It’s hard to imagine that 40 years ago there wasn’t a book readily available for women that spoke scientifically and explicitly about their bodies or human sexuality, nor that such a thing would be considered revolutionary, but in 1971 when Our Bodies, Ourselves was first published that is exactly what it was.
Before the internet, Our Bodies, Ourselves was the best, most easily accessible source for all information pertaining to that area of a woman’s body previously known only as one’s “privates” or “lady parts.” Not only did it introduce a generation of women to clear and concise information about their bodies, it changed the way women talked about sex and gave them an ownership of their health that they had been denied previously.
In an article about the book in USA Today, Eliza Shulman, a family physician, is quoted as saying, “I still meet so many women and girls of all ages who don’t have critical information about their own health and sexuality. I wish I could give them all a copy of the book. …It is still as relevant today as it was 40 years ago.”
Despite being deemed “obscene trash” by the “Moral Majority” back in the day, it seems like a no-brainer to modern women that they should have access to real information about masturbation, why and how a period occurs, the details of pregnancy, including abortion facts, and some basic anatomy lessons of human bodies. Sure it might be the source of a lot of illicit giggling, but those giggles spurred on innumerable frank talks with friends behind closed doors and mouth-concealing hands which all worked to “normalize women’s health and sexuality,” as Ms. Shulman so succinctly says.
I remember sneaking into my sister’s room to read her copy of the book, though I couldn’t tell you how old I was when I did it. (Nor why she got a copy, but I didn’t!) But I do remember that between those covert reading sessions and Judy Blume, I was pretty well covered by the time I finally got my period at 14. (Though I admit that I was not prepared for the cramps… I must’ve skimmed over that part on the way to more, ahem, interesting parts!)
Do you have a story about your first experience with Our Bodies, Ourselves? Do you plan to give a copy of the book to your daughter when she hits a certain age?
The 40th anniversary will be celebrated on September 29th at Boston University during a symposium on women’s health and human rights. For more information, please see their website: www.ourbodiesourselves.com.
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