Birth control is a human right. Period. I will fight you on this. It is proven to fight poverty and increase female educational attainment. I don’t normally traffic in hypotheticals but if men could get pregnant, birth control would be sold next to the gum at every 7/11. And it would probably come in fun flavors. BUT, that is not the argument of this column. I would like to instead point out that, while I believe birth control should be a right, taking birth control should not be a requirement.
I understand my privilege in being able to say this, but: stop forcing me to take birth control!
Disclaimer: no one is actually forcing me to take birth control. However, I do take issue with the fact that so many young educated women accept birth control — and the weird, frightening and at times disgusting side effects that come with it — as almost an obligation. Many of my friends think of it as a necessary evil. However, just because we face the larger battle of ensuring access to birth control for everyone, we should not be complacent with the problems and side effects of birth control: side effects like weight gain, nausea, spotting and mood changes.
I have always assumed that the pill was the only option for me. I’ve been on the pill since eighth grade — not because I was a promiscuous little middle schooler — but because I have a condition called endometriosis. Endometriosis is a disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus grows on the outside of your uterus. It can manifest in a lot of different ways. For me, and for many other sufferers, it came in the form of super-duper painful cramps. Not “skip a class to lie in the nurse’s office” painful, but “miss two days of school because you are crying on the bathroom floor” painful. Hormonal contraceptives are one of the only viable treatment options.
I’ve pretty much always thought that these pills were magic, and in many ways, they are. I rarely get cramps and my period is almost non-existent. As awesome as that sounds, the older I get and the more I learn about the topic, the scarier it seems. For one, birth control is one of the possible causes of my anorgasmia. Not to mention the increased risk of breast and cervical cancers.
Taking birth control pins me between two great fears: the first being the memories of the “stabbed in the stomach” pain I used to feel every month, and the second being the mysterious hormone science that scrambles my insides and confuses my uterus every time I pop a pill. Not every girl is in the same unique position as me, but I believe this “stuck between a rock and a hard place” phenomenon is common among girls taking all different kinds of birth control.
For example, my best friend has an IUD. I drove her to Gannett to get it put in and she said it hurt like a bitch. Everything had been fine for a while until her boyfriend came up to visit and she started randomly bleeding during sex. I was ready to strap on my head-lamp, pull out my surgical gloves and look up in there but she wisely suggested she see a doctor instead. Apparently, this can be a side effect that just comes with an IUD even when it is working correctly.
It is a little fucked up that we as women have to chose between the autonomy and peace of mind afforded by birth control and side effects that men would never put up with! (Not to mention the fact that I wouldn’t trust a man to take his pill every day. I can barely remember and I’m the one that would have to lug that baby around for 9 months.) Yes, birth control is amazing and yes, everyone should be able to get it if they want it, but just because it provides us with this invaluable service, does not mean we should settle for the nonsense that comes with it.
Essentially, my point is that it is not enough that we have birth control, but rather that we should not be satisfied until the responsibility of contraception is shared and birth control becomes less of a physical burden forced upon women. Maybe if you got a tax break every time you used a condom they would be more popular. I don’t care as long as I never have to hear that “sex with a condom is like getting a massage with a winter coat” again.
You might be tired of me ending my columns with “I don’t have a solution” — but once again, I don’t. However, I encourage you all to explore your options, and if you are anything like me, go take that pill you forgot to take yesterday!
Willow Hubsher is a senior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is Not a Sex Column appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.