Girl Talk: What We’re Really Talking About When We’re Talking About My Uterus
“So this was an accident, right? You know, like, ‘We’re having fun and then oops’?”
Monday morning, 7:30. No coffee, because someone on the internet told me caffeine is bad for pregnant ladies. This week is already uncomfortable, and it’s only going to get worse.
I’m seven months pregnant and, usually, I’m pretty reserved. I keep my sex life in my bedroom and, unsurprisingly, out of my job — especially since I’m an elementary school teacher. I’m also in my late 20’s, in a decade-long, committed, monogamous relationship, and securely employed. In short, I’m the poster child for Mike Huckabee’s idea of responsible reproduction.
And yet. Culturally, we often keep sex separate from our public lives. But my pregnancy has made some aspects of my own sex life surprisingly unhideable, despite my own sense of modesty or appropriateness. It’s passed out of my control and into the public domain. And thanks to my increasingly large belly, it’s only getting worse.
As a feminist, I’ve been aware for years of the idea that women’s bodies are available for discussion and evaluation in every capacity. But over the past few months, I’ve been overwhelmed by the kinds of conversations I’ve found myself engaged in, especially at work. Many of my coworkers are polite and appropriate and all those good things. But some cross a line and move right on into, well, my pants.
Many just take the bull by the horns and plow forward. In a room full of children, little is more comforting than a quiet aside from another teacher. “Wow, your weight’s all going to your tits, isn’t it?” Still, while the bodysnarkers make me uncomfortable, they’re not the real meat of the problem.
The real issue is that, possibly as a result of the public myth (as we all saw during recent Planned Parenthood conversations) that there are a lot of people who don’t bother using birth control and then are surprised by ensuing pregnancies. Even a quick glance at comments on any of dozens of news websites — or even on the floor of the House or Senate — shows a pervasive belief that pregnancy in America exists largely as punishment for irresponsible sexuality.
What I see among coworkers and, sometimes, friends, is the idea that my pregnancy is a visible sign of a fundamental misunderstanding of a link between sex and pregnancy.Generally, it begins with a look of sympathy.
“I guess the Pill doesn’t always work.”
Sometimes, it’s a more direct question. “Were you using protection?”
That my answer — that this was, indeed, planned — doesn’t fit the script is hardly relevant. (And even, frankly, if things were unplanned, I’d feel deeply, deeply uncomfortable having that conversation in the few minutes before a faculty meeting.)
It moves, from there, to a conversation about “trying,” which is just a euphemism for “having sex.” “How long were you trying” translates roughly to “Did you have a lot of sex?” “Was it easy?” is code for “Seriously, did you have a lot of sex?” The unspoken part of it is “you must have, and you have no excuse not to tell me about it because I can clearly see the results.” Despite any sense of my body as my own that I may have cherished, I’m wrong: my pregnancy, in fact, belongs to everyone.
I’ve considered playing into it. A big yawn. “Yes. We tried so hard,” I’d say. “We tried three times every night.” Or something like that. But, you know, that might be uncomfortable. It might make someone think about my sex life.