This summer I had some great “girl talks” with one of my relatives. She grew up in Puerto Rico in the ‘60s and she opened up about what it was like to be a teen and young adult in Borinquen at that time. She spoke about the never-ending and impossible standards set on young women to be “good girls” (code for asexual, never go out at night without your parents, never even talk to boys alone); and how the playbook for men seemed to be the complete opposite. She spoke about how fearful girls were taught to be about sex. The whole idea, she explained, was that you end up so afraid of sex and of the idea of losing complete control, that you were terrified of putting yourself in a position where you would come anywhere near ‘doing it.’
So guess what this whole way of thinking resulted in? A lot of what they called “fracasos.” Yes, when a girl got pregnant before marriage she literally got a “FAIL” from her community. Plus, guess who very suddenly went from “good girl” to “easy girl” territory?
So many things struck me about her words. But the main thing was how incredibly powerless these social demands and this ignorance made women. It was as though being born a woman made you an automatic victim of your circumstances. You had no control over how your life might end up. There was no ownership over your body, much less your sexuality. There was no knowledge about sex –how it happens, how you can protect yourself from diseases and unplanned pregnancies, how and when you would decide to do it, and what role you might want to play in your own relationship
Knowledge about birth control is something so many of us take for granted these days. However, 52% of Latinas continue to get pregnant by age 20. With so many schools failing to cover birth control as part of their sex education, and serious issues of access to basic health care and birth control in our Latino communities– it’s clear that although we’ve come a long way, we still have a long way to go. Young Latinas, as well as all other young people, should have full knowledge of birth control methods and access to truly affordable birth control should they decide to use it.
When it comes to knowledge of and access to birth control as Latinas, what do you think we need to do to turn around the statistics?
by Gabriela Lazzaro