I’ve never had an abortion. But I’ve had a lot of sex. And when I’ve been asked what my “number” is by friends or lovers, I laughed it off because I hadn’t ever considered counting a complete tally of partners.

But today I realize the privilege that comes with not really knowing how many different men I’ve slept with. That’s because I lived during a time when I was lucky enough to be able to separate my sex life from the rest of me. To put sex into a little box that I only accessed when the time was right. I was not weighed down by fears of pregnancy. I was bolstered by rights that I knew would protect me should things not go as planned.

Now, I recognize that the number of sex partners I’ve had defines an era and a mentality that we are all at risk of losing. I’ve been lucky enough to have slept with at least 17 men in my 41 years of life, and I think it might mean something positive that I’m not sure if there were more.

Why keep track? Because if it doesn’t matter to me, it shouldn’t matter at all. That’s the freedom and privilege of having had access to abortion and contraception for my entire adult life.

Talking about abortion access must come in many forms. This has now become a war, and battles for regaining our constitutional rights as women must become manifest on the streets, on the page, and in conversation.

Some LGBTQ+ allies and members of the queer community—a community I admire as a culturally white, cis, straight-identifying woman—argue that a benefit of coming out, if you’re able, is that it can expose as many straight-identifying people as possible to the fact that they probably know someone queer. This, it’s hoped, helps to transform, for those who may have bias in their hearts, the idea that homosexuality or gender identity should be dangerous or controversial, rather than a personal story of love and self-affirmation.

The same rules should apply to conversations about abortion, in order to broaden the conversation and include how we as women engage with sex and contraception—as well as to the outliers informing our reproductive rights. That’s one way we can fight this war.

We should state our sex facts as an athlete would boast of their statistics. Not out of pride, but out of a need to document the world we lived in and the type of world we want for our children.

I became sexually active when I was 18 years old and continue to be sexually active today. I slept with men when I wanted to have sex. And I didn’t sleep with men when I didn’t want to have sex. And quite often, I took Plan B if I was nervous I might be pregnant. I was only on birth control for a year or two in my early twenties, but that was in the early aughts and fears of IUDs—which I now use, happily—made hormonal pills more appealing.

If every man went into sex thinking, ‘Do I want to have children with this woman?’—the idea would be seen as patently absurd.

I don’t recall how often I took Plan B after having sex, but I also consider that option to be emblematic of a freedom and privilege I enjoyed. It’s also one that is bordering upon no longer existing.

Does this mean I take my rights for granted? What does it mean that for those in more liberally-minded states (such as New York, the one in which I’ve resided for almost all my life), conversation about sex is more of a casual, stress-free topic than for those in states that are swiftly banning abortion? What is the responsibility of those for whom sex is just something fun to do with a person they find attractive?

I often wonder what my decision would have been had I become pregnant at a time of my life where I was unable to properly care for a child. I know that having an abortion is something I would have considered, certainly. I also know that I never went into a sexual encounter thinking—well, if I get pregnant, I’ll just have an abortion!

I’ve had one-off encounters. I’ve had long-term romantic relationships. I’ve had sex with men I never wanted to see again. Most often, if I chose to have sex, it was because I felt it was the most reasonable way of expressing a type of love I felt for whatever person I was seeing.

Throughout all of it, I did what I wanted and I never apologized to anyone. Because sex, to me, was an extension of a romantic ideal. It was the result of desire, of passion—at times—and of purely carnal motivations.

Just the way it is for many men.

If every man went into sex thinking, “Do I want to have children with this woman?”—the idea would be seen as patently absurd.

For women, in a country founded in equality, this separation of sex from motherhood, from matrimony, must be valued and deemed as important as it is for men.

Many will speak of the rights of women to their bodies. Of how abortion is a healthcare issue. A civil liberties issue. And this is of the utmost importance.

But what I am speaking to is our rights as women to enjoy sex for the sake of sex. There is no shame in loving sex. There is no shame in wanting to enter into a sexual relationship for just one night or for years at a time with nothing other than ones need to experience pleasure for pleasure’s sake.

Keeping sex fun is not the most important conversation to be had right now. But it cannot go without being said. Our war to regain equality as women in this country must be won on as many fronts as possible.

Let’s not forget that not only should we fight for our rights to protect the health of our bodies—we also should fight for our rights to pleasure our bodies.



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