Is Birth Control Sexist?
I remember when I was considering the getting the implant one of the questions during my initial consultation was 'Were you in any way pressured by your partner into getting this form of contraceptive?' My first thought was 'wtf, seriously?!' but then I thought well, doesn't that really say it all, we really do live in a society where the type of (or lack there of) contraception we as women use is really governed by men. What was particularly scary about the reality of this question is that I'm sure for many young girls it may very well be the case.
I can picture it now, you're young with guy who you think means the world to you who complains that 'oh but babe, a condom doesn't make it feel as good' and next thing you know, you're at the clinic well on your way to going the ranks of the millions of women who are currently on the pill. Men (or women) who pressure their partners into using hormonal contraception before they are ready not only have a complete disregard for the health risks that this puts they partner in, but also the the pressure that it puts girls under to please their partners by risking their own sexual health and physical well being.
I feel like the contraceptive pill has become so normalised now that people are pretty quick to dismiss the sometimes drastic effects that it can have on your body. Of course it's not just the pill that is associated with negative effects, I recently read an article on LAPP the blog, which you can read here, in which a girl documented the negative effects that having the contraceptive coil had on her health. From painful cramps that affected her ability to carry out daily functions, to mood swings to irregular and somewhat worrying discharge all whilst trying to accept these as normal, potential side effects. To some extent you have to think to yourself, 'Is it really worth it???'
It's crazy how much we as women put our bodies through to please our partners because of the stigmas that condoms have for 'taking away the sensation'. Don't get me wrong I'm not saying that all women turn to contraceptives because they are pressured to, of course women may chose to use contraceptives for a variety of personal reasons and to enhance their own personal pleasure. But clearly, the pressure placed on women to use hormonal contraceptives to protect against pregnancy exists, I mean it wouldn't be a question during the consultation if it didn't.
We have to remember that the levels to which we are pumping these excess hormones into our bodies are is not natural. We are messing with the natural functioning of our body, it shouldn't be ok that we suffer from excessive mood swings or bodily pains because of it. And yet, we think that we have no other choice because if we don't, we'll be at risk of unwanted pregnancy or have 'crappy sex' (like really, wtf?!).
But why should the onus rest squarely on the shoulders of us women. Why is it that we have to suffer the burden or daily reminders to pop a pill or have a needle jabbed into us every few months in order to protect against pregnancy. It takes two to tango and yet men don't have to worry about being the responsible ones.
I remember when there was some media hype about the possible development of a male contraceptive alongside a poll asking whether men would be willing to take the necessary steps to use it. To no-ones surprise I'm sure, the majority of men said that they wouldn't be willing to use the male contraceptive (read the results here). So again, why should we feel the pressure to alter our bodies when men, if given the chance, are not as keen to do the same.
Please don't read this and see it as an anti-conceptive piece, because it isn't. All I'm asking is that if you do decide to use a form of hormonal protection please, please, please only do so if it is a decision that YOU have made for yourself, DO NOT let anyone pressure you into doing it. Do read around it, ask as many questions as you want, don't be afraid to say no if it is something that you are not ready for and most importantly do get tested frequently because whilst you may be protected from pregnancy there are other nasties (STIs, STDs) floating around out there.
I'm 24 and I only recently decided to read into hormonal contraceptives because I'm in a stable and healthy relationship built on trust and even then it was my decision to consider undergoing a change. And it really is a change. I went from having regular, non-painful periods, to periods that were all over the place and cramps that could be pretty uncomfortable, which was a massive change for me, a person who is reassured by the constant routine that my body sticks to. Although things have improved as my body has adjusted, it still took some getting used and it helped having comfort in the fact that it was decision I made myself and thoroughly thought through.
So, to end this pretty long post, do I think contraceptives are unfairly aimed solely at women, yes! Do I think that a male contraceptive should be developed HELL YEAH!! I don't think that contraceptives are bad and please don't leave this article holding that opinion, if used correctly and you find the right one for you they really can add value to your sex life. Please just do your research and only go forward with it YOU are ready and YOU feel comfortable doing so, remember your GP or health advisor are here for you YOU and so if something doesn't feel right, don't be afraid to speak to them and tell them what's up!