Today I want to talk about a situation that I recently found myself in, and that I know other women have found themselves in too. I was hooking up with a guy and asked him to use a condom. He complained at first but then acquiesced briefly, before stopping and saying that he really didn’t want to wear one and it wasn’t going to be good for him and he wasn’t going to be able to finish with one on and so on and so forth. Willing to just go along with things, and honestly mostly just wanting to fuck properly already, I said fine.
The next morning, after all was said and done, I got to go on an especially magical journey. There’s something particularly fun and sexy about buying Plan B at CVS. You get to enjoy the wonders of either a middle-aged woman shaking her head at you, or the younger man too uncomfortable to look you in the eyes as he rings you up, depending on which register you land at. It’s truly a remarkable experience, and it’s one I have on an all too frequent basis. The reason why? Every form of hormonal birth control that I’ve tried has made me some combination of suicidal, anxious or just generally depressed, and every other guy I sleep with won’t wear a condom.
I know firsthand that this position is not unique to me. Just last week, I got to counsel a friend about whether or not she should take Plan B. Just like me, she isn’t on birth control for personal reasons and the man she hooked up with the night before hadn’t wrapped it before he tapped it. I am positive that there are many more women out there, both at Cornell and beyond, who have found themselves in this exact same situation. There exists a whole underground community of women who have had to rely on Plan B because they can’t be on birth control for various reasons — medical, personal, religious, insurance-related, whatever — and because so many men refuse to wear condoms.
I can already picture what the comments section of this article is going to look like: people telling me that I need to be more responsible and take ownership of my body, that I should just not have sex with men without a condom, that maybe I just haven’t found the right type of birth control for me yet or that I should just suck it up and deal. To all of that I say: why should I put myself through so much when men have to do nothing? The last pill that I tried sapped my energy so that I spent all of my time in bed, gave me near constant low-level anxiety and caused me to be always bloated and gain five pounds. Not only that, but it completely took away my sex drive, the very reason why I wanted to take it in the first place. Why should I have to suffer through all of that, just so a man can fuck me raw? It’s certainly not doing anything to improve the pleasure of my experience.
I would argue that this entire situation is representative of a larger, cultural issue: the different ways in which girls and boys are socialized growing up. Men have been socialized by movies, by TV shows, by porn, to think that sex is all about them. Think about it: when was the last time you saw believable female pleasure in popular media? This doesn’t even just apply to sex. Ask any sociology professor here and they’ll likely tell you that boys are socialized to be more aggressive and to take more, along with other supposedly masculine traits. In contrast, girls are socialized to be meeker and politer, to always say yes, to not ask for things and above all to be likable. I’m not going to tell a guy to wear a condom or else, because then he might not like me anymore. And while being more assertive about my needs is certainly something that I personally could work on, I believe that the problem does not lie with me, or my friend or any other woman, but with the social norms that we are raised with.
All of this is to say: Men, take one for the team. We go through so much so that you can hit it raw, or at all. The least you could do is help keep us safe and wear a condom. I haven’t even gotten into the issue of STIs and the fact that condoms are the only method of prevention for that. Women, I have some parting words for you too. Your pleasure is worth just the same as a man’s, and you don’t deserve to feel like shit all the time as a result of the birth control you take so that some guy can get some love without a glove. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and insist. Above all, respect each other’s boundaries.
Scarlet Letters is a student at Cornell University. Between the Sheets runs monthly this semester. Sex on Thursday appears every other Thursday.