Why Telling Women To “Just Close Your Legs” Isn’t Good

Every so often, I run across arguments about women in poverty or other difficult situations who should just, like, stop having babies already. The message “just keep your legs closed” is a prevalent one… but I don’t think it works, or that it’s remotely a good idea.

First, until we get closer to universally accessible (meaning affordable) contraception, it makes no sense to berate women for their choices. Any “choice” made within an oppressive environment is not really a choice at all, or at least, not a freely-made choice. Let’s get on making birth control available to everyone before we judge women who are in tough situations and don’t have access to all the options they should, okay?

Second, I believe that every human being has the right to sexual fulfillment so long as it doesn’t come at the expense of a non-consenting party. I think it’s a basic human right, something that allows us to express ourselves and connect with others. Sexual autonomy allows one to live one’s life with dignity, regardless of which choices one makes with that sexual autonomy (again, as long as consent is involved).

So simply telling someone not to have sex due to risk of pregnancy seems silly to me. Not only silly, but an infringement of their rights. Yes, people having sex need to be aware of potential consequences (STI transmission as well as pregnancy; emotional attachment for some, but not for others), but saying “hey, be aware of the consequences of this” is quite different from saying “you can’t afford any children, so you shouldn’t be having sex.”

Finally, telling impoverished people what to do or not do with their sex lives reeks of eugenics, or at the very least, classism. It’s a special kind of privilege to know that any offspring you produce will have a safety net of financially secure family members… and to then look down upon those who don’t have the same safety net as unsuitable parents, well, that’s a dick move.

Again, let’s get everyone comprehensive, fact-based sex education and accessible contraception options before we judge people (especially women) for their decisions made under duress, okay?

About Jeana

Jeana

Jeana Jorgensen, PhD recently completed her doctoral degree in folklore and gender studies at Indiana University. She studies fairy tales and other narratives, dance, body art, feminist theory, digital humanities, and gender identity.