Bioethics Blogs

Don’t feel comfortable asking others if they are having regularly scheduled unprotected vaginal penile penetrative intercourse? Then don’t ask

One of the first questions a newly
married straight couple often gets from well-meaning friends and family is
“when are you going to start trying?” For those of you who are wondering what
this question is getting at, it is asking them if they are going to start to
try to get pregnant. It is interesting to analyze the language used here.
People typically talk about “trying” without ever specifying what they are in
fact trying to do. Part of the reason for this may be because people assume the
meaning is obvious from the context, such as “they’ve been trying for six
months but haven’t gotten pregnant yet.” Another reason probably has to do with
our societal discomfort talking about sex.

We use general and vague terms to
imply that we are talking about sex, but often don’t feel comfortable out right
discussing it. For example, the birth control pill is generally just referred
to as “the pill.” There is still shame and stigma surrounding sex, particularly
for women and sexual minorities, so it may be easier and safer for a woman to
talk about being on “the pill,” even though everyone knows what she is
referring to, than to overtly announce that she is using contraception.

Even though we as a society may not
feel comfortable explicitly discussing sex, we still feel that it is our
business. From a legal perspective, look at how carefully reproductive medicine
is regulated. For instance, certain reproductive procedures (e.g. abortion and
sterilization) can require waiting mandatory periods – something that is not
common in other areas of nonelective medicine.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.