Should girls in general be on birth control? As a 26-year-old millennial woman, still single and still dating–these questions are unavoidable.
I met someone on OkCupid last year, we’ll call him Jim. He had green eyes, an infectious smile, and adventurous spirit; which is exactly what I liked and wanted. I am prone to worry and feelings of anxiety despite my longing to explore and create; I wanted to emulate that carefree, adventurous, and fearless spirit that he harbored. He was also from upstate New York while I was born and raised in the city — we were complete opposites. He is tall and Caucasian, and I am mixed (both Hispanic and Asian) and petite with darker features.
Our first few dates were great –we went to Central Park, chatted at a café, had dinner, went to an outdoor concert, ect. We had similar tastes in movies and music and I got the sense that we were both intrigued by each other.
It was refreshing to meet someone new that I actually really liked for the first time in a while.
After a week of dating the question came up as we were hanging out in his Brooklyn apartment. “Are you on birth control?”.
I’ve never been on birth control, it seems to be the thing to do nowadays and the thing for girls to be expected to do if they are sexually active but after researching for myself I made the decision to never use it. A substance that creates chemical changes to my body and hormones which then puts me at risk for blood clots, heart attack, stroke, ect. didn’t seem appealing to me. I also didn’t agree with the moral and societal aspects of taking the pill. It seemed counter-intuitive and yes, sexist.
“No, are you on birth control?” I joked.
He seemed confused and we had a discussion and many discussions thereafter about birth control. He thought it was normal and common for girls to be on birth control and on some deeper level I’m sure that he also thought that they were solely responsible for birth prevention. Guys get a free pass on this one apparently.
He was five years younger than me and had no idea or knowledge about the pill other than that it prevents the girls he has sex with from getting pregnant. Essentially, he can ejaculate inside them without consequence.
Thankfully, I was born and raised in a household that promotes equality for the most part and I grew up naturally wanting to see this world to be more equal for everyone. From my experience, we’ve come a long way but unfortunately we still have a long way to go. I still see the inequalities even with my relatives, I see it in school, and I also see it where I work currently. I am proud to call myself an activist and yes, the f-word: an intersectional feminist.
I used to volunteer at a feminist bookstore and out of nowhere found myself reading books on the history of birth control. About how many female patients suffered and some even died during the early stages of birth control development. Many of the test subjects were women of color. It sickens me to the core when the recent birth control study for men, although 98% effective (studies were administered shots over a period of time) was cut because a few men complained of mood swings and side effects that many women experience today with their birth control. It was also interesting to see that a majority of the men administered shots said that they would take it again –save for those few men that complained of side effects women regularly experience.
Women who take birth control experience these common side effects: mood swings, depression, cramping, nausea, vomiting, breast tenderness, bleeding between periods, weight gain, and changes in sexual desire, to name a few. Blood clots, heart attack, stroke are side effects that can cause death with certain types of birth control.
So why does society deem it okay and “normal” for women to experience these side effects but men don’t have to? The birth control shot exists for men, but we give them a free pass and cut studies for men because a few complained of mood swings.
We still live in a sexist society after all.
Another reason why I will never take birth control is because one of my long term friends from college went to the ER last year due to a blood clot. She almost died and was in the ICU for days, the doctors found a correlation with the blood clot attributed to her birth control–birth control that she had taken since she was 16 years old. She wasn’t sexually active, it was mostly used to regulate her period but still– my friend almost died because of the pill.
The fact that the FDA and pharmaceutical companies allow these life threatening contraceptives to be on the market for women because we deem it a woman’s job to prevent birth instead of the man (who impregnates the woman in the first place) makes my stomach turn in disgust. In contrast, the first signs of discomfort and complaints from a few men lead to the contraceptive and study being cut altogether, and are thus prevented from being put out on the market.
Back to Jim–all of his ex-girlfriends took birth control, and they were also all Caucasian as far as I know. He got away with many things it seemed, he didn’t have to worry about much. I spent a few months on-and-off dating him and also educating him in the process, not just about birth control and sexism, but also about my race and my culture. I remember on one occasion he called me white (my skin) and I had to correct him (my skin is actually tan) and tell him that I’m a mixed American and proud of being mixed. American’s aren’t solely white folks I reminded him.
What people don’t realize is that even though women are on birth control –that doesn’t protect anyone from STDS/STI or HIV/AIDS. Currently STD rates are at an all time high (which is another reason why I opt for condoms instead of birth control). According to the center for disease control and prevention–In 2016, Americans were infected with more than 2 million new cases of gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia, the highest number of these sexually transmitted diseases ever reported. At least half of these occur in sexually active young people between the ages of 15 and 24.
This freaks me out! And it should freak everyone else out as well. Just because there is a pill for birth prevention doesn’t mean there is a pill for STD prevention. Wearing condoms is courteous to you and your partner and others. You also never know what you can contract from others because men can’t get tested for HPV but are carriers. With Jim having unprotected sex with his ex-girlfriends, there was no way I was going to take that risk.
All in all, birth control is a woman’s choice –whether you want to take it or don’t want to take it. But for me it just doesn’t appeal or coincide with who I am. I would also suggest for women everywhere to do research on their birth control and to be more vocal about male birth control. For men as well, my hope is for more men to advocate for male birth control and to also continue to advocate for equality for women on all fronts. If men had birth control it would help many things. It would alleviate anxiety from both partners, it would be more effective in preventing pregnancies (provided if both used protection), and it would be incredibly effective in preventing abortions and reducing the number of abortion procedures taken each year.
At one point, Jim was trying to get me to agree to an abortion if he ever got me pregnant; that really annoyed me. My answer: no and no. Condoms are the way to go. Sure enough, he ended up buying a box of condoms, thank god! And until pharmaceutical companies decide to put male birth control out on the market, I won’t ever be on birth control.