Real protection versus parental protection

By Chelsea Fiddyment

OCP: the oral contraceptive pill. Students can get prescriptions for it filled just about anywhere, even at McKinley. Some types of medical insurance pay for the entire cost of a brand-name pill. Surveys have shown birth control pills to be the most prevalent contraception among college-aged women.

And yet, I still hear from other students, “I could never go on birth control. My mom would be so angry.” Even women attending a university away from home fear obtaining a prescription when they consider the disapproval of their parents. Because of this, some female students continue to deal with irregular menstrual cycles and menstrual side effects (extreme PMS, physically incapacitating cramps, and the like).

To further enforce a daughter’s compliance, parents and peers expose women to all kinds of myths regarding OCP. We’re told that birth control pills will cause weight gain, infertility, even cancer. And all of these stem from a single misconception – that by condoning the use of birth control, some parents believe that they are opening the door to their daughter’s potential promiscuity.

Never mind the fact that doctors often prescribe teen girls oral contraceptives to combat acne. Let’s ignore that many women experience menstrual cramps so persistent and painful that no over-the-counter painkillers can deter them, or that they go on for days at a time. We can even gloss over consistent research results which show that oral contraceptive usage actually decreases the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancers. The significance of these things clearly pales in comparison to the idea that women could be (gasp!) engaging in sexual relations.

The same argument is being used against the advent of the new HPV immunization, Gardasil. After its approval by the FDA in 2006, some parents have been in an uproar over the possibility that schools may add the vaccine to their required list of immunizations. Mandating that girls get immunized apparently suggests that parents are accepting of their 10-year-olds having sex. I hate to break it to them, but for years, hepatitis vaccinations have been required. When I got my shots as a kid, I had no idea what hepatitis even was, let alone the various ways in which it could be contracted.

The reasoning behind Gardasil’s early inoculation is that it is ineffective if used after a woman has contracted HPV. Therefore, people receiving the shot should ideally get it before they start having sex. The point is that we know most 10-year-olds aren’t having sex, so younger is better in terms of getting the shot.

To all the parents out there freaking out over Gardasil legislation: Why wouldn’t you help prevent your daughter from contracting a virus which leads to 99 percent of cervical cancer cases?

Needless to say, it appears as though the fear of women’s sexuality continues to keep some parents from thinking about the physical well-being of the females they influence. We can give our sons the “birds and the bees” talk at 15 and send them on their merry way with a condom, but apparently we cannot promote female health without practically begging our daughters to bang everything in sight.

This vaginally-inspired terror will eventually have even greater consequences than these parents might expect. When these women actually start having sex, they may feel so afraid to mention the possibility of things like oral contraceptives and Gardasil to their parents that they instead engage in unsafe sexual practices. They may feel uncomfortable even scheduling an appointment with a gynecologist, regardless of whether they want a prescription or a vaccination. Any problems that might be apparent because of irregular menstrual processes may continue to go unexamined, as well as any of the cervical cell irregularities that can be found by a Pap smear. In the worst-case scenario, a woman might not even go to the doctor until after she suspects something is seriously wrong, like an STI.

This obsessive anxiety over female sexuality is something that, sadly, continues even at the university level. Despite the growing number of women who have the freedom to examine their options and take control over their bodily wellness upon reaching college, there is still much to be done to dispel the strongly constructed social roles of the virgin, the mother and the whore.

Chelsea is a junior in English and music and is glad to have finally finished “Middlemarch.”