010 1:19 am

    Trista – Bravo!! A wonderful insightful perspective!! PPHP is doing wonderful things to keep educating the public!

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