A couple weeks ago, I had the birth control implant inserted. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a four-centimeter rod that is inserted under the skin. A local anesthetic is applied and a small incision is made — so small that you don’t even need stitches. Through the miracle of Cornell Health, I was able to get the thousand-dollar procedure done for just under $21. The nurse’s comments about the size of my biceps and her questions about my workout routine were only marginally more uncomfortable than the procedure itself. And now, I’m set for three years. No daily phone reminders to take a pill, and no pre-coital condom fumbles (which my boyfriend always manages to put on inside-out on the first try).
The idea of birth control used to make me really apprehensive. I didn’t like the idea of releasing hormones into my body, altering the menstrual cycle and essentially sterilizing myself. I rationalize it by saying that progestin can’t be worse than caffeine or alcohol — both substances I introduced into my body on a regular basis. The implant was an excellent choice for me because, from the dizzying list of birth control methods, it seemed to be the least invasive. I heard horror stories of the pill: acne, weight gain, migraines and, ironically, decreased libido. However, the implant’s main side effect is spontaneous vaginal bleeding. As sexy as that is, it’s a small price to pay to get raw-dogged.
With that in mind, the question of, “What am I getting out of this again?” has certainly crossed my mind once or twice as I showered with my arm in a plastic bag. My close friend once told me that the first time he had sex without a condom, it ruined sex with a condom for him forever. I told my boyfriend about it, and to my surprise, he quietly agreed. The idea that the sex we’d been having was subpar really bothered me. But what bothered me more was the fact that someone in the past could offer him something that I couldn’t.
Even though he didn’t explicitly ask for it, and even though he says that he doesn’t care if I’m on birth control or not, I got birth control for my boyfriend more than I did for myself. And I’m not ashamed about it. Perhaps sex without a condom feels more intimate for the both of us, it inarguably feels better for him, and his gratification is gratifying to me.
Birth control is just one of those gray-area things. Things that don’t exactly make me feel bad, but make me feel something. Things like shaving my legs or wearing lace thongs or doing my makeup. Things I do for guys that guys don’t care about, but I wouldn’t want to stop doing those things anyway. They’re just expected, and I would feel uncomfortable without them. But does that mean that I do it for me? Who is it for, then?
All these small “lady duties” just lead up to the main “lady duty,” popping out a kid for your partner when the time comes. And honestly, the idea of getting my guts pushed around inside me by a pale wet monkey and peeing a bit every time I sneeze is not something I see myself wanting. But, I’m sure the idea of getting a birth control implant inserted into my arm would’ve seemed bizarre and uncomfortable to me a couple years ago. I guess we’ll see.
Riley Read is a student at Cornell University. Tongue Tied runs monthly this semester. Sex on Thursday appears every other Thursday.