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Birth Control Isn’t Really About “Women’s Health.” It’s About…
BigThink ^ | 02/17/2012 | Pamela Haag

Posted on 02/25/2012 8:52:11 PM PST by Ultra Sonic 007

This is a polemic:  Access to birth control isn’t really about my “health.” It’s not principally about the management of ovarian cysts or the regulation of periods.

Birth control isn’t about my health unless by health you mean, my capacity to get it on, to have a happy, joyous sex life that involves an actual male partner. The point of birth control is to have sex that’s recreational and non-procreative. It’s to permit women to exercise their desires without the sword of Damocles of unwanted pregnancy hanging gloomily over their heads.

This proposition is radical only by default, because mainstream liberal voices in Congress, especially, have euphemized women’s desires out of the current birth control and abortion disputes.

I understand why they’ve done this, in terms of narrow political expediency. We’ve been on the defensive about reproductive rights and women's sexual liberty for decades. We’ve used a euphemism of “choice” for years.

The problem with choice is that it pairs the philosophically monumental with the rhetorically puny. On the one hand, “choice” describes the abortion cause that we’ve taken thousands of political casualties to defend; on the other hand, it describes 20 brands of toothpaste.

Rhetorically, liberals have also argued from the exceptional cases to defend reproductive rights, sensing a more sympathetic ear when they do. For example, assaults on abortion rights are often combatted with the anecdote of the tragic but less common abortion-seeker: victims of incest, rape, or life-threatening medical danger. 

These three subjects form a hallowed trinity of morally unimpeachable abortion users, because they became pregnant or need an abortion through “no fault of their own:” In other words, through no exercise of their libido, or their desire.

It should go without saying that these women matter in the abortion debate. But the more we argue by way of non-consensual examples, the more we communicate that we’re embarrassed by the larger population of unexceptional, consensual examples of women who get pregnant or use birth control because they want to have sex.

The phrase “women’s health” in the birth control dispute is the latest nimble euphemism.  

There are many examples. Barbara Boxer frames the birth control issue a la mode as about “defending women’s health. We will fight for women and their families and their economic well-being and their good health,” her website declares on the matter.  EMILY’s List refers to the “war on women’s health.”

The New York Times (a reliable source for yuppie prudery and subtle anti-feminism alike—remember their atrocious coverage of the gang rape of an 11-year old in Brownsville, Texas?), used the outlier example of a lesbian college student who only took the pill because she had an ovarian cyst—not to have sex, you can be reassured!—and she couldn’t afford it without health insurance, so she ended up with a ruptured cyst, and a costly hospital stay.

We tiptoe around the heterosexual woman’s unsightly libido, and end up with a strangely euphemistic rhetoric, a defense of birth control that seems to involve no sex, desire, sperm, or men. It's all about access, “women’s health,” and the non-libidinal reasons to use birth control.

This might secure sympathy in the short run, but when we euphemize, we convey a squeamish, ambivalent view of our own values. When we rely on exceptional cases, we embolden no-exceptions extremism. We give up on defending the promiscuous abortion seeker, but cling to the trinity of Non-Consenting Cases. Then, bit by bit, social conservatives, sensing opportunity, start chipping away at the exceptions, too.

Now, if the Oklahoma “personhood” bill becomes law—and 12 other states are considering similar legislation—abortion will be absolutely outlawed, along with many forms of birth control.

It’s counterintuitive, but when deeply-settled rights are most in danger, it’s not the time to euphemize, or retreat from assertions of sexual liberty and self-governance. It’s time to gun it instead.

So here’s the subject I advocate for, because no one dares to speak her name: It’s the 20-something unmarried heterosexual woman who wants to have sex, has sex, enjoys a good sex life with her boyfriend, and, in that sex life, uses birth control. Or, she accidentally gets pregnant.

She doesn’t get pregnant because she’s a victim of non-consensual sex. She gets pregnant while enjoying sex. She doesn’t use birth control to regulate her menstrual cycle. She uses birth control because she has sex

I advocate for the slut who sleeps with lots of men, as well as the woman who sleeps with only one, ever. Promiscuously heterosexual, and happy about it? I’ve got your back. 

A second polemic:  If birth control isn’t actually about women’s “health,” it’s also not strictly speaking just about women, or a women’s issue. Again, this is a basic but mysteriously obscure truth of the issue. The rhetoric emphasizes “women’s health,” rather than the desire-driven world where it takes two to tango, one from each biological sex, and to get pregnant or need to plan to avoid pregnancy. So we end up focusing on women's equality in health insurance coverage. That’s a critical issue, certainly.  

But when we start talking about birth control as being, well, about sex, it becomes clear that it’s an issue for men and women.

Don’t men have some right to have sex without the fear that every relationship will come with the game-changing threat of unwanted pregnancy?

Are men destined to go back to the contraceptive roulette days of condoms, rhythm method, luck, or nothing? And, how many men would want that life back? How isn’t this a men’s issue and a women’s issue—or a men and women, together, issue? Without access to affordable, reliable, convenient birth control, heterosexual men’s and women’s sex lives are effectively rolled back to the pre-Griswald 1930s.

Birth control doesn’t come across as a men’s and women’s issue because acknowledging that would be to declare the idea that we want people to have recreational, non-procreative sex lives as part of their humanity, their intimate life, and their human experience.

The days of second-wave feminism when Erika Jong gleefully celebrated women’s sex lives feel like another world. I’m looking at my collection of second-wave feminist paperbacks on my shelf. I could throw a pen and any book I’d hit would have some affirmation of a pro-sex agenda for women—an article about the myth of vaginal orgasms, for example, or the importance of the vibrator as a tool of liberation. Second-wave feminism wasn’t just fighting against sexual violence. It was fighting for the emancipation of the female libido.

Where would you find that attitude today in the cultural mainstream?

In glossy women’s magazines, it’s true, you’ll find “ways to please your man” features, and at least these magazines are writing about sex, but I don’t really see theirs as a feminist treatment of sexuality. They might want to run more features on “ways to please yourself” to boost their feminist bona fides.

In the world of public health, you’ll see erudite discussion of sex as a social “morbidity” and “risk factor”—to wit, “girls who have sex are much less likely to get admitted to a top tier school”—but that’s not exactly a triumphant narrative of women’s libido, either.

You can go to slasher flicks and get the Hollywood “Have Sex and Die” narrative, or, in more self-declared “feminist” flicks such as Thelma and Louise or the The Piano, the slight variation of “rebel, have sex, and be forced to kill yourself, or lose a finger for your trouble.”

It makes me wonder, who stole my libido?

Even though personal liberty in private relations is a foundational concept of modern liberalism and its understanding of the right to privacy, sexual liberty isn’t exactly the rallying cry.

And that’s unfortunate, and consequential. Because it seems to me that the bottom line of 21st-century politics is that you can’t be embarrassed or equivocal about the things you believe. It always shows. 

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; News/Current Events; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: abortion; birthcontrol; sex; thepill
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To: oldenuff2no

Please note: Samuel Colt, not Samantha Colt.

But a gun is not always handy. Remember that scene in Cape Fear when Gregory Peck’s wife tried to face down Robert Mitchum with a poker, and he just stood there until she dissolved in tears and dropped it on the floor ... ?

... that was great.

21 posted on 02/26/2012 12:15:50 AM PST by dr_lew
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To: Rudder

No woman ever became pregnant all on her own; abortion never has been and never will be a “women’s issue”.

22 posted on 02/26/2012 12:25:33 AM PST by eclecticEel (Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: 7/4/1776 - 3/21/2010)
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To: Ultra Sonic 007

Don’t many birth control devices and pharmaceuticals increase health risks? And they want us to pay to increase health problems in others?

23 posted on 02/26/2012 1:11:18 AM PST by TigersEye (Life is about choices. Your choices. Make good ones.)
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To: dr_lew
I'm sorry they aren't always handy both wife and I have ccw’s and carry all the time. If we leave the house we are armed and if we are at home something is within reach.
24 posted on 02/26/2012 1:45:48 AM PST by oldenuff2no (Rangers lead the way...... Delta, the original European home land security)
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To: dr_lew

“Here we arrive at solidarity of Biblical piety with Godless materialism”

Unless the married lovers had the Song of Solomon as their guide. The marriage bed is undefiled, according to the Bible.

25 posted on 02/26/2012 4:04:11 AM PST by mdmathis6 (Christ came not to make man into God but to restore fellowship of the Godhead with man.)
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To: oldenuff2no
Men do go around having sex as much if not more than women but we have no control in the outcome of these encounters. We can't decide that we don't want to be responsible like women can. Men are forced to pay child support for their unwanted pregnancies or are forced to stand by while their child is murdered against their will. MEN HAVE NO CHOICE! Women can have sex all they want and when they get pregnant they look to zip up the fathers income for 18 yrs possibly more for juniors college also. When a man get a woman pregnant he has everything to lose... a woman gets pregnant and she can win the lottery if he's rich (athletes,doctors,etc). How many women do you know that pay thousands a month in support and the kids live so far away they can't see them and the kids call stepmother Mommy. Now ask yourself...How many men do you know in that situation? It's a no-brainer people!!! Give men the same right to abort fatherhood as women have to abort motherhood. Men have no choice!!!We are at the mercy of any floozy who wants to rape your income for their dream of being babies momma! Lets put an end to this kind of discrimination against men!
26 posted on 02/26/2012 4:06:04 AM PST by bdog2995
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To: bdog2995
I agree with everything you say. In a perfect world, casual sex wouldn't exist, and these problems would go away. But taking the circumstances we have, men absolutely get screwed. It is common practice around military bases for girls to get these young guys, lie and tell them they are on the pill, then get pregnant. Then the kid has to either pay up or she goes to his command. You wouldn't believe how common this practice is. Should they not be sleeping around? You bet. But our society has told them its ok.

I had a kid come in the store to buy some condoms, and he was complaining about how expensive they were. I told him, "Honey, the alternative is much, much worse."

27 posted on 02/26/2012 4:43:33 AM PST by USMCWife6869
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To: Ultra Sonic 007

Agree totally.

As I have posted here repeatedly, access to free female birth control as a political issue is about fornication and nothing else, and, since the American voter is in love with fornication and thinks about it (and pornography) all the time, the fear of losing it becomes a powerful weapon in the hands of the Democrats.

28 posted on 02/26/2012 4:48:50 AM PST by Jim Noble ("The Germans: At your feet, or at your throat" - Winston Churchill)
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To: Harmless Teddy Bear
Pay your own way like an actual adult would do.

The whole point of Leftism is that someone else has to pay ... for everything.

29 posted on 02/26/2012 4:53:12 AM PST by Tax-chick (I used to be difficult, but after watching 46 episodes of "Lie to Me," I'm impossible!)
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To: oldenuff2no
This whole discussion is not about birth control it is about controlling women's sexuality and ability to have sex with reduced risk. You may object to it for moral or ethical reasons but that is what the argument is all about.

Yes - at reduced risk of "The sword of damocles" in the form of unwanted pregnancy - or as stated, carefree, recreational sex. Why should we pay for someone else's "recreation"? If you want to play, take your own dang precautions and/or ensure your partner does. It's another case of not taking personal responsibility.

30 posted on 02/26/2012 5:01:02 AM PST by trebb ("If a man will not work, he should not eat" From 2 Thes 3)
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To: Ultra Sonic 007

I don’t think anyone in the history of humanity has sincerely uttered the phrase: “Darn, I can’t afford to have sex.”

31 posted on 02/26/2012 6:46:22 AM PST by Atlas Sneezed (Author of - Makes You a Precious Metal Expert, Guaranteed.)
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To: bdog2995
We can't decide that we don't want to be responsible like women can.

The "choice" for all is before sex, whether to have it or not, period.

I told my sons that if you decide to have sex before marriage just remember there is a big chance that if the girl gets pregnant and has the baby, you will be forever intertwined with that woman, for the rest of your life you will have to talk to, see and deal with the mother of your child.

32 posted on 02/26/2012 7:14:09 AM PST by thirst4truth (
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To: GeronL

$9 a month today??


It cost me closer to $20 a month 35 years ago, when I was making about $8 an hour.

Today, women spend more on a cell phone than they do on their own health.

They have drawn into an upside down world.

They want to chatter incessantly to whomever about NOTHING, then they want me, their employer, to pay for their no consequences sex life.

Truly amazing!!!!!!

33 posted on 02/26/2012 10:22:26 AM PST by ridesthemiles
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To: Jim Noble

“As I have posted here repeatedly, access to free female birth control as a political issue is about fornication and nothing else”

Jim, Loretta Lynn beat you to it, and decades ago:

You wined me and dined me when I was your girl
Promised if I`d be your wife you`d show me the world
But all I`ve seen of this old world is a bed and a doctor bill
I`m tearing down your brooder house `cause now I`ve got the pill

All these years I`ve stayed at home while you had all your fun
And every year that`s gone by another baby`s come
There`s gonna be some changes made right here on Nursery Hill
You`ve set this chicken your last time `cause now I`ve got the pill

This old maternity dress I`ve got is going in the garbage
The clothes I`m wearing from now on won`t take up so much yardage
Miniskirts hotpants and a few little fancy frills
Yeah I`m making up for all those years since I`ve got the pill

I`m tired of all your crowing how you and your hens play
While holding a couple in my arms another`s on the way
This chicken`s done tore up her nest and I`m ready to make a deal
And you can`t afford to turn it down `cause you know I`ve got the pill

This incubator is overused because you`ve kept it filled
The feeling good comes easy now since I`ve got the pill
It`s getting dark it`s roosting time tonight`s too good to be real
Aw but Daddy don`t you worry none `cause Mama`s got the pill
Oh Daddy don`t you worry none `cause Mama`s got the pill

Ain’t nothin’ no one’s gonna do about this no’ more.

Like it or not, the concept of “contraceptive freedom” seems dear to women, not only liberal ones, but a sizable cohort of “conservative” women, as well.

Arguing about contraception is a losing issue for conservatives. Even if it portends the end of civilization, it’s -still- a loser.

Best course of action is to just change the subject....

34 posted on 02/26/2012 10:41:27 AM PST by Road Glide
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To: bdog2995
Give men the same right to abort fatherhood as women have to abort motherhood.

Wrong. What needs to be done is to give fathers a veto over the abortion death of their child.

And give fathers the right to raise - not visit - their own children regardless of marital status.

35 posted on 02/26/2012 11:03:34 AM PST by DNA.2012
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To: trebb
I didn't say I supported it or that I want to pay for it I just defined the discussion. Point in fact that is being totally ignored on this board is that for each of the pregnancies that you don't want to pay for there is a man making a very intentional contribution. Why are we not bringing him into this financial equation? You are placing the entire burden of being pregnant on the woman.
How does that work????? Are you sexist, irresponsible, or do you feel that men just can not make the proper choice to not impregnate a woman?
36 posted on 02/26/2012 11:17:34 AM PST by oldenuff2no (Rangers lead the way...... Delta, the original European home land security)
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To: bdog2995

Men do go around having sex as much if not more than women but we have no control in the outcome of these encounters.

What planet are you from??? Have you never heard of a condom???? Or just saying no because you do not want to take the risk of paying child support for the next 18 years?
People in here preach individual responsibility but I guess it does not apply to men when their pants are down.

37 posted on 02/26/2012 11:22:13 AM PST by oldenuff2no (Rangers lead the way...... Delta, the original European home land security)
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To: oldenuff2no
Why are we not bringing him into this financial equation?

Men bear the majority of the financial cost of raising children, whether married or divorced.

38 posted on 02/26/2012 11:34:39 AM PST by DNA.2012
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To: oldenuff2no

It is women who get out of responsibility: they either kill the child between conception and birth or if the child is born the man winds up paying the financial costs to raise the child.

39 posted on 02/26/2012 11:37:17 AM PST by DNA.2012
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To: DNA.2012
You need to open your sexist eyes. If a man is paying child support to a woman then that woman is raising that child and it is a huge job. You directly imply that while the man is burdened with child support the woman has no responsibility and does nothing. WRONG!!! I, a man, raised two daughters alone for a dozen years. I have done many things in my life but that is the hardest job/responsibility that I have ever had.

Bringing a child into this world takes two people. Both usually do so willingly. At the point of conception biology makes things different for the man and the woman. Different questions and answers with different consequences. Everything is not equal because the burden of pregnancy and parenthood is not equal between men and women. You will never be able to define that perfectly equal place with the biological situation being so unequal. That is why the laws will never be straight up equal.
Yes I know a few mothers who have had to pay child support and they needed to.

40 posted on 02/26/2012 11:52:11 AM PST by oldenuff2no (Rangers lead the way...... Delta, the original European home land security)
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