First of all, thank you very much to y’all who’ve left comments here in the past day or two. It’s reassuring to know that I’m not writing into a great, echoing void.
What I want to talk about is a couple of weird fertility references in fiction I’ve read in the past couple of weeks.
A few other bloggers have written about the awful portrayals of infertility, and especially infertile women, from all kinds of sources. Wish I could give credit, but I don’t remember where I read what. This is a little different, anyway.
What I’m thinking of are two pieces of fiction: Middlesex, which I guess is currently the favorite gnawing bone of book clubs everywhere; and a short story called “The Fractious South” that was in last week’s New Yorker.
Both of these pieces show women taking their temperatures to track their ovulation, and using the thermometer to drag their husbands into sex at the right time. (I know, I know, the basal thermometer is such a sexy, sexy piece of hardware).
There is plenty of weirdness about this. Not least, it shows the women being demanding in a petty way, and completely devoid of any carnal desires other than to get pregnant (or, in the case of Middlesex, to get pregnant with a female baby). Each of these characters wields the thermometer like some kind of magic wand … she waves it, and lustless sex is hers, on demand.
Maybe none of that is surprising. The characters in question are not infertile, but the way the authors depict their fertility-related behavior is not too far from the infertile = selfish equation we see just about everywhere.
The other strange thing is that these characters have some whacked out ideas about how body temperature, ovulation, and conception are related. In both stories, the women take their temperatures at all times of day – afternoon, evening, whatever – and demand sex when they see a high temperature.
Now, call me a Taking Charge of Your Fertility nerd, but:
1. Temperatures taken during the day aren’t going to be accurate, and
2. If their temperature has already gone up, haven’t they already ovulated and missed their best chance?
Was there at one time the belief that daytime thermometer use and sex after a temperature rise were the way to go? Are these authors trying to show characters who are clueless about the workings of their reproductive tracts? Or are the authors themselves working under some kind of delusion about how this all works?