What’s Speaking To Us: Week of September 18, 2017


Ending Abortion Means Improving The Dating Culture

For a long time, pro-lifers and pro-choicers could agree that abortion was a difficult and tragic choice that some women felt compelled to make in a desperate situation. While lately, abortion advocates have shifted their narrative to one of pride for abortion (see: Shout Your Abortion), the reality is that abortion is tragic and most women would like to keep their babies.
As Helen Alvaré has said before, recalling her hundreds of interviews of post-abortive women, “for them, abortion was the last bad decision in a long series of bad decisions concerning dating, sex, marriage, and family.”

Eighty-five percent of abortions are performed on single women, and so if we want to make abortion unthinkable, we need to empower women to a truer understanding of love, dating, and sex long before they find themselves in an unplanned pregnancy.

This week’s edition of What’s Speaking to Us highlights some of the ways today’s dating culture impacts abortion and the abortion conversation in America.

 The Ugliness of Casual Sex

Intentional “dating” among young adults takes a hit when contraception and abortion separate the idea of sex from kids. Men then prioritize sex, not long-term connection, when pursuing women. And romance is off the table when sex becomes meaningless. Helen Alvaré points to a Cosmo Magazine review of a book on the hook-up culture and suggests that our most winning argument for more meaningful sex is to illustrate “the sheer ugliness of sex divorced entirely from the slightest thoughts of the good of the other person—from future, family, children…and even love.”

We know that women desire and deserve more in their romantic lives! Read and share her comments at the WSFT blog.

 What Sex and Pregnancy Mean To Dating Women

It’s well-documented in books like Promises I Can Keep, and in the experiences of hundreds of pregnancy resource centers nationwide that so-called unplanned (or unintended) pregnancy is not always so unplanned. Two storytellers at I Believe in Love offer compelling insight into what sex and pregnancy mean to women and their dating relationships. If we want to curb non-marital pregnancy and abortion, we have to listen to these stories and empower women to more authentic expressions of love in dating and romantic relationships.

Brittany, who became sexually active at 16, drew her meaning as a woman from sex. “When I was having sex, I would have a small sense of being loved and being wanted, ” she writes, “two feelings that I craved.” But when the man left, she always felt “empty and disgusted” with herself. Yet, as she has also explained in her numerous articles at iBiL, she has had to learn much later on in life how to feel loved and wanted in a relationships apart from sex. 

For Shannon, when a pregnancy test her senior year of high school came back negative, she was surprised she wasn’t really relieved. “I realized I had been hoping it could be a way to rope my boyfriend into loving me forever,” she explained, “even if it was only through a child.” Shannon eventually did have children with her husband, but many other women don’t reach that same happy ending.

Both of these women’s experiences are a call for more focus on realistic and healthy expressions of love in dating. 

What Does Support For Planned Parenthood Have To Do With Online Dating?

Dating website OkCupid and Planned Parenthood announced a partnership this week that’s created some buzz. By answering the question “Do you support the defunding of Planned Parenthood?” users at OkCupid will have an “I support Planned Parenthood” badge added to their profile. According to women’s mags Glamour and Cosmo, this means you can quickly weed out the “undateable” men who don’t support “women’s rights” and Planned Parenthood.

Stigma and shaming aside, this “badge” is a loss for potential couples who might actually be able to have a thoughtful conversation if given the chance. While for most people, having deeply held beliefs in common is important, an online dating profile isn’t the place to have this conversation. At the WSFT blog, I explain why I would answer “yes, I do support the defunding of Planned Parenthood,” but why that simple answer doesn’t explain the nuance of my opinions.

Talking About Kids Before Having Them

Speaking of talking about deeply held beliefs in dating, a lot of young women and men feel ill-equipped or nervous to talk with their significant other about the things that matter most to them: dreams for marriage, family, and children. This story from Verily Magazine is instructive and encouraging.

“Listening to him talk so easily about how much he wanted a family, how soon he expected to be married, how he’d be willing to put his job aside to be with his future kids, set me into panic mode. I was afraid that if we did have kids that Kyle would grow to resent me for choosing a career over full-time childrearing[…]

In that moment, it was tempting to leave all that baggage on the table. But I’m glad we didn’t. Dr. John Gottman, author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, says empathy is the key to cultivating healthy relationships. When we listen to our partner and try to understand their point of view, we create a space where both parties feel validated and heard.”

This sounds like obvious advice. And it is obvious advice for those who have seen how trusting relationships change and shape opinions and beliefs about life, love and work. But the pressure for women to “have it all” and the soulmate mentality myth that emphasizes sameness as compatibility in relationships have created a culture of fear in the dating scene–fear of saying or doing the wrong thing in romance, fear of not measuring up to perceived or real expectations, fear of failing as a girlfriend, wife, and mother. We need to alleviate that fear by encouraging the young women and men we know to embrace difficult conversations about marriage and family as a way to sharpen their own values and beliefs, and to not be afraid to buck trends or expectations if the end result is more love and more life.

WSFT is trying to create a world that is intellectually honest about women’s freedom, about the good of keeping sex, marriage, and children together, and about how our sexualized culture has immiserated women and their families. Because our goals are so lofty and countercultural, we read the news with a careful eye for signs of hope, and to find the places where our voices are needed. Our weekly update—What’s Speaking To Us—will give you a view into what we’re reading, what we’re thinking, and how we’re speaking for ourselves in the media or in our communities.

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Women, empowered with facts, can change the culture!

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