Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Over the Counter Sexual Experience

Everyone I've talked to that went to see Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 seems totally embarrassed that they went to go see it. Well, I went ahead and saw it since I read all of the books and (go ahead, laugh at me) loved them. The movie was pretty great overall, since it focuses on the girls and their ambitions and goals. But there was something that differed from the book. [Spoilers below.]

The storyline with Tibby was almost the same as in the book -- except for one important detail. After she and Brian have sex for the first time and the condom breaks, the movie doesn't even mention emergency contraception as an option. In the book, written by Ann Brashares, Brian calls her to tell her she can still get emergency contraception and even looks up the address of the nearest Planned Parenthood. But Tibby is pretty much in denial (emphasis added):
She didn't want to know the address of the Planned Parenthood. She didn't want to have that kind of life. She didn't want to get examined by a gynecologist and fill a prescription. She wanted her sexual experience to be strictly over the counter.
Interestingly enough, since the book was written EC has become available over the counter. But Tibby, normally one of my favorite characters in the series, reacts in an extremely irrational way to a fairly common problem. After all, that's why they invented emergency contraception. And she somehow gets confused, like needing EC makes her a different kind of person than she was before she had sex.

Weirdly enough, before the film, there was a trailer for the movie House Bunny.

Somehow we can't have a realistic conversation about EC between a girl and her boyfriend who have sex for the first time when the condom breaks, but it's a-OK to show smart young women what they really need is to be more like a Playboy Bunny.

1 comment:

Josh Fixler said...

Hi Kay,
I recently discovered you had a blog, so I am a first time commenter. I am also going to comment having not seen the movie or read the book so bare with me if I am totally off base, but your post really struck a chord for me.

I think the experience described in the book is not an uncommon one. Young adults seem to see a distinction between "having sex" and "being the kind of person who has sex". I am not saying that such a distinction exists; only that one is perceived. Young people believe that there is something about having sex that changes who you are, or are going to be. In reality, this perception probably has a lot to do with the labels that young adults have for their peers who choose to have sex.

I think the logic goes something like this. If I plan for sex, with birth control or a conversation with my partner, I begin to see that act as a pattern of behavior. But if I can claim that I was not planning to have sex, and demonstrate that to myself, I can assert that it is not a pattern. If there are negative associations with people who have sex regularly, then I don’t want to appear to be one of those people. This is part of the problem with teens labeling each other as sluts, in that teens want to down play the importance of the sex they have, so as not to be labeled.

Perhaps this explains Tibby’s reticence to deal with the condom breaking in the book has to do with her own desire not to be “a person who has sex”. Perhaps she associates Planned Parenthood with the kind of activity she is trying to avoid, even if she has chosen to have sex. She sees that as something for “the kind of people who have sex”.

The problem is that no such distinction actually exists. Sex and sexuality could be, in a perfect world, something that we can make responsible decisions about whiteout worrying that it will change our character. Expressing our sexuality doesn’t need to change our identity but we have to work to get rid of the labels and shame that are paired with sexuality because they limit our ability to make smart choices and act rationally. It creates a culture of fear, where there is a distinction between “prescription sexuality” and “over the counter sexuality”, when there need not be.

Kay – I think your blog is awesome. You deal with important issues in thoughtful ways. Keep up the great work!

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