19 Apr 2012

The Author

Alise is married to her best friend and is the mom to four incredible kids. She loves knitting, writing, playing keyboards in a cover band, and eating soup. She also loves making new friends and you can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook or at her blog. Alise is the editor of Not Alone: Stories of Living with Depression and is currently compiling stories for the book Not Afraid: Stories of Discovering Significance, both with Civitas press.

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It’s Not Just About Healthcare
birth control

Birth control has been in the news a lot lately.

Well, let me rephrase.

Birth control for women has been in the news a lot lately.

Whether it’s on the political spectrum or in the entertainment industry, women’s reproductive rights have been hotly contested in the past months.

As this is discussed, women themselves are discussed. Are they using birth control for the “right” reasons? This has become one of the key issues.

In a rush not to paint women as “sluts,” people are quick to point out the many uses for oral contraceptives. It’s beneficial for cramps. It helps with acne problems. It’s used to control premenstrual syndrome.

These are all good and true. Most women who use oral contraceptives use it for more than just contraception.

But most women use it for contraception as well. They use it because they want to have sex and not get pregnant.

This is okay.

The discussion about birth control revolves around women because we still have a problem with women having sex just for fun. We have accepted a “boys will be boys” mindset, so insurance covering things like vasectomies or medicine for erectile dysfunction doesn’t raise eyebrows, but when it comes to women, we prefer to think that they simply react to men, rather than have sex drives of their own.

And while trying to keep women from enduring name-calling, many have stepped unwittingly into the realm of shaming those who use the pill for no other reason than to avoid pregnancy. When we insist on framing the support for coverage of birth control around things that have nothing to do with sex, we add fuel to the idea that sex is of less importance to women. Unfortunately, this contributes to the culture that insists on labeling a woman who enjoys sex as a slut or whore.

Yes, it’s important to cover birth control for issues unrelated to pregnancy. But it’s equally important to cover it for women who don’t want to have babies but do want to have sex. Trying to soften this truth by ignoring that group hurts all women.

Having sex for enjoyment is okay, even for women.

12 Comments
12 Comments
  1. Well written! When I was in my earl twenties, and was a sexually active young woman, I took the pill for my own safety. You can’t always trust that a condom won’t break, or that he’ll even have one on him in the first place. Even though now I take it more for health than to prevent pregnancy, it angers me that I should have to justify it to *anyone* as to why I want/need them.

  2. Agreed! And should we not be trying to encourage responsible sexual interactions? Women attempting to prevent an unwanted pregnancy should be encouraged at every turn. They are doing what is best for them and for our society.

  3. I’m so glad you chose this topic, Alise. I was shocked and dismayed to find out that in this day and age, birth control for women is still an issue with anyone. But apparently, Rush Limbaugh and his little blue Viagra pills are just A-okay, and as a superior male being, he has the right to cast judgment on a young lady who explained the medicinal value of the pill and call her a slut and a prostitute and tell her she ought to make a porno tape and let him watch it to pay for her pills. It seemed like we were back in 1972 again to this old feminist.

    Rick Santorum, who seemed to be campaigning for high school dance chaperon more than running for president, says he doesn’t think birth control is necessary or that it’s good for women. And a lot of republicans don’t seem to mind as they are thinking about teen sex, and don’t realize that this so-called “small government” man wants to control what married people do as well. Scott Walker, good old union buster, has also jumped on the bandwagon against birth control. And again the rightwing seems to be okay with it. Somehow it all seems to come down to the female sex and keeping them under control, yet the GOP as turned this all around and is now calling it “Obama’s War on Women.” I keep wondering where the republican women’s outrage is on all this, but traditionally, republicans seem to be obsessed with sex, especially other people’s and what they might be doing, so they see this as an attack on promiscuity, not on women, working women who can’t just be pregnant all the time.

    The latest has been the so-called attack on Mrs. Romney for being a stay-at-home mom of five. I have just come from a message board where people are saying that President Obama put the lady reporter up to asking her the obvious. But Mitt has sent his wife out to be an ambassador to try and smooth the ruffled feathers of women offended by the whole birth control thing, and he says his wife tells him that women aren’t all that worried about contraception, but jobs is their big issue. So if I was that reporter, my question would be just what kind of jobs could women get and hold if they are pregnant all the time? Taking in laundry and babysitting? Can anyone anywhere be sane about this??? Must it be a political issue instead of a woman’s issue? I’d love to hear from republican women on this. Thank you.

  4. Great post Alise!
    It was great to read some of the same thoughts that I’ve had loosely roaming through my head recently pulled together into coherent thoughts and sentences. Though personally, my libido is taking a long vacation in a cold tundra somewhere, I get annoyed at the double-standard that exists for men and women.

    Write on!

  5. YES! This is so true and so awesome, Alise! Thanks for standing up for women with sex drives (which is nearly all of us :P)

  6. There are some cultural assumptions and influencers in the undercurrent of this issue. Questions about acceptable behavior arise, and it seems expectations play a bigger role than we’d care to admit or believe.

    If it wasn’t for birth control, my husband and I would probably have 6-10 kids. I have wondered if I’ve stopped God’s blessing sometimes…but I also realize that my plate is full. Planning is a blessing. I live in a time where a lot, even a person’s existence, can be shaped by my control. So, I encounter that for a minute….and WOW. That’s sobering! It’s weighty. I’m not sure I’m ready to absorb what that means.

    What happens when we think we can, and we do exert such control?
    …much more than we first assume…

  7. Does Provoketive welcome all conversation? And you, Alise?

    I think you completely missed the boat on this one. The judgment isn’t about behavior at all. If that is what you’re hearing, you’re listening to the wrong voices. The issue is women taking responsibility for themselves. I am beyond childbearing years now, but I never, ever expected my birth control choice (for me, The Pill) to be free or for taxpayers to pay for it. I worked at a bank as a teller at minimum wage, a single, self-supporting adult. Later it was a family choice. This is what the debate is about, taking responsibility for yourself. Please don’t muddy the discussion by making it appear to be anything other than that. Anyone with a cell phone, a computer, and Internet can afford, and should be responsible for, their own birth control. Do you not agree with that? That’s the issue. Who cares, really, how much sex women have or want? Or men. Women want to be seen as equals, they need to man-up, act like equals, and learn to self-support w/o whining. Thanks for listening to a different POV.

    • @Jo – If health insurance didn’t regularly cover vasectomies and things like Viagra, I think you would have a point. But I’ve seen no one who argues against the inclusion of the pill in health insurance plans say that these things should no longer be covered. And those on both side of the discussion seem to downplay women’s sexuality. On one side, women who ask to have birth control added to health insurance are called sluts. On the other side, sexuality is completely ignored by focusing strictly on “health” issues. But really, women should be allowed to enjoy sex without justifying it to anyone.

      In this I’m not trying to make a comment about the inclusion of female contraceptives one way or the other, but simply to say that in the discussion, let’s allow women’s sexuality to be equal to that of men’s. Right now, I don’t believe that’s the case.

      • Working from my iPod… Forgive errors, plese.

        Vasectomies are in the same category with tubal options, both covered by insurance. Viagra is a whole different issue, and no company or taxpayer should be forced to pay for Viagra for another, IMO.

        The Pill was covered by insurance at one time, as were many scrips now OTC. No one was called a slut then, and they aren’t now. (There are those on both sides of the issue who cannot speak with respect.) We let these changes slip by unnoticed and uncaring until we find out–too late–that it affects us, then cry ‘foul’.

        Been enjoying sex for a long, long time, unimpeded by anyone. I address this lopsided cultural thinking that men have the stronger sex drive when opportunity presents itself, and that they are unable to control their urges as if they are only animals without self-control or a brain, only a penis. Both sexes are so much more than uncontrollable reproductive organs. I can’t be boxed in, closed up, and shut down unless I give the key to someone else. I hold my own key. Why I am a political conservative, I have the right to my own key w/o being responsible for yours.

        Thx for your response. I have benefited from your pieces on living with an atheist.

        • I just couldn’t let this comment go by, although it’s probably old by now. You say you wouldn’t want to pay for someone else’s birth control, that they should be responsible, right? I bet you would hate even more paying for someone’s abortion, and I’d further the bet by saying that you’d resent paying for social programs for someone else’s child. Am I pretty close to your feelings? Well, here are mine–we don’t live in a perfect world and not everyone is as close to being the wonderful responsible person you are, and some try but slip up. In my mind, people have always had sex whether it was under perfect conditions or not and society has had many ways of dealing with it throughout the ages. We no longer force teenaged couples into shotgun weddings that never seemed to last anyway. We no longer send girls off to visit some faraway aunt and actually give their child up for adoption, or should they decide to keep it be foreced to wear that scarlet letter and their child as well. We do have social programs, and if we have the heart of Christ, we can see that no child asks to be born or gets to choose the circumstances that they are born to. If you really are against abortion and also resent programs to help single moms and poor children along, it would seem to me that you’d be all for free birth control and what as many poor women to have access to it as possible. Unless you think that they should pay for their irresponsible actions with a child. . .that you will ultimately pay for. . .if she doesn’t get an abortion. So weigh in the values and as far as I can see birth control for poor women. . .for all woman who want it. . .is a very good thing that everyone with a heart, and a brain, and maybe even a little shot of courage, should stand up and shout for!!! Thanks for listening to yet a different POV.

    • @ Jo–

      It sounds like you’re not considering birth control to be part of medical care– like you’re thinking that because it relates to sex-for-pleasure (or even sex in general) it should be considered a recreational cost, not a medical one. I disagree: birth control is something prescribed by a doctor to care for your physical body. That places it within the sphere of the general debate about who should pay for health care, but no more than any other kind of health care. No?

  8. Yes, yes, and yes! Preventing unwanted pregnancies is a responsible, just like any proactive health care which is largely covered by health insurance. But even beyond that equal access to birth control benefits our entire society by preventing pregnancies that are not only unplanned, but for which the parents cannot afford. And yes, why is viagra covered by health insurance and contraceptives are not? Just doesn’t make sense.

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