Survive, reproduce. Survive, reproduce. For 3.5 billion years.
I love science. I love how Neil deGrasse Tyson from Cosmos has become a superstar, and how he has lead people to gasp at galaxies. I like astrophysics okay, but mostly because it serves to put my true love—biology—into that bigger context.
Yesterday, I hung out with 100 people who work in schools, health care, and social services on projects that support pregnant and parenting teenagers. We’ve been getting together with folks in this field because domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking are all too common experiences for teens who are pregnant or have recently had a baby. We were all there to learn about the impact of trauma on the brain (more science) and what we can do to promote healing and resilience.
I eavesdropped on the conversations around me and heard people discussing the teens and babies they help, and the circumstances of their own pregnancies and the pregnancies of people they know. It made me wonder: How it is that we have birth control but still don’t use it all that intentionally? Regardless of our big brains, many of us are relying on the same biological laws that dictate the offspring of the mosquito, otter, and orca.
Sexual reproduction evolved 1.2 billion years ago. Contraceptive technologies were invented in the 20th century. Let’s be generous, round up, and say we have been able to have sex without reproducing for 100 years. Put in this perspective, I’m surprised that I’m surprised. I mean, we haven’t really been at this deciding to have babies for very long, so how could we expect to have a smoothly running social machine around it?
One reason we aren’t being as smart as we can be about reproductive decisions is that sexism is still a thing. Men still control and attempt to control women’s reproductive rights. This goes on politically and in intimate relationships.
Ageism is also still a thing. What other than ageism—and let’s be honest, fear—has us withholding information about reproduction and all forms of birth control from teens? Some teens struggle (mostly alone) with their deeply held desires to have a child. While other teens, once pregnant, reject adults shaming them—and rightly so. Teens in general are suffering as a result of our not trusting them with information about sexuality and reproduction. Ageism and fear are both terrible excuses for our behavior.
Is there any way to speed up our social evolution so that we can all have control over our decisions? Or are we destined to remain . . . wild?