It has been of less surprise than fear and anger that the past year has brought such terrible developments in regards to the ongoing struggle for women’s rights and empowerment. The past 10 years of my life have taught me that the mere existence in America as a woman is a hopelessly convoluted maze of trials, on which we must stake our lives. 2021 is the up-to-date culmination of such trials. As Texas’ latest and greatest abortion law looms threateningly over our rights, I think of the ridiculous, deadly game of sexuality and chastity that women in America are forced to play.
The obsessive, possessive fascination that men have with the sexuality of women can be traced back through the ages, through countless cultures and societies, and is visible in ancient laws, art and literature. Perhaps this fascination has been exacerbated by the ready availability of sexual satisfaction through not only the rise of the pornography industry in the past century, but the recent popularity of OnlyFans and the normalization of casual sex, driven by dating services like Tinder. As sex has slowly become less and less taboo, as women have become more and more confident in their bodies, men have become frantic to control and claim ownership of women and their sexuality.
OnlyFans is well-known for being an online platform where creators can share sexually explicit content behind a paywall; Many sex workers rely on it for income. However, some creators struggled against social scrutiny: In August 2021, one ICU nurse made headlines when she was forced to quit when management became aware of her OnlyFans. And several days later, the company announced that it would be banning sexually explicit content from its platform. Days later, OnlyFans reversed its decision amidst backlash from people who were furious that the platform had used sex workers to grow its membership and profit margins, then abandoned them for the sake of conservative investors. This rapid-fire series of events left me frustrated with the hypocrisy of it all. Men were too eager to encourage and share the sexuality that women offered to the world, yet they couldn’t bear to see women owning that very sexuality and making a profit from the abundant market; They couldn’t stand a stain on their projected face of chastity.
The OnlyFans timeline bumps shoulders roughly with the latest news from Texas and its new, hideous law that effectively bans abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy. This law deputizes the private population by monetarily incentivizing citizens to sue anyone — Uber drivers, doctors, counselors — involved with the abortion. Because no state officials enforce this ban, this law has been viewed as a loophole in the Roe v. Wade ruling. As of Oct. 11, this law has been reinstated after a temporary inhibition, and Republican lawmakers have committed to following Texas’ footsteps. These events have terrifying consequences: Not everyone realizes they are pregnant until after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, and not everyone who wishes to terminate their pregnancy has the resources to travel to a state or region where the abortion would be legal.
Americans have sex, and Americans will continue to have sex. The question is not whether, but what: What happens afterward? Sex — especially casual sex — is far too widely normalized to tread backwards now, and I’m not saying that we should. Reproductive rights are human rights, and right now our rights are positioned at the mouth of an iron cannon. The immense weight of anxiety, horror and fury strangle me as I contemplate our bleak future in America. The bitter realization comes from the fact that we could all see it coming. From the moment Trump appointed a literal sex offender — an alumnus of Yale, surprise surprise — to the Supreme Court, we could see it coming. When Trump added a jaw-dropping two additional conservative justices to the roster, we could see it coming.
And now we’re on our knees, staring into the mouth of the cannon. And the fuse is out of our hands.
At Yale, there is a certain complacency about women’s rights. Feminism is an old battle, and we take it for granted that we’re surrounded by like-minded people— “of course I’m not sexist!” — it’s the bare minimum. But at Yale, there are those that hold power beneath the lowest bar. It’s alarming, and it’s dangerous.
As students, it might feel like there isn’t much we can do— but as the election season approaches, it’s crucial that we take political and social action to fight for our rights, for our lives. Vote, march, donate, contact your representatives. At the least, speak. Refuse to let this happen.
HYERIM BIANCA NAM is a sophomore in Saybrook College. Her column ‘Moment’s Notice’ runs on alternate Wednesdays. Contact her at email@example.com.