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Books & CultureBooks & CultureNovember/December 2001


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Sex & Science



Ignorance, poverty, and vice must stop populating the world. Science must make woman the owner, the mistress of herself. Science, the only possible savior of mankind, must put it in the power of woman to decide for herself whether she will or will not become a mother.
—Margaret Sanger, c. 1920

Modern life is based on control and science. We control the speed of our automobile. We control machines. We endeavor to control disease and death. Let us control the size of our family to ensure health and happiness.
—American family planning poster, c. 1940

A few weeks ago, my wife and I made one of our rare pilgrimages to the nearest shopping mall. Bethany had been given a Victoria's Secret gift certificate at her bridal shower a year earlier, and was intent on finally redeeming it. The last time we visited a mall, she managed to lure me into Victoria's Secret, where my friends surprised me with a humiliating practical joke; having learned my lesson, this time I ducked into a bookstore and left her to her business.

When she returned, Bethany had a good time telling me about the various looks she attracted, browsing in Victoria's Secret with a round, pregnant belly. She had hoped to find some nursing bras; alas, they didn't sell them. "I guess they don't like to be reminded of where all that sexy lingerie leads."

Does making love still lead to making babies? Well, I suppose so. … if you're into that sort of thing. You know, like, whatever makes you happy.

In the decades since 1960, the year the FDA approved the first oral contraceptive drug, it has become quite common to think of sex and procreation as two separate phenomena. Today, when advertisements for condoms are no more unusual than ads for cigarettes and ...



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