How Limiting Women’s Access to Birth Control and Abortions Hurts the Economy

Source: AlterNet

Author: Michele Gilman/the Conversation

Emphasis Mine

Reproductive health isn’t just about abortions, despite all the attention they get. It’s also about access to family planning services, contraception, sex education and much else.

Such access lets women control the timing and size of their families so they have children when they are financially secure and emotionally ready and can finish their education and advance in the workplace. After all, having children is expensive, costing US$9,000 to $25,000 a year.

And that’s why providing women with a full range of reproductive health options is good for the economy at the same time as being essential to the financial security of women and their families. Doing the opposite threatens not only the physical health of women but their economic well-being too.

The Supreme Court acknowledged as much in 1992, stating in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey:

The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.

However, it seems that state and federal legislators, certain politicians running for president as well as some conservative Supreme Court justices have forgotten the meaning of this sweeping language.

As a consequence, the right to control their reproductive health has become increasingly illusory for many women, particularly the poor.

The Economics of Contraception

With some conservative politicians dead set on limiting access to abortion, you’d assume that they would be for policies that help women avoid unintended pregnancies. But conservative attacks on birth control are escalating, even though 99 percent of sexually active women have used some form such as an intrauterine device (IUD), patch or pill at least once.

In addition to its widely recognized health and autonomy benefits for women, contraception directly boosts the economy. In fact, research shows access to the pill is responsible for a third of women’s wage gains since the 1960s.

And this benefit extends to their kids. Children born to mothers with access to family planning benefit from a 20 to 30 percent increase in their own incomes over their lifetimes, as well as boosting college completion rates.

Not surprisingly, in a survey, 77 percent of women who used birth control reported that it allowed them to better care for themselves and their families, while large majorities also reported that birth control allowed them to support themselves financially (71 percent), stay in school (64 percent) and help them get and keep a job (64 percent).

Still, there is a class divide in contraception access, as evidenced by disparities in the 2011 rate of unintended pregnancies. While the overall rate fell to 45 percent (from 51 percent in 2008), the figure for women living at or below the poverty line was five times that of women at the highest income level (although also decreasing).

One reason for this disparity is the cost of birth control, particularly for the most effective, long-lasting forms. For instance, it typically costs over $1,000 for an IUD and the procedure to insert it, amounting to one month’s full-time pay for a minimum wage worker.

These costs are significant, given that the average American woman wants two children and will thus need contraception for at least three decades of her life. Unfortunately, publicly funded family planning meets only 54 percent of the need, and these funding streams are under constant attack by conservatives.

Not surprisingly, health insurance makes a difference, and women with coverage are much more likely to use contraceptive care. The Affordable Care Act is responsible for part of the drop in unintended pregnancies—it expanded contraception coverage to around 55 million women with private insurance coverage.

Yet this coverage is also at risk for millions of employees and their dependents who work for employers claiming a religious objection. In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court concluded that a for-profit company cannot only profess religious beliefs but also impose those beliefs on their employees by denying them certain forms of contraception. The Obama administration has issued regulations allowing religious employers to opt out of offering contraceptive coverage. Affected employees are then covered directly by their insurers.

This is not enough for some. In March, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Zubik v. Burwell, in which several religious nonprofits assert that even the act of seeking an accommodation from the law burdens their religious consciences.

These religious groups argue in part that women can get their birth control from other sources, such as federally funded family planning centers. Yet at the same time, conservatives are on a mission to slash that funding, particularly for Planned Parenthood, which provides sexual and reproductive health care to almost five million people a year.

This makes no economic sense. Publicly funded family planning programs help women avoid about two million unintended pregnancies a year and save the government billions of dollars in health care costs. The net savings to government are $13.6 billion. For every $1 invested in these services, the government saves $7.09.

Sex Education and the Economic Ladder

Another key to reproductive health—and one that isn’t discussed enough—is sexual education for teenagers.

For years, the public has spent over $2 billion on abstinence-only programs, which not only fail to reduce teen birth rates but also reinforce gender stereotypes and are rife with misinformation. Low-income minority teens are particularly subject to these programs.

Teens without knowledge about their sexual healtare more likely to get pregnant and less likely to work, spiraling them to the bottom of the economic ladder.

President Obama’s proposed 2017 budget would eliminate federal funding for abstinence-only sex education and instead fund only comprehensive sexual education, which is age-appropriate and medically accurate. However, Congress has rejected the president’s prior proposed cuts and the same result is likely for 2017.

Access to Abortion

Then there’s the issue of abortion. Let’s start with the cost.

Half of women who obtain an abortion pay more than one-third of their monthly income for the procedure.

Costs rise significantly the longer a woman must wait, either because state law requires it or she needs to save up the money—or both. Studies show that women who cannot access abortion are three times more likely to fall into poverty than women who obtained abortions.

In addition to the financial burden, many states are enacting laws designed to limit abortion access. These laws hit low-income women particularly hard. From 2011 to 2015, 31 states have enacted 288 such laws, including waiting periods and mandatory counseling sessions.

Moreover, 24 states have enacted so-called TRAP laws (targeted regulation of abortion providers), which medical experts say go far beyond what is needed for patient safety and impose needless requirements on doctors and abortion facilities, such as requiring facilities to have the same hallway dimensions as a hospital.

In March, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case challenging a Texas TRAP lawWhole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt. If the court upholds the law, the entire state of Texas will be left with only 10 abortion providers.

lower federal appeals court stated in the Texas case that travel distances of more than 150 miles one way are not an “undue burden” and are thus constitutional. This, I would argue, shows a complete lack of understanding regarding the difficulties that poverty—especially rural poverty—imposes. Traveling long distances adds additional costs to an already expensive medical procedure.

The court’s decision is expected in June. Observers fear that the court could split 4-4, which would leave the Texas law intact.

The Hyde Amendment

Another way in which U.S. policy on abortions exacerbates economic inequality, especially for women of color, is through the ban on federal funding—which some aspiring politicians seem to have forgotten is still in place.

It has been so since the 1976 enactment of the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal Medicaid funds from being used for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at risk. The Affordable Care Act does many wonderful things for women’s health, but it also extends the Hyde Amendment through its expansion of Medicaid, and it allows states to ban abortion coverage in their private exchanges.

Denying poor women coverage under Medicaid contributes to the unintended birth rates that are seven times higher for poor women than high-income women.

Economic and Reproductive Health

Politicians cannot promise to grow the economy and simultaneously limit access to abortion, birth control and sexual education. Our nation’s economic health and women’s reproductive health are linked.

And as Hillary Clinton correctly noted recently, it’s an issue that deserves more attention in the presidential campaign—and hasn’t received enough.

Michele Gilman is a venable Professor of Law, University of Baltimore and is affiliated with the ACLU of Maryland and the Women’s Law Center of Maryland.



Atheism 101: Christianity and the demonization of sexuality and nudity

Source: Examiner

Emphasis Mine


While American society today is in some ways overly obsessed with sex, in other ways we are a very prudish and sexually repressed society. The porn industry is always a growth industry even during a declining economy but it is still often looked down upon and frequently viewed in secret. Millions of Americans don’t talk about sex openly even with their own partners and sex education in many cases is often very poor and insufficient. In other cases, sex education is simply non-existent. Americans tend to be more offended by a brief two-second celebrity nipple slips than they are about the violence in the world today as viewed on the 24/7 news channels.

Much of the American stigma concerning sex,sexuality, and nudity has to do with “traditional Christian values” as defined by fundamentalist religious believers. America has a lot of those old Puritan and Victorian influences as well as the biblical view from Genesis 3 that people should be ashamed of their own bodies. It is no surprise that usually the more religious a person is, the more they are sexually repressed. As an atheist, I see nothing wrong with nudity or sexuality and it bothers me that so many people are so freaked out about these subjects.

“What if a child saw that nude photo?” I give up, what if? What would happen? Would their eyes pop out of their sockets? The fact is that if you took your average six-year-old to see an R-rated film, which might have two seconds of partial nudity in it, they wouldn’t even notice and if you took that same average six-year-old to a long loving sex scene in an unrated film, they would be bored out of their mind. Of course if they knew that they weren’t supposed to see nudity because of some quaint religious stigma, they would want to see it just because it is forbidden. But if they weren’t raised to believe that sexuality and nudity were bad, they wouldn’t care less about either until they were old enough to take pleasure from them.

The reason America is so prudish is of course in no small part due to the Bible. Aside from the before mentioned Genesis 3, there are lots of examples where fornication or premarital sex is demonized. For example, the Bible throws unmarried sex in with murders and… dare I say it…atheism — even claiming that these things are “worthy of death.”

Romans 1: 29-32: “Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.”

The Bible also claims that if you have unmarried sex, you can’t get the magical Heavenly reward:

1 Corinthians 6: 9-10 “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”

There are many other “Biblical Correct” passages that deal with the evils of premarital sex. Some will argue that promiscuous sex is bad and that the Bible is correct in threatening Hell and Damnation for such a thing, but there are two issues with this. The first of course is the Bible didn’t say “promiscuous sex” it said pre-marital sex or fornication. Maybe you just had sex with one or two people. That is not promiscuous, but if you were not married at the time, that is a one way trip to eternal torture. Second, there really isn’t anything wrong with promiscuous sex as long as everyone involved is a consenting adult who knows what they are in for and everyone has taken the necessary precautions (i.e. birth control if desired). Sex can be an emotional experience for most people, but it is not always that way. Some people just enjoy sex without it being emotional. This is more common today in a world of one-night-stands and internet hookups. I don’t have a problem with that either. People can have very emotional “love making” one day and then have crazy, wild, f@*king the next day.

But even when sex gets highly emotional, most people can be mature and can handle those emotions like the adults they are. It is not uncommon for the average American to have between 6 to 20 sexual partners throughout their lives. Interestingly enough, the Bible doesn’t just talk about the evils of unmarried sex, Paul didn’t think all to highly of sex in general. Paul claimed that sex… any sex was bad but if you had to have sex, than married sex is better than unmarried sex:

1 Corinthians 7:8-9 “I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.”

The character of Jesus as portrayed in the Bible of course took things much further. While Paul just didn’t like sex, Jesus didn’t even want people to be sexually aroused or to have sexual thoughts at all:

Matthew 5:27-29 “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast [it] from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not [that] thy whole body should be cast into hell.”

That’s right, Jesus thinks you should poke out your eye because you might see an attractive person and get aroused.

So that means no Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues, no pornography, no movies, and no leaving your house. No wonder so many Christians get all bent out of shape with the slightest glimpse of nudity or sexuality. Just an accidental look or peek could land them in eternal torture with no possibility for parole or reprieve. This is one of the main reasons why there are so many restrictions and censors concerning nudity and sexuality. This is why society is as sexually repressed and frustrated as it is. I’m surprised that Christians haven’t followed the lead of many Muslim cultures and adopted the Burqa.





What You Need to Know about the Josh Duggar Police Report

Source: Patheos

Author: Libby Anne

Emphasis Mine 

New readers may be interested in my previous writings on the Duggars, including Carefully Scripted Lives: My Concerns about the Duggars, written in February 2012 and An Open Letter to Duggar Defenders, written in August 2014. 

When I first saw rumors circulating yesterday I didn’t pay any attention, because the accusations were vague and felt rehashed. Remember when the tabloids reported that Jessa Duggar had sex at the church immediately after her wedding, based on a word of an obviously satirical blogger who claimed to have been there? Yeah, I remember that too. There have been rumors circulating for years about Jim Bob blaming Josh for the loss of a political campaign, based on “sin in the camp,” so I thought it was probably just those rumors being rehashed in the way tabloids do.

But now there’s a police report. And now People Magazine has posted Josh’s confession. And now Josh has resigned from Family Research Council.

What happened exactly? Answering this question is sensitive because of the need to protect the identity Josh’s victims. According to TMZ, one of Josh’s victims has asked to have the unredacted police documents destroyed to protect her identity—and even the redacted police report gives more than enough information to guess at the victims’ identities. This is a problem.

I’ve gone back and forth about whether I should blog about this. This is not a gossip blog. I blog about weighty issues, and when I do blog about scandals like this I try to do so in a way that makes larger points, rather than just scoring cheap shots. That said, I’ve decided to go ahead and blog about this for several reasons. For one thing, I want you to have a reliable place to get good information (there’s still incorrect information circling out there). For another thing, I do think there are larger points to be made here. I’ll start by summarizing the police report.

In December 2006, someone called a hotline and reported that Josh Duggar had sexually molested several girls three and a half years before. Around the same time, Harpo Studios faxed an email they had received informing them of the allegations (the Duggars had been slated to be on Oprah) to the Department of Human Services. It seems that at the time of the assaults a family friend wrote a letter about what happened and put it in a book, and that book was loaned out years later and the letter discovered, and the person who discovered it wanted to disclose the information.

Jim Bob was called in and interviewed. He stated that Josh had sexually molested several girls over the course of a year. Jim Bob knew of this beginning in March 2002, when Josh was 14. Josh’s victims were children younger than him, and in some cases significantly so. For an entire year Jim Bob knew what was happening, but did not go to the police or seek treatment or outside intervention. In March 2003, with the incidents of molestation still occurring, Jim Bob said he and the elders at his church, to whom he had gone for advice, agreed that Josh should enter a treatment program.

But when one of the elders at Jim Bob’s church suggested sending Josh to a legitimate treatment program, Jim Bob demurred, reasoning that Josh would likely be exposed to more serious offenders and that that was not appropriate for the nature of his offense. So instead of sending Josh to an actual treatment program, Jim Bob sent him to Little Rock for four months to help a family friend with some remodeling.

When Josh returned in July 2003, Jim Bob took Josh to speak with a state trooper he knew personally about what had happened. The trooper gave Josh “a very stern talk” but didn’t file a report, reportedly reasoning that nothing needed to be done because Josh had already gone through a treatment program. Except of course that helping a family friend in Little Rock do some remodeling is not a treatment program. (The trooper who spoke with Josh was later convicted of child pornography.)

After interviewing the victims and other witnesses (all of whom corroborated Jim Bob’s story), police closed the case. Why? Because in Arkansas the statute of limitations for sexual assault is three years, and they were unable to find any evidence of any act of molestation or assault within the last three years. At this time Josh was 18. Police ascertained that Josh had at least five victims from at least two families.

I don’t know whether Josh has molested any children since 2003. I know very little about the science behind sexual molestation that occurs while the perpetrator is still a minor. There are some things I do know, though.

1. Sexual abuse should always always always be reported to the authorities immediately, even when the perpetrator is a minor. Jim Bob did not report what happened for well over a year, and when he finally did, he went to a trooper who was a family friend. This is a serious serious problem. The case of Zion and Glenda Dutro presents an especially hideous example of how badly reporting to cops who are personal acquaintances can go wrong (click through at your own risk). Don’t do this!

2. Professional counselors and treatment programs are a must in cases involving sexual abuse. Talking to your elders or doing manual labor for a couple of months does not constitute counseling or a treatment program. Josh told People that both he and his victims received counseling. But given that his parents stated in 2006 that the only treatment he received was several months of manual labor, I’m highly skeptical that his victims received any actual counseling themselves. I know of a large Christian homeschooling family where incest was discovered between two of the sons, partly as a result of a complete lack of sex education, and both were shamed for what happened, nothing was reported, and no counseling was receivedThis is a problem.

3. It is not okay to conceal a history of child molestation from parents of other children a perpetrator has regular contact with. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely believe in protecting the identity of victims. But if someone is an offender against children, they have the potential to reoffend. People should not leave children alone with a person with a history of molesting children, and that means they need to know that a person has a history of molesting children. While Jim Bob told the elders at the family’s church about what had happened, neither they nor the elders notified the church members more generally. This is bad, as it put other children at risk.

4. Handling child molestation as “sin” rather than addressing the psychology behind it is a serious problem. In their statements to People, the Duggars spoke of Josh’s past wrongdoing as “past teenage mistakes” and spoke of growing closer to God through it. But it appears that Josh never had legitimate counseling or treatment to work through his problem. Some sexual things are normal for a teen to do—say, masturbating—but other sexual things are not typical behavior—say, molesting children—and those things need to be addressed professionally rather than simply as “sin” issues. Failing to do so places other children at risk.

5. In too many cases, church elders fail to report sexual abuse to the proper authorities. We’ve seen this before, again, and again, and again. It is not clear from the police report whether Jim Bob spoke with his church’s elders about the incidents of molestation first in March 2003 or whether he spoke with them earlier as well. But even if he only spoke with them in March 2003, they still failed to immediately report the incidents to the authorities as they should have. According to Jim Bob, the elders agreed that he should report the situation to the authorities once Josh returned from the remodeling project in Little Rock, and one of the elders went with him when he did so. This was both too late (they should have reported it immediately) and too little (the report was made to a trooper who was a friend).

6. Local police and state troopers need to take sexual molestation seriously and follow the law with regards to reporting it. The trooper Jim Bob and Josh spoke with was a mandatory reporter and should by law have filed a report and launched an investigation. He failed to do so, and as a result the statute of limitations ran out before any action could be taken. This particular trooper was later convicted of child abuse, spent time in prison, then reoffended and is now back in prison. This was a serious, serious law enforcement fail.

7. Good sex education is very important. I don’t know for sure what sort of sex education Josh Duggar received, but I do know that children homeschooled through the Christian program the Duggars used with Josh (ATI) are generally woefully uneducated when it comes to sex. Parents who avoid more comprehensive sex education often see themselves as trying to avoid awakening children’s sexuality too early, but these efforts can end very very badly because leaving children completely ignorant about sex can be a serious problem.

8. The good Christian family aura can hide underlying problems. If I had a dollar for every time someone has praised the Duggars for being a perfect example of a good Christian family, I’d be rich. Sweet smiles and matching clothes can cover up a lot and make people assume that things are more perfect than they are. I know what it’s like to force a smile for family pictures people later ooo and ahh over, even as I’m crying inside. We need to remember that.

9. Sheltering children from the world doesn’t work. For years now, I have seen commenters across the internet praise the Duggars for raising godly children away from the materialism and sexualization of the modern world. Sorry guys, it doesn’t work like that. Please stop promoting the Duggars’ lifestyle by claiming that it has protected these children from the evils of the world! It hasn’t.

10. Homeschooling can limit children’s ability to report abuse. Children who attend school have contact with teachers, counselors, and other adults they can go to for help, or for advice about problems in their home situations. Both Josh and his victims were home schooled, which almost certainly limited the number of trusted adults they could go to for help, especially given that their social activities appear to have revolved around their church and other likeminded families who probably also believed in dealing with such problems in-house. According to the police report, some of the victims did try to get help. It’s just that their avenues for obtaining said help were sadly limited.

I still feel weird about posting this because of the gossipy angle so much of the media is giving it. So, I’d like to make a suggestion. When you see people talking about this story, whether on facebook or in person or in a comment section, steer the conversation toward the more substantive issues. Let’s use the attention the tabloids and other news sources are giving this story to educate the public about the problems with dealing with sexual molestation in house, the importance of sex education, and the dangers of judging the character of a family by outward appearances alone.

And while you’re at it, please remind people to protect the identities of the victims.


For further reading, see:

What Did Josh Duggar’s Counseling Look Like?



Obama Budget Proposal Would End Abstinence-Only Grants

Source: nationalpartnerships


President Obama’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2015 would end grants to states for abstinence-only sex education programs, U.S. News & World Report reports. Specifically, the budget blueprint, released on Tuesday, would eliminate $50 million in annual funding designated for abstinence-only education grants under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148). It also would end the Competitive Abstinence Education program, which receives $5 million in annual funding.

According to U.S. News & World Report, Obama does not support abstinence-only sex education programs, despite funding them in previous budgets (Nelson, U.S. News & World Report, 3/5). He cut funding for the programs, a “hallmark” of the George W. Bush administration, in his 2010 budget, but Congress has restored the funding, including in its latest budget deal, CNN reports (Liberto, CNN, 3/5).


Supporters of comprehensive sex education programs praised the budget proposal (U.S. News & World Report, 3/5). According to a 2007 federal study that tracked 2,000 adolescents over 10 years, abstinence-only programs do not prevent them from having sex.

Bill Albert, chief program officer for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, said, “Taxpayers want to know: Is my money going to something that’s making a difference,” adding, “In the grand scheme of things, $5 million doesn’t amount to a hill of beans, but on the other hand, abstinence-only is not a program based on science.”

More than $175 million annually goes toward other types of sex education programs, according to CNN (CNN, 3/5).

Meanwhile, supporters of abstinence-only sex education programs said they do not believe Congress will go along with Obama’s proposal. National Abstinence Education Association President Valerie Huber said she is “very optimistic” that abstinence-only programs will continue to receive funding, citing past instances when Congress “chose to ignore” Obama’s budget requests (U.S. News & World Report, 3/5).

Emphasis Mine


My Big Virginity Mistake

Source:Salon, via Alternet

Author: Jessica Ciencin Henriquez

“I was 14 years old when I married Jesus. Not Jesus, the Panamanian who worked at Six Flags. I mean Jesus Christ, the Lord. My parents sent me off to Baptist youth camp in Panama City Beach for the week, and I came home with a tan and a purity ring. I sat with my legs crossed, cramped in a theater with 200 sweaty, sobbing teens as our pastor described the unwavering bonds of sex and why it should only be experienced within the confines of marriage.

The lyrics echoed in the background as he shouted about STDs and unplanned pregnancy from the pulpit. Cause I am waiting for you, praying for you darling, wait for me too, wait for me as I wait for you. One by one we each placed a ring on our fourth finger and made vows to an apparently bi-curious Jesus who took teenage husbands and wives by the dozen that night.

I didn’t buy into a word of it. Jesus as my husband: Were they kidding? But that ring! Silver and engraved with entwined hearts – everyone I knew was wearing one and I’d finally been given the opportunity to get my hands on it. And it wasn’t just the ring. This was a movement with T-shirts and hats and the added bonus of superiority over kids in school who couldn’t keep their clothes on, those sinners. After an intense and very detailed sex talk with my mother , where she stuttered and I blushed and we both used the word “flower,” I was terrified of sex. That and the slide show in sex ed didn’t help one bit. So I scribbled Jesus + Jess on my Bible cover, and I casually mentioned my virginity in daily conversations. I committed to the idea hoping it would ensure a successful marriage. Instead, it led to my divorce.

I don’t know many people these days who married still a virgin. But going to high school in the furniture capital of North Carolina, it didn’t seem so strange that I wore an engagement ring at the age of 19. People admired my decision to marry my college sweetheart and were enthusiastic about my goal of waiting until marriage to have sex. (He actually wasn’t a virgin, but he was willing to wait for me.) Over time, I’d watched my brothers and sisters in Christ lose sight of their celibacy around the time they felt the pull of raging hormones combined with slots of unsupervised co-ed time. But I pressed on in stubbornness until finally, the time had come to replace Jesus as my other half. Twenty may sound early to get married, but tell that to the girl who had her knees locked since puberty and the boy who spent years trying to convince her that just the tip didn’t count.

The morning of my wedding day, I threw up. Everyone assumed that I was nervous about having sex. I wasn’t. But it dawned on me how much we hadn’t learned yet about one another. We had known each other for three years by this point, but there was so much unexplored territory. So what was I supposed to do when my “aha moment” came as a dress was heaved over my head by seven bridesmaids? Plus, my mother had mentioned no less than 400 times, this wedding was costing them a fortune; I was getting married, there was no way out.

“I’ll give you a five-minute head start if you want to run,” my dad said with a half-smile as we walked up the aisle. I held onto his arm tighter, afraid my legs might just take him up on that offer.

When I look back on my wedding day, I remember a passionate kiss at the altar. But after rewatching video footage, I see it was little more than a peck on the corner of my mouth and a long hug. Two years of halting wandering hands as they grazed under blue jeans, and the second we have the permission from God, we hug. These are what red flags look like; my rearview mirror is lined with them.

Our wedding reception was filled with underage drinking and boys wearing their father’s suits. I danced to Top 40 with my friends; he got drunk in a corner with his. We met at the entrance of the country club just before midnight to be sent off through a sea of bubbles, to consummate our marriage. There is nothing that can kill a mood faster than my Colombian grandfather knowingly winking at the man I was about to sleep with. Except for maybe the dashboard covered in condoms, a send-off gift from my new husband’s grooms boys.

He carried me through the door of the hotel room and immediately placed me down in a chair. If my 120-pound body wasn’t too heavy, the 30-pound dress covering it was. Rose petals were scattered on the bed surrounded by a dozen lit candles. I had never been more romanced and less interested in having sex. Was I tired? Was I hungry? Shouldn’t we have been pouncing on each other? I slowly changed into an ivory silk nightgown. When I came back into the bedroom, he was lying down, half undressed, completely hopeful.

“Are you not exhausted?” I yawned into a pillow. “Is having sex tomorrow an option?” I asked, only half-kidding.

“Really? You only get one wedding night, Jess.” Even then, I doubted that would be true.

As he began to kiss me, my mind shut off. I felt his movements and I heard heavy breathing but I thought nothing, it was as if it was something that was happening next to me, or to someone else entirely. It didn’t hurt, I remember that much. Three minutes later when he finished he appeared pleased with himself and I was glad that it was out of the way. I smiled and asked if we could get something to eat. My wedding day began with my face leaning over a toilet and ended in a Waffle House.

Then, as if Jesus were punishing me for moving on, I got a urinary tract infection on the second day of our honeymoon. I sighed in relief when the doctor told me that I should not engage in any sexual activity until I had finished the antibiotics. Seven days later, my wifely duties resumed and almost every time our clothes came off, my mind seemed to check out. I soon noticed that during those few-minute intervals of sex, my mind was focusing on something else, anything else.

“Do you like that?” he would ask after light repetitive movements.

“Yep,” I answered. Lettuce, milk, paper towels 

“Are you close?” he was anxious to know.

“Uh-huh,” I lied. Buy stamps, get my oil changed, send thank-you cards …

This was not lovemaking. There was no bond, no sanctity – this was not the amazing sex I was promised from the pulpit. This was disappointment three to four times a week.

Not long into our marriage, my mother coyly asked how it was going. I joked that there were some women who needed it and some who prioritized it underneath quilting. But I accepted sex as part of the gig and though it was regular, it was regularly awful for me. It wasn’t all his fault. I admit that I was not a willing student but he was no teacher, either. Our bodies wanted different things from one another, so what we ended up with was a horizontal battle. I would hear married girlfriends talk about the joys of make-up sex and continue to sip my coffee in silence. We would fight, and then have bad sex and then fight some more. Every flaw in our marriage and in him seemed much more miserable when combined with the possibility of faking orgasms until death did we part. There was no relief.

Before we got married, I used to love kissing him. We would spend hours attached at the mouth because aside from occasional drunken foreplay, it was all we had. In our marriage, we stopped kissing because who needs kissing when sex is on the table? Me, I did. I needed assurance that some physical aspect of our relationship was working. And when I didn’t get that assurance I pinned it on myself. Maybe I was just that woman you hear about, who doesn’t particularly care for sex. She just slowly dries up until she dies alone. For months I believed that might be me and rather than try something different, he began to believe it too.

Six months into our marriage, the idea of separating seemed more appealing than feigning headaches for the rest of my life.

Had we had sex before our relationship transitioned into a contract, I would have known that there was no passion, no spark, nothing happening between our bodies. I would never have agreed to marry him because sex is a significant part of a relationship and therefore a significant part of our relationship was failing. With the failure of our sex life, I felt like less of a woman, no longer a sexual creature but more of a plant. Sitting there, day in, day out, wilting while I waited for someone to take care of me.

Without having sex before marriage, I blindly walked up an aisle and committed myself to a man who didn’t know me and gave my long-held virginity to someone with whom I had no more chemistry than a second cousin.

Soon after our divorce, he got remarried to someone who suits him better than I ever could have. And years later, I can confirm that I am not that woman who has no interest in sex. I don’t quilt. I haven’t compiled a grocery list in bed in years, and I now know that sex can be amazing … with a bartender who only knows your first name, a pilot you meet on vacation in Costa Rica and yes, with the right guy – sex in a marriage can be beautiful. The key is to figure that out before you find yourself walking down an aisle in a dress that costs more than the family car (my mother has since reminded me). It isn’t the most important thing when it comes to love. But for me, I learned that sex is important enough not to wait.

Emphasis Mine