Letter to the editor

In honor of Roe v. Wade’s 39th anniversary, Trojans need to talk sex.

The misogynist fraternity email last semester was a difficult episode in our school’s recent history, but it did spur something refreshing: students speaking of their own experiences to other students. Women stood in front of Tommy Trojan and shared their sexual health struggles to find that they were not alone.

On Monday in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center, we saw a similar evolution in the campuswide debate. Speakers from Planned Parenthood paired up with the College Democrats, Students for Barack Obama and the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics to raise awareness of sexual health issues on campus.

At the well-attended event, students took advantage of the opportunity to tell their stories. In simply talking about sexual health, they discovered just how many students have had pregnancy scares, have had to confide in friends about sexual health complications or have known someone who has had an abortion.

These stories are not unique to USC. But we don’t talk about them much. In campus life, it’s everywhere and nowhere.

Planned Parenthood — many students’ last refuge for help with sexual health issues, free contraception and other not-for-profit health care — is under political attack. Because one of the many reproductive health services that Planned Parenthood offers is abortions, the organization has become a target for a right-wing attack on sexual health education.  The war on science has opened a new front. The solution? Government just big enough to fit into your bedroom.

Sex education in schools, by the tone of most conservative dialogue, should take its cues from the Jonas Brothers rather than educators who know that abstinence-only education doesn’t work. In this year’s campaign, while most issues are drowned out by talking points about economic reform, the debate over reproductive rights sticks out like a sore thumb.

All the Republican [presidential] candidates oppose a woman’s right to choose. Some candidates have even backed a failed Mississippi ballot initiative that would have made personhood start at conception. The GOP candidates have played to the extreme base of their party by promising to appoint a justice that would overturn Roe v. Wade. This historic victory for reproductive rights celebrated its 39th anniversary this past Sunday, yet it is still under siege.

These politicians send the message to women that our bodies are not our own. We have to take back ownership by talking about our bodies in our own right.

It’s time we talked about sex.

Kaya Masler

Senior, president of USC Students for Barack Obama

4 replies
  1. Kaya
    Kaya says:

    Dear Anon and Anon,
    Thank you for your comments! This is exactly the sort of discussion I wanted to start and I wish both of you had been at the event on Monday where we heard from a very diverse set of perspectives. You are right to point out how complex this issue is. I also did discuss it within the only page that I had and I in no way intended to ‘distill’ or simplify the topic. I also do not bring up the conservative perspective assuming that their personal views on sexual health are invalid. My point regarding this year’s ever popular GOP candidates is that given the incredible complexity of the issue, we should not be hearing from one, predominantly homogeneous perspective. The horse race of today’s politics is one of the few arenas wherein reproductive health is talked about at all and this is a problem on a number of levels: The first is the personal, as a woman, my body and what I am allowed to do with it is being discussed in a nationally broadcasted conversation that I, and most other women have no way of contributing to (or at least very little–if we are lucky a page in an op-ed or a soundbite on the news). Second, is the issue of biographical credibility that many of these candidates lack when it comes to female reproductive rights. Has Rick Santorum ever had to worry about being pregnant? Does he have any idea what it would feel like to bear the child of a person who raped him? I’m not saying that we should exclude him from the discussion because he does not have first hand experience with these issues but I do find it to be an injustice that a woman who does have these experiences can not respond to him when he says that pregnancy through rape is “a gift from god” and that “she should make the best of it” or when Newt Gingrich dictates that “choosing abortion is not acceptable.” I think we can all agree that an abortion is never an easy decision and I don’t pretend to have the answer to any one else’s question in regards to what they will find to be acceptable or unacceptable for themselves. Questions of abortion, contraception and sexual health as a whole, are questions that women and men must figure out the answers to on their own, based on their religions, their living situations, their families and their mental and physical health. I would never dream of answering these questions for anyone else. I haven’t even begun to answer some of them for myself. However, with out an open conversation about the experiences of others it is difficult to make any healthy progress in answering these personal questions, especially when what little is shared comes from such a strange and distant place as campaign politics. So, to answer your questions, that is what I want more talk about and why I want it and I hope you continue to keep up the discussion!

  2. Jon
    Jon says:

    The point, Anon, is that one side of this debate is extremely well-organized and vocal whereas the other side barely talks about the issue. Roe vs. Wade has been promised to be overturned by every Republican presidential candidate yet, for all the talk of Newt’s sex life or Romney taxes, we don’t talk about ISSUES. I for one am grateful for Kaya starting the process of talking about policy rather than personality

  3. Anon
    Anon says:

    You take an incredibly complicated subject and distill it into a page. In truth, I am actually closer to your side of this argument than the Conservative one, but to be so black-and-white about an intrinsic (and important) institution of society is not conductive to a serious dialogue, which you claim to want.

    I am no strong supporter of either side of the Roe v. Wade debate, but to make it seem preposterous that people might have a serious problem with abortion is grossly dismissive. And I agree that sex education and contraception are both necessary and pragmatic, and Republican insistance that simply eliminating any mention of sex or the means of contraception from minors will stop what they see as immoral behavior is both outdated and out of touch. But just because their solutions are unhelpful does not mean that they don’t have a valid point. I do not pretend to know where the boundary between sexual liberty, long overdue for women, and corrosive behavior begins, but neither should you. And, applying the same standard to conservatives, I do not think that they should force their morals (abstinence, pro-life) on you, nor take for granted your arguments.

    But by being so didactic about complicated moral issues, you are no better than them. The question of the life of a child vs the liberty of women is nuanced and has a many implications. Questions about sex in an age of teenage pregnancy, STDs, and abortions need to be asked.

    But don’t pretend to know the answers beforehand.

    • Anon
      Anon says:

      Thanks Anon,

      The sad truth is that anyone who expresses any distaste of this letter’s formulation will have to remain anonymous. Just the nature of the beast.

      Good point on the fact that a complicated issue cannot be solved with a simple answer. The lack of nuance in this letter is evidenced by the fact, as you pointed out, that the author offers an equally unsatisfactory and frankly equally distasteful coloration of the “other side” of the debate without really offering any real solution.

      Let’s “talk about sex?” What more “talk” do you want? Be concrete, please, and don’t hinge your argument on demeaning your opponents.

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