***WARNING. THIS IS A MONSTER OF A POST I’VE BEEN WORKING ON FOR ABOUT 20 DAYS. AND IT GETS TO THE NITTY-GRITTY. TMI potential is high. YOU HAVE BEEN FOREWARNED.*** As in all my research-based posts, feel free to click the embedded links here to read the actual articles.  I have a handful of footnotes scattered throughout as well.

In my last post, I talked about my quest to step out of our 21st Century lifestyle to find better health beyond the fast-and processed-food, convenience-obsessed, indoor-oriented culture we live in today.

Part of that post was about getting synthetic hormones out of my body by quitting pharmaceutical birth control. I warned you all that I was tempted to rant about this topic. And after a few days of cooling myself down enough to rationally address it, I give you what, I hope, is a peevishly-seasoned but ultimately well-reasoned rant.

So, synthetic birth control. It’s kind of a hot-topic right now on the political scene. And it’s also something I had years of experience with myself . . . that nearly wrecked me.

But my reasons for quitting were not just physical. Beyond the desire to get rid of the terrible, weeks-per-month-occurring insomnia, terrifying mood swings, weight gain and uncomfortable water retention, brush-filling hair loss, and migraines, I also wanted to satisfy an urge to find an alternative to what the our society tells us women that we “need” to swallow, inject, adhere, or insert to stay “safe” from our own bodies’ natural cycles of fertility.

I’ll disclose in advance that my embracing of feminism ends with most of the goals met by the First Wave. That being said, my disgust in synthetic birth control stemmed from what I saw as three woman-oppressing trends in our birth control-driven culture:

 1. Inherent Misogyny in Birth “Control” for Women: Perpetuating the Female-Only Burden of Responsibility

A woman is only truly fertile for 24 to 48 hours a month, with five days preceding this window in which her cervical fluid and the lifespan of a sperm might enable that sperm to live long enough to fertilize the egg once it’s released. All told – that’s 7 days of potential fertility per month (and some months, less than that, depending on the presence of the fertile type of cervical fluid that resembles egg white). A man makes nearly 12 million new sperm every day and is fertile 24/7.

Why is it, then, that a woman needs to take a pill for the entire month, or inject herself with hormones, in order to disrupt the beautifully intricate cyclical process that is deeply woven into other processes of her biochemistry beyond just her fertility? Why is it that she alone, in a male-female relationship, risks serious side effects and even potential cancer from the engineered hormones in a pill or injection, or has to play chicken with the danger of potentially irreversible damage to her organs from a foreign object (IUD)1?

But a man needn’t worry about a thing except, perhaps, for being a “gentleman” who does the bare minimum by wearing a condom, which even then he doesn’t have to do if a woman pharmaceutical contraceptives permits him to forgo it. Let’s face it: few men, outside of the most committed marriage, would ever even consider a vasectomy.

So, wrap it, he shall.

And whoooop-frickin’-dee-dew! Doesn’t that sound so difficult for him?

 Think hard about this, ladies: Where are the male birth control pills? It’s now 2014 A.D.– roughly fifty years since the Pill emerged on the women’s health scene in the sixties.

Did you know the Male Pill has already been attempted in research for over forty years, and there’s been talks that one version  is nearly ready and will soon be made available—although, as you’ll read below, there have been very politically-driven delays?

Read the following and ponder this question with me: Why’d it take Big Pharmaceutical companies so long to give the public the male-version of the Pill?

Here’s the short version of the story. According to the Telegraph UK’s interview with Dr. John Guillebaud, who is one of the leading research team members for the Male Pill initiative, the project will likely “take 10 to 15 years to complete and is chronically underfunded.” In addition, Guillebaud says he (and we assume, the project’s waning funders) are afraid “many people don’t feel that a man could be trusted to remember to take it.”

This bad attitude towards male responsibility, as well as many other seemingly sociopolitical reasons, were uncovered in a recent lengthy article in Aeon Magazine  in which author-researcher Jalees Rehman sought to uncover why there was this glaring “lack of adequate reproductive control methods for men” which, in Rehman’s view is, “striking — and puzzling — especially since many newer methods for male contraception have been developed during the past decades yet none has become available for general use.”

Puzzling, indeed, since trials of the interventional hormone techniques in men for the Male Pill uncovered nothing worse than what the average woman on birth control routinely suffers as side-effects: “Short-term studies of the side effects of male contraceptives have not revealed anything major: acne, weight gain, increased libido.” In fact, Rehman found that one promising study was famously cut short based on side-effect complaints from men that women reading this will find laughably familiar:

“One of the largest male contraceptive efficacy trials ever conducted was sponsored by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and CONRAD, the US-based reproductive health research organisation. Called Phase II TU/NET-EN, this landmark multicentre study was designed to answer key questions about the long-term safety and efficacy of male hormonal contraception, and enrolled more than 200 couples between 2008 and 2010. The contraceptive used was a long-acting formulation of testosterone (testosterone undecanoate, or TU) combined with a long-acting progestin (norethisterone enanthate or NET-EN), administered via injections every two months. The trial included an initial treatment phase to suppress sperm production, and a subsequent ‘efficacy phase’ that required couples to rely exclusively on this form of birth control for one year. However, in April 2011, the trial was terminated prematurely when the advisory board noticed a higher than expected rate of depression, mood changes and increased sexual desire in the study volunteers. By the trial’s end, only 110 couples had completed the one-year efficacy phase; their efficacy results should be released in the near future.”

 Poor things. We certainly wouldn’t want to try to sell Pills to men when they feel uncomfortable about taking hormones that messed with their moods and sexual desire—now would we?

Never mind that the CDC has uncovered that out of the 45 million women who have taken the Pill, 30% of ladies discontinued Pill use and sought another option because of dissatisfaction; and nearly half of the women using other hormonal contraception methods such as Depo-Provera (46%) and the contraceptive patch (49%) discontinue use due to dissatisfaction; the reasons cited in all cases by these women was negative “side effects” like the ones the men in the trial experienced, alongside a host of others.1

As most ladies know, we routinely encounter the side-effects the men in the study reported and more, and it forces us to play a many-years-long game of “Pill Roulette” for most of our reproductive lives, just trying to find a brand or patch or other hormonal cocktail that makes us less mad, fat, moody, sad, or zitty . . . or at least, less mad, fat,moody, sad and zitty than the others do.

Pardon my feelings, but after reading this and many other research-based articles that inquire into the Male Pill issue, I’ve grown sick to death of the misogynist actions of the “Big Pharmaceuticals” (a.k.a. Big Pharma), which demonstrate in this case that they care far more about the discomfort a man feels with a drug than about the discomfort of a woman, or even millions of women.

This leads me to my next point about the inherent misogyny in all of this: Let’s think about the message-bearing force behind what Big Pharma imposes on society in creating a marketing trend which continues to place all expectation of responsibility, use and purchase of birth control on women.

I work in marketing. And I recognize the peddling behind all those straight-to-physician, pill-pushing tactics undertaken by the Big Pharmaceuticals, in addition to the multi-millions spent in TV and print marketing, which all work together in our society to engineer a woman’s media and physician-based education so that she believes her only choices for “safe and effective” birth control are either hormonally engineered interventions like pills, rings or patches, or implants (IUDs). It’s exactly this marketing-based educational approach that implicitly tells men that, since all these commercials and products are geared toward women, they are not to concern their wonderful selves with the burden of birth control, beyond toting a foil packet.

I can’t help but get angry as I wonder: Is this self-perpetuating market system fair to women? Is the expectation it creates fair to women in our social culture?

Not at all. And this is why, I’m sure, many of my fellow women are nearly hysterical over the recent birth control insurance coverage debate — we’re tired of carrying the burden by ourselves. But as I’ll discuss in my conclusion, making our neighbors pay for our pills won’t change this prevalent misogyny (even inherent under the Affordable Care Act, which doesn’t require insurance companies to cover male birth control procedures like vasectomies!…Hmm!).

I actually would posit that such a step—mass insurance coverage for any and all forms of birth control for women— would lead many women reaching for this “easy answer” to only continue to place their bodies and their reliance deeper and deeper into the misogynist hands and pockets of Big Pharma, which, as we’ve seen, doesn’t really care enough about gender equality, or even the suffering of women, to change their funding and research practices to finish making a Pill for men.

So, let me step off that soap box. . . . And I’ll move on to a harder-hitting issue: the risks of hormonal and implanted birth control that women take on themselves because our society seems to offer no alternatives beyond what Big Pharma pushes into our physicians’ hands.

 2. Serious (!) Health Risks from Hormonal Birth Control and IUDs

I’m going deeper into my own research in this section. We all know there are some side-effects to hormonal and implantable birth control; after all, they’re murmured soothingly in the last ten seconds of all the ads on TV and are printed on the side of our pill cases and on the pamphlet that comes with the IUD, ring, or patch.

But when you really delve into these risks, including the ones that aren’t always on the package because they’re too long-term to initially measure, it is alarming to see how far women, in seeking to gain control of their fertility, must abuse their bodies. (Feel free to click the linked keywords in the text below to read the research articles and reports.)

The Cancer Risks We Shouldn’t Ignore

As long ago as 2005, the World Health Organization classified oral contraceptives as Group I carcinogens (Group I is the most dangerous from Groups I-IV). A 2006 meta-analysis in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings built an even stronger case after reporting that in 21 out of 23 studies, there was an increased risk of developing premenopausal breast cancer for women who had taken the Pill prior to the birth of their first child. Overall, these women experienced a 44% increase in incidence for breast cancer prior to age 50. 44% is beyond significant when the average population risk is around 13%! Personally, I’m horrified that no physicians in my high school days knew about this or thought about it, because I was put on the Pill in 2004 to help manage my acne as a teenager, and this was right around the time when my own mother was diagnosed with breast cancer (hmm…family history, maybe?).

It would be worse if I’d been on Depo-Provera, which in the FDA’s Physician Information Report for the drug based on a meta-analysis of its carcinogenic effects reports a relative risk of 2.19 (more than two-fold risk!) for breast cancer in women exposed to the shot while under the age of 25!

It’s also fortunate that I didn’t try one of the vaginal rings; Estring, an estradiol vaginal ring, has been reported by the FDA to increase the relative risk of cervical cancer by as much as 44% . To me, it’s clear: these hormonal interventions, especially for young women, can be even more carcinogenic than smoking, which raises breast cancer risk between 13-24% and cervical cancer risk between 6-27% for those women who already have some HPV-positivity, which is now very common.

Yikes.  That’s all I can say, girls. This section could have been a lot longer, too.

Biochemical Disruptions from Hormonal Birth Control

The female fertility cycle goes beyond just the ovaries and uterus. It’s also intrinsically tied to extremely important neurochemical processes in the brain and biochemical processes in many other parts of the body. When oral contraceptives and hormone-based injections interfere with that cycle, they also interfere with the biochemistry behind a woman’s moods (changing the behavior of the fornix, or emotional seat of the brain, in those using combined oral contraceptives especially), her sex drive, her kidneys (causing water retention and stones; this is especially a risk for Yaz users), her metabolism (raising fat-storing insulin levels with DMPA use and oral and transdermal contraceptives), her blood pressure (in the long-term and famous Nurses Study, the likelihood of hypertension was significantly greater for past and current hormonal birth control users than non-users over time), her sleep cycles, her bone density (with Depo-Provera especially, says the FDA on its “black box” warning ), and even her ability to distinguish a genetically complimentary mate by scent.

Again, I could go on and on. There are many other bodily processes and parts that are slightly suppressed, altered, or in other ways molested and biochemically ransacked by the interference of foreign hormones in our bodies. In women, our sex hormones influence more than we think they do. They govern our essential wellness, and not just our fertility.

IUDS, Inflammation, Explusion, Perforation, and Ectopic Pregnancy

Whether an IUD has a hormonal component (like Mirena) or not, the body naturally treats it like a foreign object. And the foreign-object response is not pretty, including raised levels of inflammation in the blood and tissues which can increase the levels of cramp-creating prostaglandins, subsequently raising the danger of the body outright attempting to expel the device (2-8% of women experience expulsion). Many women who have undergone the insertion process will never forget the hours—on occasion, days—of cramping and lower back pain that followed.

Even when that first hurdle of potential expulsion is passed, the tissues of the uterus are still at increased risk for Pelvic Inflammatory Disorder in women who have been exposed to an STD (a rate which increases for any woman who’s had more than one partner), increased risk of accidental perforation and migration of the device (1 in 2,000 women experienced this [multiply that by millions of users and its significance rises], and it can sometimes take surgery to fix the damage it causes), as well as ectopic pregnancy which can sometimes prove fatal if undetected. Most disturbingly, even if a woman’s IUD use was in the past, her risk of ectopic pregnancy after removal of the IUD remains higher than the norm!

The IUD Mirena was my particular enemy; not only did its slow-trickle of synthetic progesterone (levonorgestrel) wreak havoc on my moods, it also created a weird biochemical dependency. It’s been over a year since it’s been out of my life, and my body still isn’t making its own progesterone at the level it was pre-Mirena. It’s extremely frustrating, and still affects my sleep, since progesterone is tied to levels of the sleep neurotransmitter GABA in the brain.

Let’s not even talk about how my body held onto almost six pounds of water for almost two years as a part of my body’s inflammatory response to the device–all in my lower belly, giving me a beautiful Budda-belly. Nor should I mention the fact that I was apparently allergic to the silicone in the IUD to the point that my hair started falling out. Yeah. It was awesomely sexy. And it’s shocking how long it took me to connect the dots as to why I was feeling crazy, cranky, sad, fat, and bald…and have the damn thing removed.

3. Social Repercussions: The Infallibility Fallacy and Why It Hurts Women & Our Relationships

Bodily risks aside, the availability and mass-marketing of pharmaceutical birth control has shaped the ideals of an entire generation of women in a way that, in rose-colored-glasses-fashion, blinds us to the potential pitfalls of reliance on a pill, implant, or device.

Having one of these contraceptives readily for ingestion or immediate use can lead us to believe that our sexual practices are “safe” despite the fine-print of failure rates and side effects . . . and even despite the very fact that pregnancy isn’t the only potential negative that our sexual practices can bring to our lives. I’m not just talking about the fact that 1 in 2 sexually active people under the age of 25 will get an STD this year, with similar figures in my age range, too.  That in itself is sad enough.

I’m talking about the damage we can unintentionally do to our relationships simply because so few of us will look cautiously into our hearts before leaping—since pregnancy isn’t a great worry anymore—into bed with a partner.

There is an emotional process of sexual bonding that no pill, patch, ring or insertable can protect us from, but so armed as we are, many women ignore that this risk—the risk to their trust, and their potential to deeply and lastingly love—can be the greatest risk of their lives, altering their future happiness.

I’m not going to whip out pro-abstinence lit here. But I will point out two neurochemical elements of sexual bonding that can get tied up in Gordion knots when women (slowly, often with the same man for many months or years at a time) bed-hop as they shop throughout their young adult years for their Mr. Right, as is the fashion these days.

Keep in mind that this now-common serial, copulatory dating practice is something that was almost impossible for our grandmothers and great-grandmothers, since the risk of pregnancy was seemingly greater with only barrier or unscientific natural methods (like pull-out) as their options.

Biochemical Bonder No. 1: Oxytocin. Oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone” or the “love-forever hormone” is the mother of all emotional bonding hormones, and it’s extremely powerful in women. It’s released only under two circumstances in our lives: sex and childbirth. And it’s really a beautiful hormone that helps us fall in a to-the-death way with our new babies. Curiously, it’s been found by Israeli researcher Ruth Feldman to run at nearly twice as high of levels in new lovers as it is in pregnant women. As Feldman later discovered, levels of oxytocin in the blood of women in the first trimester were later predictive of the depth of their bond with their newborns.  Considering the double-level of oxytocin present in new lovers, it’s astonishing to consider what this could predict in terms of the depth and persistence of feeling we women are capable of when in love with a partner.

It’s also of note that in men, oxytocin is also released during sex, and has a curious effect on them: it makes them want to stay away from other women.

Taken together with oxytocin’s tendency to light up the reward centers of our brain, it’s almost as addictive to us as the next neurotransmitter . . .

Biochemical Bonder No. 2: Dopamine. Also released in the sexual act in both men and women, dopamine has been proven again and again in scientific literature to be the match that sparks the fires of addiction. It’s non-stop message to the brain is, “This. This. We need more of this. Do anything to get more of this.”

It’s also what causes so much suffering when the dopamine-sourcing ends and withdrawal sets in, wracking the body and brain with huge amounts of stress hormones and pain-receptor sensitivity. So, shortly after we breakup and move past the shock and pain, the withdrawal process makes us desperate. Hence, the all-too-common notorious “rebound” sexcapades in the struggle to find the next fix.

Any experienced woman can tell you that rebounding can set up a horrendous, vicious cycle of rushing into involvement with the nearest male creature around far too soon; often, it’s a male creature who, in our impaired judgement, winds up being more damaged/damaging than we could tell from our first candlelit moments, leading us to our next breakup, then back out looking again, and so forth . . . In the end, our brain’s pleasure-seeking, bond-seeking drives can make us miserable if they’re set up for failure with one poor choice of partner.

Freedom for the body is a heady thought.

Freedom for the body is a heady thought. But what about the heart?

The whole sexual pair-bonding process has great potential to be very messy. And because bonding is powerful, and when unsuccessful, painful, it’s logical to approach sex with more care in the first place so that our bond-seeking urges can be sustained in a focused, long-term monogamous relationship that keeps us out of the vicious cycle described above. But it’s so hard to be mindful of taking steps towards cautious psychological self-care when we are fed the very well-marketed message over and over again that being on birth control means we’re being “safe” and/or “responsible” and acting within our rights to “freedom” with our bodies. Our bodies.

Is it because there is so much emphasis placed on the freedom  of our bodies that we neglect our minds and hearts?

I can’t help but think of these words attributed to A.W. Tozer:

“As humans, we encounter people in one of two ways—either as an object to be manipulated, or as an holy other (sic).”

Which kind of encounter does today’s relationship market encourage in both men and women when the risks of bonding from sex is not even discussed or considered? When stress-free sex is marketed to us as a given, when it’s actually far more complicated than that–because it involves humans with feelings? I ask you, dear reader, if you’re still with me, to consider.

 

Okay. This list got a bit crazy. But maybe this long rant can show you why I find all of this so upsetting.

Still, for me to decide to leap out of this half-century-old system was a huge step. Seriously, to drop birth control while hubby was in full-time grad school? Surely, that would be stupid. Why leave the safety of what I knew? Why divert from our careful plans?

I had nearly lost my courage until I discovered two incentives to quit the synthetic birth control rat-race through research and my own happy experience:

1. A Science-Based Natural Method Exists (And it’s  NOT the “Rhythm Method”)

Let’s talk about something many of you have never heard about, ladies, and that’s a pregnancy avoidance method that’s scientifically grounded, virtually cost-free, and has recently bested biochemical birth control in a longitudinal study published in Human Reproduction. This study shows a 1.8% unintended pregnancy rate for the Sympto-Thermal Method (a.k.a. Fertility Awareness Method), as compared to the 9% unintended pregnancy rate for the combined and progestin-only Pill, as reported by the CDC *.

Best of all—with a little instruction, this method puts your body intelligently into your own hands, without any biochemical or implant-based interventions.

And guess what else, gals? This blogger has test-driven this method since January 2013, and I can tell you, I’m more empowered and better educated about my body than I ever was on any pill or IUD recommended by our current pharmaceutical culture—and I even learned far more through the training literature for this method than was offered to me in the politically-charged “manual” Our Bodies, Ourselves.  It also allows me to keep excellent data on my own body that can help me and my Ob/Gyn to identify hormonal imbalances and even infertility issues should the need arise.

Check out this TedTalk by a statistician who follows this method and loves the benefits of having her data:

Here’s the gist of the Fertility Awareness Method (sometimes called the Justisse Method or Sympto-Thermal Method): every woman should know that her body gives her clear and measurable data and signals as she approaches the window of potential fertility each month. All it takes is awareness of the pattern, which only requires education on basic physiology and the willingness to check three things, easily done in less than 2 minutes a day:

  1. Waking basal body temperature. A woman’s basal body temperature is low during the first part of her cycle (during her period and leading up to ovulation). It makes a significant jump—sometimes more than a degree—when ovulation occurs. These higher temperatures are sustained throughout her luteal phase, until menses recommences.
  2. Cervical position. The cervix shifts position throughout the month, based on fertility hormone levels. During infertile times, it’s lowered, and even feels hard, like the tip of the nose; during the fertile window, it’s noticeably higher—almost so high it’s hard to reach—and soft, like lips. It’s os (mouth) is also more open during the fertile window.
  3. Cervical fluid. Most telling of all signs is cervical fluid, which most women notice ranges throughout the month in consistency from milky to yoghurt-like to watery, clear or egg-whitish. Cervical fluid transforms into the egg-white like stuff during the fertile window, when it’s slippery, clear, and doesn’t evaporate easily off the finger. This egg-white stuff allows sperm to live longer and helps facilitate their passage, hence why during days when the egg-white is present, even if it’s a few days before ovulation, sex should be avoided (because sperm can live up to five days in this kind of fluid).

When signs 2 and 3 of fertility begin to show, which for most women (by the 5-Day Rule) begins after the first five days of her period, a woman should either avoid sex or have protected sex. She then should look to see a temperature shift in the coming days, a significant degree rise marking that ovulation has occurred. As soon as she’s had a full 48-hours of high basal body temperatures after her ovulation temperature shift, it’s a sign that the released egg has died, and the fertility window has closed. Playtime resumes unobstructed throughout the remainder of the luteal phase until her period comes again.

That’s it, in a nutshell. And it costs roughly $11.95 for a decent basal thermometer on Amazon, usable for the foreseeable future. It’s far greener than any hormonal birth control method, and completely harmless to the body. There are no fake hormones, no body trickery, nothing. You can even download an app to chart your temperature curve, or do it by hand. If you want, there are research-based books available and even classes on how to do this. All it takes is a bit more self-knowledge and awareness and a willingness to read up a little on what you don’t know.

I got to the point with this method where I actually laid back on the table for a uterine ultrasound last fall (this is one of my check-ups as a part of cancer screening, since I carry the BRCA2 gene), and I told the disbelieving technician who’d asked approximately where I was in my cycle, “I should ovulate later today.” She only raised an eyebrow at my precise answer until she focused the probe on an ovary, which clearly outlined a swollen follicle. “Oh, actually, yes you should,” she responded. “How on earth did you know that?” My response: “Easy. You’ve got your probe right there—can’t you feel how high my cervix is? It’s like a cathedral ceiling down there!”

TMI? Well, the point of the story is this: the pattern of your fertility is not some great mystery, and you have the right to feel a little peeved when medical professionals and sex educators treat you like you’re stupid or scare you into thinking you can get pregnant every time you have sex. And they do this a lot to make their jobs easier, since it takes way too much time to educate a woman about the scientifically measurable bodily changes that herald her fertile phase every month. The thought here, I guess, is that it’s easier to hand her something made by Big Pharma than actually empower her with knowledge.

2. Equality in Birth Control Responsibility for Male and Female Partners Is Possible (No Need for a Third Party)

It’s been great not being alone in the responsibility department when it comes to pregnancy avoidance in the bedroom. Boaz has had to become a little more educated about how my body actually works and stay on top of the data, too.

Oh, at first he may have blushed a bit when I drew pictures as I explained the method and pointed out some landmarks. Now he’s got his nose in my temperature chart (he’s not the only guy I’ve seen do this; many other men using this method actually make the chart recordings for their partner, so they’re sure to be in the loop). Some mornings, he even brings me the basal thermometer and puts it in my mouth when I’m groggy and don’t want to get out of bed. We talk about what my body’s doing that day and what it means in terms of our activity, and oftentimes that conversation is initiated by him. From all this, he now knows when I’m fertile, or PMSing, or what have you—he even brings home my favorite dark chocolate at “that time of the month.”

Through this little routine of education and care, I receive acknowledgement from him that what my body naturally does is powerful and deserves respect, and in my response, I acknowledge that what his body can do is powerful and deserves respect. There’s a balanced consciousness on both our parts, as well as a kind of wonder and reverence, as we navigate as partners through our desires and the changes of my cycle.**

And it’s all made good sense to share the process and strategy together. After all, as partners, we can potentially create life together, so why shouldn’t we share the responsibility for restraining that power between us?

Maybe it’s revolutionary, but I don’t believe it’s my coworkers’ responsibility to pay for the choices I make at home in my sex life, nor my government’s. I think it’s ours—mine and my husband’s. Even if we weren’t married, that responsibility would still be ours, because our choices as sexual partners are our choices to make.

I think the media has helped us reach a point of confusion on this topic. I see a prevailing assumption in advertisements, political ads, and even TV shows that tell my fellow females that we’re so helpless in our own bodies that we can’t (and shouldn’t) control our urges, and so we need to depend on the insurer/government/big socialized health system to help us prevent mishaps. That we can’t, or even shouldn’t, take this responsibility for our bodies on in our own homes or hands, because we’re so undereducated/poor/stupid/slutty/helpless to even think for ourselves. That even good education won’t help us—that nothing will, except a magic drug or foreign object that is designed to render us temporarily infertile, mess with our body systems, and possibly give us cancer.

The most insulting ad of all – this is an ObamaCare ad!  See how much our government respects women?  Here see a very sexist “dumb-slut-needs-free-pills”-portrayal of young women that I find frankly revolting.

The most insulting birth control ad I’ve ever seen –  and it’s an ObamaCare ad! Do you see how much Obama’s camp actually respects women? Here we see tax-payer funded advertising from the Got Insurance campaign modeling a very sexist “dumb-bimbo-slut-needs-free-pills”-portrayal that I find frankly revolting. “OMG, he’s hot!” Really? REALLY?!

How is this not misogyny? And a misogyny just as bad as the kind that keeps women from being educated–this time about their own bodies!

It really makes me sad to think that despite the fact that there’s a birth control method out there that is free, doesn’t harm the natural processes of the female body, and works well within the framework of a committed relationship (the only healthy sexual relationship, I argue—sorry, all who like to play bedroom roulette!), women either don’t know about the method, aren’t told about this method . . . or they just want their pills and devices for convenience—and more than that, if one is to believe the various politico-posts circulating on Facebook, a vast majority of young women want someone else to pay for them.

I have to wonder if, maybe, this desire to have the government pay for contraception has ultimately come about because women just don’t trust their partners or themselves enough to take on the private responsibility for their bedroom activities.

It doesn’t help that current law and lobbyists insist that our partners practically have the “right” to be as uncommitted to us as they like; after all, everyone else will pay to enable our partner to have sex with us “safely” under the Affordable Care Act, so that our men don’t need to ever worry about what might happen, or if we might ever need or want them to share the responsibility. There’s a great deal of unmerited calm in the thought, “Oh, she’s on the Pill; it’ll be fine; we don’t have to think about it.” This thought is not empowering to women. And the dismissiveness of the mantra it holds is very new in human history, and it’s very insidious.

Did our own parents get to do this? Did they have the “right” to never have to pay for their contraceptives? Or to not think about what would happen if they went to bed with the wrong person who ultimately wouldn’t rise to the challenge of an accidental pregnancy?

And for thousands and thousands of years before the advent of the Pill, did any woman, or man, have the “right” to rush into a liaison without acknowledging that there was a potential that some consequences might follow?

Heck, no. Sex has forever entailed risk and responsibility on both sides, just as the giving and receiving of anything of value always should. And I would argue, Pill or no Pill, implant or no implant, 2014 A.D. or 52 B.C., humans still need to have the attitude that sex holds value and a demand for responsibility that its participants must acknowledge. After all, even if nothing living is conceived, if we go to bed together, we should still honor each other and how the intimacy of the act will reveal us and, for that time, render us vulnerable to someone who is wholly other.

I’m starting to think that the last three or four generations (Boomer, X, Y and Millennial) have suckled the embittered teats of the past forty years of feminist thinkers to the extent that we have actually started believing we’re better than our ancestors and are owed more than they were, just because we have Big Pharma contraceptives, which apparently give us the “right” to sexual irresponsibility and free love simply because these contraceptives exist. And we’ve gone so far now as to even try to force, by law, complete strangers to pay the price of our pleasure by buying the drugs and devices that upset our bodily processes and raise our risks for all kinds of conditions and even cancer and potential infertility down the road.

I can’t help but observe that we’re limping forward in the name of progress by essentially shooting ourselves in the foot.

I can hear the acrimony rising against me now—about how things are better now, since women were repressed for thousands of years with no control over their bodies, etc. And certainly, for many women in the past and in the developing world today, that was and is still true—there was ignorance, there was and is certainly abuse and many mouths to feed. And for women in poverty, with few choices, who were and are preyed upon sexually, life was and is a misery.

But in the past, prior to Second and Third Wave Feminism, there was also a cultural assumption which prevailed in the West that protected many women that is very tellingly absent today, and which leaves in its absence many women and children who are miserable without it: that is the notion that a man must take equal responsibility for his part in all this.

That was the one blessing in the thousands of years of oppressive Western patriarchy that we no longer have today: men had an expected role, and a big one, when new life was involved, and it wasn’t the “norm” then that a woman should raise children alone as a single mother. A man should and must “do the right thing” by a woman he slept with, or risk losing face in any respectable society.

It’s something to consider that, in recently declaring our independence as women, we’ve lost something that sustained vulnerable women and children for thousands of years. As one woman writing on this issue put it beautifully,

“[W]hich, is really, the more misogynist view: the view that for all of world history women have been idiots, or the view that gives women more credit, and thinks we have only gone over-board in the blip of the past [fo]rty years?”2 (Date corrected; this is a ten-year-old quote)

I vote for “gone over-board on the blip.”

There’s a new repression in today’s seemingly “feminist” assumptions that actually isolate women in a lonely state that, from a distance, looks like strength, but is actually weakness; it pits them against the world as they cry like fishwives, or worse, like panhandlers, to have their sexual health and child-rearing needs met by people they don’t even know, reaching out for government assistance that is usually poorly, slowly, and impersonally managed.

In our generation, we have to find and stand on a middle ground that requires men to be participants in family planning beyond a condom wrapper. And it shouldn’t be a new ground that asks the government to step in to create laws that perpetuate an attitude shift that is actively harming women and our relationships with men by shifting the share of responsibility from ourselves and our sexual partners to our employers, and ultimately, to our woefully inept government.                                          

It is painfully clear to me that for any person, as in every other aspect of our life, it’s this simple: no one but us should pay for our personal choices we make about our bodies, because they are our choices. And when we share those choices with someone else through a shared act like sex, that person becomes responsible, too.

This is a tough post for me to write, because I know I’ll make many girls (and even guys, I’m sure) angry. And if I have, I’m sorry.

Please bear in mind that I share these arguments because I care about my fellow women and want to present an alternate view that contrasts with what is so predominately put forward by the media today—a message which seems suspiciously to profit nearly everyone involved (Big Pharma, political lobbyists and figureheads, and even men) —except for women.

Footnotes/End notes:

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Health Statistics, Contraceptive Methods Women Have Ever Used: United States, 1982 – 2010. (February 2013).
  2. Shalit, Wendy. A Return to Modesty. (1999). Simon & Schuster, Inc.: New York, NY. 216.

*The CDC here lumps FAM in with “natural family planning” methods, including the unscientific Rhythm Method, and reports a suitably slanted failure rate, offering only this caveat, “Failure rates vary across theses methods.”

** Side note 1: couples who use Natural Family Planning like the Fertility Awareness Method have been discovered in a research study to have a divorce rate of less than 5%. That’s way lower than the 50% running average. It’s just correlation, not causation, but maybe there’s something to sharing this commitment to intimate knowledge of each other’s bodies that leads to better intimacy. (Source: Kippley JF, Kippley SK. The Art of Natural Family Planning (2007, 4th Edition). “The Couple to Couple League.” 245.)

>>Side note 2: in the interests of those concerned about teens and birth control in the rash of recent articles citing increased birth control pill use as a reason why teen pregnancy levels are low, the pill is not 100% of the reason for that trend. In fact, it’s about 56% of the sexually active 52% of the teen population’s reason (who otherwise still overwhelmingly rely on condoms if they do have sex) while the thirty-years’-record-breaking 58% of teens who don’t have sex use . . . well . . . abstinence. Huh.). As the data shows, the real reason is a huge trend in the delayed onset of adolescent sexual activity, increasingly showing teens waiting till the age range of 17-19 to begin having sex, at which point, many “teen pregnancies” resulting may actually be “adult pregnancies” of 18 year-olds.

LAST THING: THIS SITE IS AMAZING and WITTY. Go there for more info on how and why to ditch the Pill, patch, or other device.

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