FYI, Caitlin Flanagan penned a nifty op-ed on the recent movie Juno, which was about a pregnant teenager who decides to have a baby and give it up for adoption. Flanagan writes about the much more difficult consequences that sexual activity can have for young women, compared to young men. Thus has it ever been so. From Friday's NY Times:
"....when Juno tells her father about her condition, and he shakes his head in disappointment and says, 'I thought you were the kind of girl who knew when to say when.' "
"Female viewers flinch when he says it, because his words lay bare the bitterly unfair truth of sexuality: female desire can bring with it a form of punishment no man can begin to imagine, and so it is one appetite women and girls must always regard with caution. Because Juno let her guard down and had a single sexual experience with a sweet, well-intentioned boy, she alone is left with this ordeal of sorrow and public shame."
Juno gives up the baby for adoption to a yuppie couple, and she apparently returns to a "carefree adolescence." But, as Flanagan notes, it doesn't usually go so smoothly in real life:
"And that’s why “Juno” is a fairy tale. As any woman who has ever chosen (or been forced) to kick it old school (give up a baby for adoption) can tell you, surrendering a baby whom you will never know comes with a steep and lifelong cost. Nor is an abortion psychologically or physically simple. It is an invasive and frightening procedure, and for some adolescent girls it constitutes part of their first gynecological exam. I know grown women who’ve wept bitterly after abortions, no matter how sound their decisions were. How much harder are these procedures for girls, whose moral and emotional universe is just taking shape? "
Flanagan also discusses the conflict between protecting girls and allowing them to "be free":
"Pregnancy robs a teenager of her girlhood. This stark fact is one reason girls used to be so carefully guarded and protected — in a system that at once limited their horizons and safeguarded them from devastating consequences. The feminist historian Joan Jacobs Brumberg has written that 'however prudish and 'uptight’ the Victorians were, our ancestors had a deep commitment to girls.' ”
Interesting to hear a "feminist historian" say that! Who is this Joan Jacobs Brumberg? Flanagan continues to ask about the protection/restriction conflict:
"We, too, have a deep commitment to girls, and ours centers not on protecting their chastity, but on supporting their ability to compete with boys, to be free — perhaps for the first time in history — from the restraints that kept women from achieving on the same level. Now we have to ask ourselves this question: Does the full enfranchisement of girls depend on their being sexually liberated? And if it does, can we somehow change or diminish among the very young the trauma of pregnancy, the occasional result of even safe sex?"
"Biology is destiny, and the brutally unfair outcome that adolescent sexuality can produce will never change."