Talking About Abortion With Boys


Lauren B. writes on Nerve, “Four weeks after my abortion, I was dating again.” It’s one of those stories you know isn’t going to end well.

In fact, Ms. B. found out she was pregnant after her relationship was over, and opted immediately for a surgical abortion that left her spotting for a month. But, she was out on a date with a guy she describes as “a wide-eyed, pretentious poetry MFAer” who “suavely brought up his recent bout with testicular cancer” and the inquired after her own surgical history. B. opted for honesty, and her date ran for drinks.

Her experiences didn’t get too much better.

But there was a palpable discomfort when I had the same conversation with men. For the guys I was dating, the idea of a vacuum-like apparatus being the last visitor in my vagina was more troubling than if it had been, say, Stalin’s penis. Even die-hard liberals who would wax on about a woman’s right to choose were downright uncomfortable when actually presented with a woman who chose.

The men she dated or were friends with either treated her as a martyr or an untouchable, hugging her or getting freaked out either by the abortion, the implied fertility that caused it or the thought of all that equipment up in there. Her first serious post-abortion relationship argued with her about whether she felt anything about it.

B. says she was taken aback by the implied sexism of men’s reactions and the differences between their personal feelings and the political stances.

Before my abortion I never would have imagined that seemingly antiquated ideas about gender – that women need to be taken care of, that women always have binding ties to motherhood, that female body processes are somehow alien or scary – would ever surface in the New Yorker-toting media men I was dating, even if just for a moment, even if just when drunk. Then they did, more than once, and it was more than a bit depressing to realize that a fair number of liberal men still possess confining notions about women, and while they would argue wholeheartedly for reproductive rights in the political abstract, they might personally judge me in bed at night.

In fact, the only guy B. dated who took it well was the guy she’d broken up with before finding out she was pregnant.

For what it’s worth, one man took the news well right from the get-go: the fetus-daddy. By “well,” I mean he based his reaction on the words coming out of my mouth and neither victimized me nor questioned my essential womanity. Of course, he also had the benefit of learning he wasn’t going to be a twenty-four-year-old father in the same conversation.

Part of me wonders how much age and maturity are factors here. For many guys, having long-term relationships with (relatively mature) women means trafficking in the minutiae of women’s bodily functions, from bloating to used tampons to period sex to abnormal Pap smears to pregnancy scares and honest conversations about what you would want to do if you did get pregnant. It seems like the whole mystique of women’s bodily functions get much less mysterious as men and the women they date get more familiar with them. And, on top of it, just because a man is pro-choice doesn’t necessarily mean he’s pro-abortion.

B. is still “terrified” about the subject coming up with guys she’s dating, though she won’t lie about it. But she identifies what she needs out of her friends (and, therefore, probably out of her dates, were they to get more serious):

My female friends laughed when I laughed, commiserated when I needed it and treated the procedure as lightheartedly as I did. That’s all I wanted. To be able to define my own experience, not the other way around.

That probably hold true for most things that women experience.

Roe Vs. Wade Vs. My Boyfriend [Nerve]

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