On Consent, Informed and Otherwise

I've felt a little stuck where this blog is concerned lately. I'm a little bit tired of politics being the only thing that I could think to sit down and write about. I'm more than a little tired hearing myself use that as an excuse (mostly to myself) to not write anything at all when I have something to say about politics. I've been tired of the bullshit-yet-stubbornly-relevant reasons why I haven't felt comfortable writing about what's interesting about my life in this space leaving me with little alternative. But what tires me infinitely more is the cynical refusal to call a spade a spade because it might sound extreme, and the cost we pay as a society and a culture when our discussion of personal liberties is framed by that sensibility.

So we go on, once again, to politics.

It is truly a relief that the press and the public have come down as hard as they have on the recent skirmishes in the Republican Party's war on women's health, but there's one punch that keeps getting pulled out of what I believe to be a misguided sense of restraint.

As I would imagine anyone still reading this blog knows, the Virginia state legislature has taken up a bill that would mandate, as a purported enhancement to laws regarding informed consent (Paging George Orwell!), that they be given a medically unnecessary ultrasound, and that if imaging requires it, that the ultrasound be administered trans-vaginally.

The second part is what this post is about primarily, but before I get to that, let me note that as the result of  (a purported) resurgence of small-government conservatism, the Teavangelical power base that capitalized on-- among other things--the under-participation of pro-choice women in 2010 to further their ideological agenda by intruding into the normally sacrosanct relationship between doctor and patient and using the force of law to influence the conditions under which the final decision is made to go through with an abortion or not. It's already pretty unacceptable, but understandably, the focus of the discussion has been on what happens if the abortion is being performed before the point in fetal development at which imaging with an external ultrasound is impossible.

So important is it that the views of hypocritical reactionary zealots be reflected in medical procedure that the Republican Party is seeking to coerce those who go in early enough to preclude an ordinary ultrasound into submitting to a forced intrusion that has been described in what often feels like euphemistic language. Let me be clear: the coercive measure by which a pregnant woman is to be made to endure unwanted vaginal penetration by an ultrasound probe is accurately described as rape. And we should call it that.

Not out of sensationalism. Not out of a vengeful desire to hurt the GOP, though given the past three years both would be entirely justified. We should call it what it is because this legislation, whatever its original intent, threatens to take the false and dangerous narrative that rape is punishment for sexual promiscuity and codify it into law. Here, in the 21st century. And if you think that that's a maximalist interpretation, the minimalist one would be that the Republican Party is so determined to have its influence felt in the doctor's office they aren't especially concerned if it's necessary to rape the patient in order to exert it.

So far, the only person I've seen who has used the word on TV was Anna Sterling of Feministing, who appeared this morning on the debut of Melissa Harris-Perry. I've been told that Keith Olbermann did as well. Others have said things that were certainly intended to , but seemed curiously hesitant to actually use the word, which is unfortunate. You need to say the word to fully appreciate the severity of conservatives in Virginia. You need to spell it out that this is the final lifting of the pro-life veil that reveals once and for all that the raison d'etre of the movement is to stamp out a woman's bodily autonomy.

One Virginia legislator referred to abortion as a "lifestyle convenience." Others have said that by consenting to sex, a woman has consented to either having a child or having the government penetrate her with a medical device.

It's gotten me thinking about my lifestyle. I am someone who also consents to sex. A lot. Not always with the same person. I would never want an ultrasound wand shoved inside me unless there was a medical reason for it, nor do I want to have to deal with carrying a fetus to term or being responsible for it after birth. I don't want to take the hit to my health or my career.

Which leads me to conclude:

All things considered, isn't it an awfully nice lifestyle convenience, to have a penis?


  1. Nice piece and an even better teaser....

  2. I'm in the middle of re-thinking just what I'm comfortable putting here, with an eye towards it being more things.

    Of course, if you wanted to know more, I believe you know where to find me, as it were.