Let me start by saying that I very rarely get upset at American Dad. Okay, sure, I will often comment that it appears to be the less-funny cast-off sibling of Family Guy (and yes, I get that they have different premises) but I’ve never really had an issue with the show.
Until last night.
At one point the show depicted Francine, the mother of a typical family (you know, father, mother, son, daughter, alien), hysterical that she was pregnant. “You told me I was on the pill!” she lamented.
All right, I will admit that I laughed a little bit at this but then I immediately became upset (interestingly not so much with the show itself as with the character of Francine). “Take control of your own reproductive health!” I yelled back at the screen, disgusted. “Certainly nobody else is going to.”
As I began to pull together my article for the week, I began to think about the sentiment that I had uttered—although we might all hope that our partners have our best interests in mind, we can never count on it. This is not to say that we don’t love your partners or don’t trust them, but simply that we are making sure that we are making the right choices for ourselves.
The scene from American Dad also reminded me of one of the early episodes of Desperate Housewives when Lynette complained that she could not get her husband to use birth control and, as a result, ended up with way too many children. While I certainly sympathize with the stress of having to raise some pretty difficult kids, I also don’t—there should have been better communication to prevent this scenario from occurring if one of the two parents didn’t want children.
Truth be told, I’ve certainly pushed my own agenda in the bedroom and there have been times when I’ve gotten away with a lot more than I thought that I could. In retrospect, I assumed that all involved parties were comfortable with the various arrangements but I’m fairly confident that I never explicitly discussed anything before it happened—I took a lack of objection as an assent. Perhaps this wasn’t the best way to go about things, but some part of me felt that I was engaging in sex with someone who had a clear sense of judgment and I assumed that participants would speak up if they felt negatively about something.
Okay, so maybe I’m more of a stereotypical guy than I thought.
The moral of all of this is that I think that it’s important to empower each individual to be an advocate on his or her own behalf. When it’s just the two of you (or more, if that’s your thing) in the bedroom, there aren’t any judges to settle disputes or dictate how things will go—in this case, it’s up to you to voice your opinion about what you want to do and, somewhat more importantly, what you will not do. You should not feel pressured to do things that you do not want to do and you should feel comfortable expressing your opinion in bed. And, on the other side of the coin, I think that we all have to be able to listen to our partners and give them what they need. Ultimately, while it might be intimidating to speak out (actually, when is it not?) all of this is important because we are not just picking fights, but fighting to maintain our dignity and our health.
“I did WHAT?!”
While going through my personal journal the other day, I came across an entry that I had made almost five years ago regarding a sex survey that I had taken. I, like many other people who have spent any amount of time in high school, was briefly obsessed with online quizzes: What “Friend” was I? What was my personality type? How pure was I? And, of course, What kind of sex have I had?
The document listed possible situations, partners, locations, and positions and, needless to say, it turns out that I’ve had a lot of sex. I don’t mean that I have had a constant stream of partners lined up my door and around the block, but I’ve been involved in a few long-term relationships and have definitely pushed the envelope when it comes to trying something new. In case you’re wondering, sex at the beach is all well and good until you have to wash sand out of crevices for days. Yes, crevices. Learn from my mistakes, kids. So, although I seem pretty mild on the outside, I could probably floor most competitors in a game of “Where have you done it?” Come to think of it, that’s most likely why I’m writing these articles in the first place.
In front of me, glowing softly on the computer screen, lay my entire sexual history. I have done many crazy things in my life, but nothing that I regret. I’ve always believed in playing safe but I will readily admit that I haven’t always done it.
Before you get all judgmental and prepare to slap a big old “hypocrite” sign to my forehead, let me just say that the choice to stop using protection was always a conscious and deliberate one.
I’ve never really held the mentality that birth control was a pain, but I have to admit that I enjoy sex without protection as it means that I’ve achieved a number of things in a relationship: I’ve waited for at least six months after I’ve started going out with somebody, I’ve had a discussion about our sexual histories, I’ve gotten tested, and I’ve been in an exclusive relationship. I also don’t know if it really feels any better but it is certainly cheaper (hey, I’m a realist).
Of all these things, getting tested is the most important for me. Sure, I think that many of the responsibilities that come with being sexually active might be embarrassing or scary (I will readily admit that I used to hoard condoms from the free clinic so that I would not have to go and face the cashier at the drugstore, and I’ll still take free condoms where I can get them.), especially for younger adults, but I think that the alternatives are much worse.
I certainly don’t believe in using fear as a motivator to prevent unwanted behavior, but I do believe that individuals should understand the risks of their behavior choices and that they should make informed decisions. I strongly believe that part of the solution to the problem is removing the stigma from the testing process and making safe sex an ingrained habit for people.
The truth is, however, that not everybody gets a good training in sexual health education and the results are often disastrous. For example, the Center for Disease Control just released some new data that shows that approximately 20% of individuals who have HIV do not even know that they have the virus. That number shocks and saddens me as this is definitely a case where what you don’t know can hurt you…and others.