Fifty years ago, the court case Griswold v. Connecticut made groundbreaking headway. The court decision overturned a statue that criminalized contraception; it concluded that every citizen has a fundamental right to privacy. In turn, women were given legal access to contraceptives — that is, if they were married. Social norms regarding marriage and virginity played into the court’s final ruling, limiting unmarried people from accessing safe information about reproductive healthcare.
The virginity myth is a long-held belief of our nation that considers women who do not have sex until marriage to be better than women who do engage in pre-marital intercourse. These women are deemed irresponsible, impure, and changed. This myth is spread to us through media, religion, and our own family and friends. Despite virginity having no medical or biological definition, it has become a very real term to women of all ages.
Though the same contraceptive rights were later expanded to unmarried people in Eisenstadt v. Baird, the virginity myth lives on. This socially constructed belief continues to block young women’s access to contraception.
High school is the first time I personally felt the pressure of the virginity myth, especially regarding contraception. My friends and classmates were beginning to take birth control for the first time. The reasons for being prescribed were varied — a bad case of acne, a wonky menstrual cycle — but never for pregnancy prevention. My friends came up with elaborate excuses for their parents and doctors because they couldn’t admit that they were sexually active or planning on becoming so. Losing your virginity was embarrassing; it was isolating.
Having sex should not be an isolating experience. According to a 2013 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), forty seven percent of high school students have had sex at least once. Research from the Kinsey Institute suggests that, on average, people have their first intercourse at the age of seventeen.
As people around me started going on birth control, I tried every play in the book to convince my mother to let me start taking the pill. None of them worked. I didn’t have plans to have sex with anyone at that time, but I did want to be prepared and protected when I felt the time was right. At the end of my sophomore year, I had an ovarian torsion, which is when your ovary twists due to a cist. After my surgery, I was instantly put on birth control to regulate my menstruation and to ensure my medical health.
However, it shouldn’t matter why I use birth control. Birth control offers numerous benefits for those who decide to take it, including lowering risk to cancer, fewer periods, and clearer skin. For me, the pill has also resulted in a safer and more responsible sex life. No one, married or unmarried, should have to prove why they have decided to take the pill. In reality, women may use birth control for a variety of reasons, just like myself.
As a sophomore in college, I do not personally feel prepared to have a child. My lifestyle is not conducive to taking care of a baby. I have ambitions and dreams to accomplish before I will be ready to provide emotionally and financially for somebody else. However, despite not being able to support a child, I am able to make logical, thoughtful decisions for myself. I am a successful student, a hard worker, and a loyal friend. Having sex doesn’t change any of those things or define who I am. It is just another part of my life that I should be able to control for myself.
Today, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Griswold v. Connecticut, I reject the virginity myth and I thank Griswold for being the first stepping-stone towards giving me legal control of both my body and my future.