Apropos of the Akin scandal (and I find it annoying that his name is so close to my Mr. Aikens), I’ve been thinking about one of the plot points of The Crow God’s Girl. Kate Mossland, a modern girl from New York, is in Aeritan. She has her whole life planned out — she will marry the young lord Colar Terrick. She’ll bring modern medicine to a medieval world. She’ll be wealthy, protected, and respected. There’s only one tiny little problem.
She doesn’t want to get pregnant.
And therein lies the tale, because often in fantasy novels, there is plenty of sex without consequences. However, in reality in the olden days, whether in fantasy or reality sex resulted in pregnancy. And pregnancy could result in maternal childbirth death about as often as it resulted in a happy baby.
Kate Mossland begins to see how much she has lost by coming to Aeritan. She is extremely vulnerable to death, just by virtue of the fact that she can’t control when she has children or how many she has.
“Mama, will Kett and Colar have lots of babies when they’re married?” Eri asked.
“With the blessing of the grass god’s daughter, they will,” Lady Beatra said, but her voice was carefully neutral. “Don’t you think so, Kett?”
“I think so, ma’am,” Kate said, her voice equally careful. Now was not the time to declare her desire to be childless, or at least have as few as possible. Like one, maybe.
“You are an only child, are you not?” said Samar in her dry voice. “Did your mother lose many babes before quickening?”
“Um,” Kate said, her voice a little rough. “My mother had only me. She and my father married late by–by Aeritan standards. They were both thirty-five. And my mother waited a few more years before getting pregnant.”
And after she did, she got pre-eclampsia, and had to be rushed to the hospital six weeks early, her blood pressure so high, the story went, that as the doctor began the emergency c-section, her mother’s blood shot straight up and spattered the lights in the operating room.
And Kate would deliver her babies by the will of the grass god’s daughter and a drunken midwife.
“Wait,” said Thani, maliciously. “Your mother and father did not lie together for years after they were wed?” Her eyes were bright, as if she were imagining the gossip she would bring to the servants quarters.
Kate felt anger rise in her and when she spoke her voice was deliberate. “My mother and father used birth control, Thani. Where I come from, women don’t have to have baby after baby. We can choose when we want to have children.”
The room plunged into utter silence. Kate looked from one to the other. Some of the women were shocked, but she noted the considering looks on the face of Lady Beatra and a few of the villagers.
“Is this another story?” asked one, hope in her voice.
I didn’t set out to write a political book, except with regard to Aeritan politics. But as old-fashioned as it is to say it, the personal is the political. Men like Akin, who spread ridiculous myths about women’s bodies, need to be smacked down and hard. Birth control saves lives. It allows mothers and fathers to ensure that they have only the babies they want and can care for. It is used by everyone, even conservative women, even Catholic women. So Akin and his ilk, like Paul Ryan, are grandstanding on the backs of women they don’t care about, because the women in their families have access to birth control. Upper middle-class women always do.
It’s funny. I write fantasy. But even I don’t write something as unbelievable as that somehow the female body can prevent rape-sperm from fertilizing an egg. Now that’s a fantasy.
And Akin should be ashamed of himself for believing it.