Happy birthday, Nessie!

Well, I’m a little early, but I’d like to wish Nessie a happy birthday. Her official birthday is actually March 17th, 2006, but in light of this amazing article about contraception on The Sexist, I just have to make her birthday post a little early.

Nessie is my birth control, so named because like the Loch Ness monster, she lurks in the deep dark places. I have a Mirena IUD (intra-uterine device), which remains in my uterus for 5 years while steadily releasing eensy weensy amounts of the hormone levonorgestrel (it’s okay–I can’t pronounce it either!). It works on multiple levels to help prevent pregnancy and is incredibly effective.

I’ve been on and off of some form of hormonal birth control since I was 15. When I first stopped taking the pill at 18, largely because I could not afford to keep paying for it each month, I discovered exactly how much the hormones had been gravely fucking with me. I was an emotional, neurotic mess with bad skin and some extra pounds that I couldn’t shake no matter how unhealthy I let my eating habits get. I had no sex drive and I was uncomfortable with and disgusted by my own body, despite my burgeoning feminist tendencies.

I am convinced that the birth control pill is one of the biggest shackles we as women are burdened with. There is a huge lack of education surrounding birth control that leads to a lot of misinformation or simple ignorance. People refer to “the pill” as if it is something monolithic when it’s not. There’s dozens of different kinds of pills, from tri-cyclens (that give a different dose of hormones each week) to monophasic (a steady dose over the entire active pill cycle) to low-dose pills to a variety of hormone blends, and of course there’s an army of generics of all of those. Plus there’s an arsenal of non-pill options, such as the patch, the shot, the ring, and my personal choice, the IUD (which comes in two flavors–the Mirena, with a low dose of hormones, and the ParaGard, which is hormone-free).

Putting hormones into our bodies fucks us up. We’re people, not science experiments. Every version of every one of those contraception options that I listed will muck up your body chemistry in some way, and very rarely is it for the better (some women get slightly bigger boobs and/or clearer skin while on HBC, but I don’t think the trade off is worth it. Your mileage may vary, though). Fucking with our bodies leads to all kinds of unpleasantness. It’s a way of giving up our independence (and I will admit that my IUD does include a very low dose of hormones, so I’m guilty as well; the ParaGard would not have been a healthy choice for me, however) and letting someone else–drug companies, among others–control us. Think about it–that PMS? That’s not your PMS. That PMS is brought to you by Pfizer. Kinda creepy, when you think about it (especially considering how much shit you’ll then take for having PMS in the first place when it’s all “DUDE, I am riding a fucking hormone tsunami because of this bitty little pill that I take because you don’t like to wear a condom cause it like cramps your baller style or whatever the fuck it is!” Man, not cool).

I hear from women all the time about all these issues they’re having–their bodies are behaving weirdly, their emotions are out of control, they’ve lost their sex drive, they’re depressed, etc. The majority of the time, we can trace the problem back to their HBC. I’ll give them a quick little tutorial on all the different kinds of birth control and suggest which option might be better (even just switching off the generic of your pill can have a huge impact, believe it or not). Everyone’s body responds to hormones differently, but here’s the hitch–no one tells us about this shit. No one warns us that just because our BFF is on Yaz and it is fucking the shit for her and she’s having orgasms that make the Fourth of July look boring, we might get on Yaz and discover ourselves 20 lbs heavier and without any sex drive to speak of. On principle, I hate treating my body like a hormone cocktail shaker (unless, of course, I’m about to be lapped up by James Bond. Then we can talk). However, I understand the draw of traditional HBC for many women. I just wish we had more education on the veritable cornucopia of anti-baby drugs out there. This is America, land of plenty. You are not married to your birth control, and even if you are, shit girl, get a divorce if that crap isn’t loving you!

When I get the opportunity, I encourage women to experiment with not being on birth control at all. I got my IUD, which admittedly has a low dose of hormones, after a year and a half of being completely off hormonal birth control. I spent a month or two doing thorough research of my options and looking at the decision from all angles before deciding on the Mirena (depending on how sharing I’m feeling, on Nessie’s birthday I may post in depth about the research I did and my motivations for my choice, as well as more about my experience as an IUD user). Most women get big round eyes and go, “But then we’d have to use condoms!”

Awwww HELL NO I do not ever want to hear that kind of horrified response to condoms!

I love dudes who wear condoms. The quickest way to dry my out like the Sahara is try to avoid using a rubber when things are getting hot and heavy. In order to make sure that any excuse a dude can possibly try to pull is utterly null and void, I actually keep a condom in my purse, a practice that I wish more ladies would get into. There’s no real reason for a guy not having a condom, but sometimes they just don’t. And we’re the ones who are stuck with the babybakin’ ovens snug inside our pelvises, so really, it couldn’t hurt to carry a condom just in case. That doesn’t make you a slut–that makes you responsible. And responsible is sexy.

However, on the topic of condoms, it’s really astounding to me how rarely they are used. One of the comments on the above linked article remarks, “You can turn on the tv, and find a Trojan condom ad usually everyday of the week. I’m sure if you took a poll of men, about 100 percent of the male respondents would know what a condom is.” This is true. You can see a lot of ads for Trojans. They feature things like CGI pigs in clubwear.

That doesn’t tell viewers jack shit about how to use a condom. And that’s what’s important–the basic concept of the condom is self explanatory, and yet I can assure you, as someone who spent a summer as a peer health educator for Planned Parenthood (complete with wooden penis and day-glo magenta demo condoms) that in reality, very few people know how to use a condom. There’s the whole issue of putting it on right side out, for starters. There’s the matter of remembering to pinch the tip. There’s that whole rolling thing. Seriously guys, it’s boggling. I’ve saddled up a wooden faux-peen over and over for demos and this summer I had my first experience of applying a condom to a real live dude–holy shit! It’s way different and super scary! No joke, I was afraid I was gonna break him. Not the condom. Him. Talk about performance anxiety!

So I have a lot of sympathy for people who don’t even have a passing familiarity with the theory of condom use, let alone any sort of in-depth knowledge. Dudes and gals, it’s okay–there is not a goddamn thing instinctive about using a condom, and they are that weird color, you’re making a dude’s otherwise pretty sexy instrument look like it’s about to go SCUBA diving to boot. I understand. It’s uncomfortable stuff, especially with a new partner.

But in all the world, there ain’t nothin’ like a condom when it comes to being safe. My IUD is, granted, a more reliable form of birth control, but babies, believe it or not, are not necessarily the biggest, baddest things in the world. There’s STDs and that shit is SCARY. That can fuck you up. That can kill you.

And that’s what I advocate that ladies experiment with taking some time off from hormonal birth control–because no matter what, you should be using condoms basically all the time anyways. Of course, when we get into committed relationships with set sexual understandings, it can be fun and romantic (and, let’s face it, sexy) to throw condoms to the wind. After, of course, both partners getting tested for STDs. However, being on birth control is NOT ENOUGH to keep you safe for one night stands, casual dating, etc.

Unless you know for absolute certain (and, for the record, just because someone is a virgin doesn’t mean they are disease-free!), always use a condom. If nothing else, that just makes it that much better when you finally hit the point in your relationship that you aren’t using them anymore. And it makes your life that much better, because you don’t have any nasty surprises.

The article on The Sexist is great–funny, far less wordy than I am, and interesting. However, a lighthearted enjoyable read can lead to some heavy stuff. Birth control is heavy stuff, and it isn’t given nearly the attention it deserves in our world.

Educate yourself. Educate your friends, no matter their gender. This is really important.

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03/04/2010. Tags: , , , , , , , . Uncategorized.

9 Comments

  1. Tasty replied:

    I’ve never really understood the “I don’t want to/won’t wear a condom” argument from men in the past – it’s the only form of birth control that I HAVE. I know there are pills and meds out in trials that would work for dudes, but I don’t have access to those, and I certainly don’t have the extra like $5G’s for a vascectomy. Condoms are essential because I want to know I’m control of MYSELF for birth control. It may sound paranoid to some, but ain’t no way that Tasty’s creating no babies accidentally, and I need to know I’m taking care of that on my end. This isn’t even so much a feminist thing as a CYA thing. I definitely agree with you on the non-intrinsic nature of them, though – putting one on takes a bit of practice. Smart dudes will not only give it a shot on their own once or twice, just to ensure they know how it works, they’ll give themselves a go too, with one on, to see how it feels.

    On a more feminist note, where the fuck is my birth control? It’s not a secret how babies are made, nor how sperm contributes to that. If we’re asking women to play with their body chemistry on a DAILY BASIS in order to enjoy sex that doesn’t result in reproduction, why aren’t we doing the same thing for men? Ah Patriarchy, you god-damned bastard. I want a drug or device or something that keeps me from shooting little baby missiles and I am willing to PAY FOR IT, but no drug company seems to want to actually release one. Grumble.

    • Cuppy van der Cake replied:

      What irks me is that if a dude HAD the $5k for a vasectomy, they can get one. Whenever the hell they want, pretty much. Meanwhile, I’m going to continue having a piece of chemical-filled plastic stuffed through my cervix and into my uterus till sometime in my 30s, at which point IF I AM LUCKY a doctor will agree to tie my tubes. Vasectomies are less dangerous than tubals, reversible, less expensive, and more effective. Yet most men refuse to get them.

      Which ties into the “where the fuck is your birth control” issue–masculinity is enormously tied into potency, or the perception of potency. I’ve read about common problems with dudes who’ve gotten vasectomies being unable to achieve erection until getting the procedure reversed–not because anything went wrong, but because they felt they were no longer a man. It’s not a castration, people! But that’s how some guys see it. I have a feeling that the same issues are wrapped up in birth control. They don’t want to lose out on their perceived manliness. Also, with one of the leading side effects of HBC being loss sex of drive, I’m not surprise that men aren’t eager to jump on that bandwagon. Since women are stereotypically frigid and only “give in” to sex to please their partners anyways, their loss of sex drive is no great tragedy, because who knows if it even existed to begin with? Men, on the other hand, are defined by their horniness and virility. Fear of losing that is a very powerful fear.

      Just look at all the bank the pharmaceutical industry is making on drugs to let old dudes have 4 hour stiffies till the day they die.

  2. Pockysmama replied:

    Good luck with the tubal ligation. I’m 38 and they still won’t “allow” me to have one. Reason? I can still have another child and might therefore change my mind. My kid is an 18 year sophmore in college and my spousal unit has a vasectomy. I am DONE but the docs won’t budge. I also have a Mirena mainly to lessen very painful periods, it’s working, but not as well as I hoped I still have fairly painful periods I can simply function better now. Now, according to the (same!) doctors, they’ll give me a full hysterectomy to end the pain once and for all but will not sterilize me (a tubal). Basically, they feel that a hysterectomy is medically justified because of my pain complaints, but a tubal is ELECTIVE! Even though both procedures accomplish exactly the same thing, electing to not have babies IS NOT A GOOD ENOUGH REASON. I never know whether to laugh or howl in rage.

    • Cuppy van der Cake replied:

      Wow. I’ve heard of doctors being ridiculous with denying tubal ligations, but that is just crazy!

      I’m glad the Mirena is helping a little–I know I still get some pretty aggressive cramps, but not as badly as before. Unfortunately, it seems like to really get rid of the menstrual pain, it requires some very intensive hormones, which make me uncomfortable. It does work for many women, though!

      I can’t believe that they’d give you a hysterectomy and not a tubal. The attitude toward women and childbirth–mostly the patronizing “Well, YOU just don’t know what you want to do as far as baby-makin’ is concerned!” stance–never ceases to enrage me.

      I’m sorry to hear you’re dealing with such exceptional bullshit!

  3. Chris replied:

    Hey, great post. I have concerns about my own taking of Yasmin for other reasons (aside from the emotional-messed-up-ness), such as fertility in the long term. I can’t find reliable data on this, but I was giving serious thought to stopping anyway just in case – your post pretty much convinced me.

    • Cuppy van der Cake replied:

      I’m glad my post helped! I hope going off BC works out for you, and good luck with the efforts! 🙂

  4. Norah Coleman replied:

    I am a 60 year old who used the pill for almost 40 years – in different forms. The last one is called Cerazette, which is the best to take if you are an older woman, a diabetic or face other health issues. Never, and I really mean NEVER, did I feel anything unusual or unnatural during all those years. The only thing that went very wrong was one month in which I did not take the pill – bleeding, pain and all the rest. I never put on weight, never felt like not having sex, and it really contributed a lot to my peace of mind regarding not getting pregnant. I am all FOR the pill and I highly recomend it. As to some imaginary “fuck up” in the future, well, at my age I really don’t care much. And I think women who go around complaining that the pill makes them feel this or that or the other are all faking symptoms and making themselves important, like: “I am different, I can’t take the pill, I feel awful, taking the pill is not for everyone, etc, etc” Good luck for the women who choose to have longer periods, belly aches, head aches, live on the high wire, worrying every month if they will get their menses or not, and all that jazz.

    • Cuppy van der Cake replied:

      I’m really happy to hear that HBC has worked out for you! That’s great! Like I said, the pill does work for many women, and that’s awesome. Having it is certainly a hell of a lot better than NOT having access to it, that’s for damn sure.

      Ultimately, I’ve encountered far more women that have issues with the pill (but they usually decide that dealing with the side effects is better than NOT being on the pill), but so it goes. There is no side effect free medication–every time we change the chemistry of our body, something will happen. For some people, it turns out that it’s something positive that happens. I’m really glad that it worked out positively for you, and for so long–there’s few things that make me happier than hearing that someone has been having a healthy happy sex life for most of her life! That’s awesome! Unfortunately, not everyone’s body reacts the same and not everyone has the same experience.

  5. Just Saying replied:

    I found your blog while reading up on infor for Yasmin.
    I agree 100% BCP are a scam. Why put a snythetic hormone into our bodies when our bodies have been regulating our cycle on it’s own for million(s) of years.

    I haven’t been on BCP for 14 years and have recently decided to give Yasmin a try along with some other steps to treat some hormonal acne.

    I”m a week in and I hate it. I’m feeling a lot of the side effects, and really weighing a little acne vs. the pill right now.

    YOu’re right on so many levels. There is not enough education out there. And People who grip about HAVING to use condoms… well, you only have one life, you should protect it. Not just from pregancy.

    Beside Trojans came out with an amazing new condom style that looks a little like a half blown up balloon. Feels like NOTHING! For both parties, And has NO SMELL!

    Trojan Magium or Large.. Look on the back you’ll see what I mean.

    So worth every penny of the $12 for 10 condoms.

    Great posting, I’m so glad I found your blog.

    ~Just Saying.

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