On Policing Your Own Womb

So, here’s a thing–what if birth control, like the pill or what-have-you, was available over the counter?

It’s an interesting thought. I come at it from many angles, but ultimately, I have to go with “oh hells to the yes, yes please!”

First, let me review my concerns. I worry about the effects of hormones on women (as I’ve written before about my issues with HBC) and all the side effects that they might not be expecting without a doctor warning them. I worry about women picking the wrong birth control without experimenting with different choices. I worry about women getting on birth control and then throwing condom use to the wind. I worry that with access to birth control over the counter, women will stop going to the doctor without needing to get their prescription refilled.

Well, to be honest, so few doctors really chat up their patients about the side effects of birth control, and I hear all too often about doctors being unable to try different kinds for a patient who is suffering severe side effects. If it’s broke, fix it! But I hear constantly about problems with doctors who are not supportive and informative and helpful (for the record, I have been incredibly lucky to have an AMAZING gynecologist, so my early GYN experiences were all fantastic, or at least fantastic as such things can be. Now that I’ve been on a different insurance plan for the last three years, I miss my GYN and the office staff so very much–they were truly gems. If you’re in the southwestern Connecticut area, I cannot recommend enough that you check out The Center for Women’s Health in Stamford). So, to be honest, I don’t actually think that the majority of women will be missing out on that much by not having to go through a doctor. Sure, there’s cases of awesome-sauce doctors and nurses, but it’s just not the majority. Most women would probably do better researching on their own.

Because of that, I DO worry that women will stop going to the doctor. I myself haven’t gone in several years, because I am so utterly unenthused about my new PCP and GYN now that I’m on my work insurance (it blows, btw). Since I have an IUD, I don’t need to get a prescription refilled. I’m sure that there are better women than I out there, but there’s a lot of women that hate going to doctors, especially ladypart doctors. I have friends who, due to not being sexually active, have never had a pap smear in their life, or have only had one. While I am not a bastion of righteousness in this, as I am guilty too, ladies gotta see doctors. I do NOT like the idea of using access to birth control as a way to enforce it, though. I think doctors shaping up and providing better experiences to their clients would be nice. (Again, man do I miss the Center for Women’s Health!)

I worry that access to birth control will stop women from using condoms, but you know what? I think that’s unfounded. Women who aren’t going to use condoms probably won’t use them regardless of whether or not they’re on birth control, and even with doctor warnings and office visits, a lot of women who go on birth control get rid of condoms nonetheless. Safe sex is something we have to make into a cultural norm, widely supported, and taught in schools. It’s something that the male partner should also be participating in–just because a woman is on birth control doesn’t mean that a dude should immediately try to dodge wearing a rubber, y’know? The impetus is on both parties, since both are at risk. This is an issue unrelated to birth control, rather, I simply worry that easy access to birth control would make the problems our society currently has that much worse. However, that’s foolish, to restrict something on account of fear, particularly when the problem is only tangentially related.

Moving past fears, I think this would absolutely be a step in the right direction for sexual health and reproductive freedom.

When you get right down to it, it is stupid that if I wanted to go on the pill, I would have to go ask someone else for permission.

This is not an addictive drug. It cannot be used for recreation purpose. It is not, when you get right down to it, a controlled substance. A much more intense form, Plan B, is already available over the counter. Why is it that we can only get the emergency option, that generally really fucks with a woman’s body? Why can’t we just have access to regular, routine, preventative options without having to jump through hoops, potentially have to search for a non-judgmental doctor, etc?

This is no different than any other simple medication. Aspirin is more dangerous the birth control pill!

Why is it that we are not allowed to select for ourselves how to manage our reproduction? Men can buy condoms (hell, women can too). Why can’t we buy the pill?

As I’ve written before, I’d love to see less emphasis on hormonal birth control, but that’s my personal politics. It is far more important to me that women have many options, and access to the full range of them, than that they adhere to my politics. They can decide for themselves how they want to manage their bodies. But first, they need to be allowed to decide for themselves.

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06/23/2010. Tags: , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

On Passivity and Gender

So, I’ll be the first to admit that I have some pretty major body image issues. It’s really hard for me to talk about size and weight in the media because I hate my own body so much and am constantly embroiled in a vicious struggle to lose weight, tone my muscles more, and generally look “better.” (I know that I’m messed up in the head about this. I get it, I really do. I look in the mirror and suck in just right so that my ribcage angles in a bit so that I don’t look so wide from side to side and I think “God, if they offered a surgery procedure to tuck my ribs in, I would get it! I look so much prettier when I suck in my ribs!” You guys, that’s kinda fucked up.) So when I say that it’s hard for me to talk about bodies, I’m not shitting around.

I, like much of culture, frame my obsession with my physique around health. Within reason, this is valid–I don’t like getting winded when I have to suddenly run a block to catch the trolley; I want riding my bike to be pleasurable, not painful; I want to be able to have pretzel-like and marathon-length sex sessions without a post-coital ER visit; I like lifting heavy objects and changing the tires on my car; etc. Being healthy is good! I have yet to meet someone who will disagree with me that having a healthy lifestyle is good. Hell, my determination to be healthy is one of the leading reasons I don’t smoke cigarettes regularly anymore, so that’s a good thing.

Where do we draw the line between healthy in the real way, and healthy in my “oh god you guys there is a tiny bit of muffin top above my belt!” way?

My crush on Amanda Hess of The Sexist continues as she covers wedding weight loss and how, shockingly enough, you guys–it’s not about health!

First off, I really want to see the Groom Weight Loss Challenge. Cause, dirty little secret, I think dudes with guts look WAY SILLIER than chicks with guts. For all that I am obsessive about my own weight and need to be skinny, I think girls with curves can be so gorgeous–I mean, we have boobs and hips and all those nice aerodynamic curves to help even things out. I know way too many dudes who are like a floppy version of the “tits on a stick” porn star idea–they are all gangly skinny limbs and then, like, BLAM. A watermelon. Oh fragile judgmental culture of ours, I don’t want THAT in my wedding pictures any more than I want myself looking like that!

But we’re all pretty chill with dudes looking like that. (Oh hey, health obsession, I’m actually not. I’m a shallow asshole, you guys! I admit it! I consciously try not to be, but I am! I objectify dudes all the time. I’m a bike-by-ogler. The danger is real! Just when you thought it was safe to go outside, there goes some chick, undressing you with her eyes as she bikes by! And let me say, nice tattoos. And the superhero undies? Damn, boy. Unf.) Wow that was a tangent.

Anyways, our culture lets dudes look like that. I mean, we totally celebrate the super fine and extremely foxy of the dudes, I’m not saying that unreasonable dude-spectations do not exist or anything, but it’s by and large okay for a dude to have some paunch or not be perfectly groomed or not conform to an exacting standard.

Cause, like, he’s so QUIRKY and ECCENTRIC. We’re going totally gaga for so-and-so’s rebel-without-a-cause attitude and devil-may-care style! Or something like that. Whatever those headlines are.

Because dudes are busy doing OTHER THINGS. BETTER THINGS than worrying about their appearance. I mean, dudes that are well-dressed and well-groomed and svelte and whatnot are often, in fact, maligned as being too feminine, too fussy, too high-maintenance, etc. Because there are BETTER ways for them to spend their time than worrying about how they look.

Us ladyfolk, on the other hand, get to spend our time on being PRETTY. Which is why it is so amazingly unacceptable for us to carry any extra poundage, to not be dressed just so, to not have our full arsenal of makeup and hair products deployed at every minute of every day. What else would we be doing?

I was at Target the other day looking for a muffin tin. Instead of finding what I was looking for, I found these:

Om nom nom.

Okay, seriously people? There’s a “girl cookie pan” and a “boy cookie pan.” And just look at what you can bake for your pretty little girl! Crowns, flowers, butterflies, castles, a kiss, and purses. What do boys get? Rocket ships, a jet, a sports pennant, a trophy, a shirt with a medal, and a sports car.

The female items are all PASSIVE. Other than the purse, which I suppose you take your husband’s credit card in and out of, you don’t interact with that stuff. It’s just that–STUFF. Pretty things. Flowers! Butterflies! Lips! Castles! Crowns!

So, like, the chances that the little dude you bake the rocket ship cookies for is going to grow up to be an astronaut are ridiculously small. The chances that your little girl is gonna grow up to be a princess? Yeah, NONE. If the little dude holds onto that dream of becoming an astronaut, he might just fulfill it. Or at the very least, he might study astrophysics and engineering and still have a rewarding, exciting life. What do you study to become a princess? What do you major in at college? What extracurriculars do you pursue? (Please, no jokes about sororities.) You don’t. You sit and wait and hope to attract a prince.

We are socialized from the very beginning to be PASSIVE–to sit still, to be delicate, to be proper.

The only time we’re allowed to be ACTIVE, to engage with anything and to do more than just sit and look pretty, is for the sake of being skinny. We’re allowed to exercise. We’re allowed to dedicate all of our activity to improving the quality of our passivity.

Despite the fact that I can sit back and KNOW all this, I am still only eating a half granola bar, a small cup of yogurt, and a banana today, because I’m meeting up with friends later and I expect I’ll probably have some beers and snacks and I want to keep under my daily calorie goal. Because it’s healthy.

That’s some powerful fuckin’ social programming, that is.

06/11/2010. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. 2 comments.

What “Sex Education” Should Really Mean

Hey guys, guess what? I’m thinking about sex! I know, you are so totally surprised. Don’t worry, hugs will be distributed at the door.

What I’m really thinking about is virginity. The brilliant ladies of The Sexist and Tiger Beatdown did a great chat about virginity on Friday. And yesterday, I missed a rethinking virginity event right here in Cambridge! Which had drinkable water, unlike my office in Boston! This is like a double-decker sammich of disappointment that I was not able to attend! So man, I am thinking about virginity like nobody’s business at this point.

Rumor has it, I once had a virginity of my very own. These were in the dark days, when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Since then, I’ve frolicked with all kinds of genitals belonging to all sorts of people and Lo, It Has Been Good. Not all of it, of course. In fact, I went through YEARS of considering sex to be something akin to a chore–“I mean gosh, this boy is my boyfriend and I guess since we did that thing with the sexytimes once, I’m pretty much obligated to just keep on going.” So, you know, I kept on going.

And here’s the thing–there is so totally nothing wrong with that. For a while, I had my share of anger toward that fellow, let us call him My First Boyfriend (for that is what he was), but that’s misdirected anger. The dude was just doing what he thought he was supposed to do, and I was doing what I thought I was supposed to do, and it’s not like either of us legitimately had any clue what our penises and vaginas should do when working in tandem, or really what they could do. I mean, we had watched porn he downloaded off the internet, and we used condoms, so I guess we weren’t doing too badly, but that’s really about it. I had no concept of the fact that I could enjoy sex or what that might mean, and I certainly had no concept that at any point I could have said, “Hey, you know, it turns out that I thought I was ready for sex, but I’m actually not. I think we need to stop having it and go back to waiting.”

This is not a sob fest–like I said, I’m not upset at him, and I’ve forgiven my adolescent self for being a bit silly. What I’m upset about is the lack of proper sex ed.

Sex ed isn’t just about knowing to put a pretty wacky dunce hat on the dude’s peenor before you start waggling it where the sun don’t shine. If you’re super lucky, someone will mention lube. The clitoris might be discussed in a purely anatomical sense (“This here body part doesn’t actually serve any purpose, kind of like your tonsils. Also like the tonsils, your girlfriend will make some really neat noises if you poke her there!”). And dudes? I’m sorry, but you don’t even get a nod to your erogenous zones.

But beyond the concept of the clinically sexy parts of sexytimes, sex ed should be covering the emotional side of sex. Abstinence is actually a great fucking idea when the idea is wait until you are ready. For some people, that’s marriage. For some people, that’s in the back of a Ford Taurus on the first date. For most people, it’s somewhere between those two extremes. But the point is, when you’re having sex as a fully consenting, entirely ready, emotionally prepared individual who understands what’s involved then you’re going to have safe, healthy sex (for the most part. Ain’t nothin’ perfect in this world).

So that’s what I mean when I say that I didn’t understand that I could’ve had any sway over my early sexual encounters.

Sady puts it brilliantly in the chat:

I had been taught “don’t have sex,” and I had been taught about the importance of putting a little rubber outfit on his apparatus if I ever DID have sex. But what I had NEVER been taught, apparently, was how to respect what I wanted, and to ask for it, and how to say “no” if I did NOT want something he wanted. I mean, I didn’t even know how to say “ow” or “yikes.” My impression was that one could Have Sex or Not Have Sex, and so my first few experiences were like, “oh, so apparently sex is AWFUL? It seems weird that people are so into it! But, OK! I am Having Sex!”

As rational, sexually literate adults at this point in our lives, it’s easy to look at that and go “Pfft! Everyone knows that they can say ‘ow ‘ or ‘yikes’ or that actually, they’re NOT ready for sex. I mean, c’mon!” And then I think about it for a little while, and I think about how nervous I can even get with new partners NOW, let alone a decade ago, and it occurs to me that no, I couldn’t have said any of those things. I didn’t grasp that “ow” was a variable in sex–I figured that if it was hurting, it was because there was something wrong with me, and I didn’t think that we could fix it. Even if it could be fixed, I didn’t know how (and poor First Boyfriend didn’t know either). These days I know that if I go “ow!” I probably need to move my hips to adjust the angle, or grab a little lube or something.

Remember that part about how we watched porn from the internet? Dude, they don’t even use lube for BUTTSEX in porn. It’s just all “TA DA! Magical penis penetrates willing (and eerily hairless and colorless) ass and then everyone is MOANING and then HOLY SHIT MOTHERFUCKING MAYONNAISE EVERYWHERE!”

Did this confuse the hell out of me? Of course! Did I have anyone or anywhere to go to sort out this confusion and my fears? Most assuredly no!

The internet was fledgling in those days and I was mostly using it to play text-based roleplaying games and sometimes to read slashfic (which also doesn’t use lube for buttsex, in case you were wondering). My parents were not accessible sources of sexual information (though my dad took me to get birth control), and I was the first sexually active person in my social group so I didn’t have friends to turn to.

Later in life, I discovered women’s health forums online, I began reading books–both fiction and non–that broached the subject of female sexuality and female sexual pleasure, and I started to accumulate self-esteem. Almost six years after I had been having sex, I finally had my first orgasm alone, and that really changed things.

I’m not saying this is the experience everyone has, or that there’s necessarily a brilliant simple fix. However, reading the chat between Amanda and Sady was comforting–apparently, I am not the only one out there! Other people have weird and bizarre and sometimes unpleasant sexual experiences courtesy of the Big Hubbub surrounding virginity and the lack of really actually useful sex ed.

As Sady mentions, useful sex ed would not have changed who she (or I) decided to first sleep with. It probably wouldn’t have changed any number of Less Than Stellar And Brilliant mate selections I’ve made in my life. But it might’ve changed how I had sex with these people, and my ability to know what I wanted, that I could want something, and how to say no (or even “ow” or “yikes”).

Sex: It’s Really Not That Big Of A Deal.

So can we accept that, move on, and just do what we can to make sure that our kids and little siblings and younger friends and nieces and nephews and all those strangers out there in the world are not getting any more messed up over it? There are just such better things to be spazzing out over.

Like good looking people being in our proximity. As if sun, water, and the air trying to give us cancer wasn’t bad enough, now it’s official–the pretty people are trying to kill us all.

05/04/2010. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. 2 comments.

Choosing Fat

It seems like I can’t turn around without someone talking about that woman who has decided to try to gain weight until she’s the fattest woman in the world. (I’m not even going to bother linking to anything; we all know what’s up and I’m pretty sick of reading/listening to people bolster their own self-esteem by comparing themselves to her.)

Jezebel has some interesting reflections today on other women who elect to gain weight intentionally. We’re not talking about people are trying to bulk up a little to keep you from seeing their bones or something, we’re talking intentionally getting fat.

I’ve been rolling this over in my mind for a while, because I think it’s a complex issue.

First off, I definitely see where the fat awareness people are coming from in thinking that this is NOT helping their case. The fat awareness campaigns, as Anna at Jezebel points out, is about people having healthy bodies. Sometimes, for some people, a healthy body includes more “pudge” than our social norms encourage. It’s possible to be active and eat well but still have love handles. The idea that size 12 automatically means unhealthy is well worth countering. However, by intentionally seeking to gain weight, it’s hard to stay healthy.

And you know, I’ll admit–I can be a little size-ist. I’m a size 2 because I eat well and go to the gym and ride my bike a lot. When I don’t, I “balloon” up to a size 4. OH NOES. I mean, I have about eight zillion different body image issues and like a good girl grown in America, I think I’m fat and I obsess and all that, but I don’t know what it’s like to be truly overweight. At my heaviest, I’ve been just shy of a size 8. I really just don’t know what it’s like to be living a healthy lifestyle and yet still get judged as being “a fatty” or “needing to put down the bonbons for once.” Hell, I’ve been on the receiving end of the “woman, would you please eat a sandwich?!” line.

What I’m trying to say is that despite good intentions, I can and do lose sight of the fact that fat–whether true obesity of just our culture’s notion of “fat”–is not necessarily a choice. It’s not something everyone can control. I mean yeah, some people DO get fat because they think getting a diet soda with super-sized McDonald’s lunch and dinner seven days a week is a healthy diet. But that isn’t the norm.

So, you know, having a bunch of people out there purposely trying to gain weight–and going for the fattest woman in the world title, somewhat as a publicity stunt it would appear, because we desperately need the world to think even more that Americans are fat fucks–that’s not helping the people who are healthy and “large.”

On the other hand, I’ve joked before that someday I’m going to totally let myself go and get super fat just so that I can stop dealing with random guys hitting on me in sleazy ways when all I want to do is ride public transit so I can go pick up some groceries or something. But in the end, I am way too well brainwashed to want to stay slim and conventionally attractive in my physique. I don’t worry about whether or not a piercing or tattoo will influence how people see me in quite the same way as I worry about having a second piece of cheesecake. Interesting.

So, there’s part of me that kind of cheers for these ladies for being a pretty brazen kind of cultural rebel. That’s some pretty serious dissent against the dominant paradigm, y’all.

I still don’t know where I stand on this. I still think it’s pretty wild no matter how I view it. Regardless, it’s certain an interesting bit of current events that merits a bit of thinking about.

03/19/2010. Tags: , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

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.

03/04/2010. Tags: , , , , , , , . Uncategorized. 9 comments.

More On The Designer Vagina

The designer vagina: it continues to baffle me.

I mean, I know dudes get anxious about the size of their disco stick and apparently hairiness is a growing concern amongst the more “discerning” menfolk, but I am truly boggled by the ways “desirability” is being defined for the female naughty bits. They must be as smooth as a well-polished linoleum floor, be just the right shade of pink, be tighter than a parking space in the North End, be naturally wetter than monsoon season, smell like a florist while tasting like Cinnabon, and be like a Hungry Hungry Hippo for dick. OM NOM NOM.

This blog just got SORDID. Gents, don't you just wanna slip it into that?

So, I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that there’s an actual laundry list of problems and solutions. Over at Alternet, they’ve put together a list of the 6 Weirdest Things Women Do To Their Vaginas, along with the explanation “why.” I put why in quote marks because honestly, none of it makes a damn bit of sense to me.

I guess what particularly confounds me is that there’s all this hype about how DIRTY and SMELLY and FUNNY TASTING and PROBABLY EVEN EVIL vaginas are, and yet dudes still hunt them like trophy animals on the Serengeti. They will spend all night discussing their terror of vaginas, and yet they seek to “score” as many vagina trophies as possible. (Granted, I am speaking in some pretty serious hyperbole here, but you catch my meaning.) I don’t understand why it is that something so AWFUL can be such a focal point of our culture–female sexuality is basically the foundation of, well, practically everything–and such an integral part of how men define their masculinity, achieve happiness, etc.

It makes me laugh, I suppose, but it’s definitely in the “horrormirth” category. There’s really nothing funny about people doing these awful things to their vaginas in order to be appealing, and there’s nothing funny about the shame and criticism being thrown around. Sometimes, though, I just have to laugh at the ridiculousness of the entire situation.

Ultimately, this is one of those things that I just don’t know how to fight back against. I can speak up and write blog posts–cause, you know, this blog is totally changing the world–and write papers for school, but what am I accomplishing? I don’t know. I don’t know how to combat this kind of institutionalized ridiculousness.

I didn’t mean to end this on a downer. Hopefully I’ll find something cute and happy to end the week with later today!

02/26/2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Domestic Violence is a “pre-existing condition”

I am so angry. SO ANGRY. I can’t even come up with words to express how enraged I am.

According to LiveStrong, domestic violence is considered a pre-existing condition and nine states allow healthcare companies to deny coverage over it.

There’s already an arsenal of reasons why women don’t report domestic violence or get the medical care they need when suffering from DV; adding to the equation the risk of being unable to get health insurance in the future is a very compelling reason why women may continue to keep quiet about violence.

I disagree completely with the idea that insurance companies should be able to deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions; in general it’s a ridiculous concept. However, denying coverage based on having experienced domestic violence is even worse. DV victims are already undergoing severe emotional strains, so to deny health insurance (which they may need to cover their children, or potentially to actually escape their violent relationship) is only going to make the situation worse.

One of the worst parts about denying coverage to DV victims is that it suggests that they will be a continued expense. IE because they have been victimized before, it will probably happen again, and therefore they are high-risk to insure. That smacks of victim-blaming and saying that women are somehow responsible for DV. After all, if the DV incidents weren’t somehow related to the battered person, why would the insurance assume that the violence will continue?

I’m absolutely broiling with anger and sadness about this. I’m fairly certain I have a lot more to say, but I just can’t get my thoughts coherent right now.

Although, as a closing note, I’d like to make mention of the fact that because of my own bias, I did constantly refer to DV victims as women. First off, yes, men are victims of DV as well, and in many ways, they face at least as many hurdles as women do in getting help, due to the stigma on men seeming “weak,” especially compared to a female partner. However, female-on-male DV is only a tiny fraction of the DV problem. Also, homosexual couples often have high rates of DV, and that is certainly not to be overlooked. I wonder, though, how often their DV is actually recorded as such in medical records; do doctors file, say, a gay man who has been battered as being in a fight, or being a DV victim?

Domestic violence is an enormous problem and it stretches umbrella-esque over the lives of victims and into the lives of those around them. Something that may seem contained–such as being unable to get health insurance–is not just an isolated problem but rather a problem with far-reaching ripples of influence, and it is indicative of how many challenges and stigmas still permeate the DV issue.

On top of all that, I’d like to also note that pregnancy is considered a condition for which “most” insurance companies will turn down applicants.

I had so much more I wanted to write about today, too, but then this article showed up and kind of trumped all the less depressing stuff I wanted to write about. Thanks, world, for breaking my heart.

02/17/2010. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. 1 comment.

Dudes: Now Slightly Safer To Try At Home

I have to admit, “how recently he’s had a needle in him” isn’t normally one of the first things I contemplate when considering a potential partner. This might change, though.

The FDA has approved the Gardasil vaccine for men and boys!

The vaccine, given via three doses over a six month period, will cover males ages 9 to 26, protecting against HPV types 6 and 11 (the kind that manifest as genital warts). I’m a little bummed that the vaccine only covers types 6 and 11 in men, when the vaccine for women covers 16 and 18 as well, which can lead to precancerous lesions and cervical cancer. I’d like it if my men were non-precancerous for my pleasure. However, it’s still exciting to see the vaccine approved for use for men, and I hope to start seeing men going out and getting it.

On the other hand, this is WAY overdue. Gardasil for women was initially approved in June of 2006. It should not have taken nearly four years to expand the vaccine to cover men as well.

From a purely selfish standpoint, now most of my friends don’t qualify. 4 years ago, when I was just shy of 21, it seemed like 26 was a perfectly reasonable ceiling. Now I’m only a year out from 26 and most of my friends are over that age mark, yet the majority of us are not in committed monogamous relationships, so an HPV vaccine would be really great. (For those who don’t remember or aren’t in the know, HPV is one of those STDs that isn’t fully prevented by condom use, even if you practice “perfect condom usage.”) We’re talking about a vaccine that can help prevent women from getting cancer–it shouldn’t have taken 4 years to get the vaccine approved for men, and they should be constantly expanding the age range of who can get the vaccine.

I’m happy that they’ve finally got approval for men; I was worried for a while that this would be like the elusive male birth control pill, which keeps getting promised, but never happens (because let’s face it, since us girlfolk have the uterus, it’s totally 100% our responsibility to keep from getting knocked up. The penis is basically irrelevant!). Men and carrying HPV, and if anything, it’s extra important to vaccinate them, because they are less likely to show any symptoms; genital warts represents only a tiny fraction of HPV cases, whereas huge numbers of women will get abnormal pap smear results from HPV. HPV is so prevalent that about 50%–half!–of all sexually active Americans will contact it at some point in their lives. Therefore, it’s absolutely integral that we do what we can to minimize the damages done. In the majority of cases, HPV will be cleaned out by the immune system and you’ll never even show any symptoms, but with such a high percentage of carriers, do you really want to risk ending up with a strain that leads to warts, lesions, or cancer?

Like I said, I’m happy that Gardasil is approved for men. However, it should have happened sooner, and it should be covering more strains. Let’s get on that second part, and while we’re at it, let’s expand the age range of both men and women who can get the vaccine. Then, for the icing on the cupcake, let’s make sure we give access to the vaccine to as many people as possible.

Now that’s a sexy world.

02/09/2010. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Women’s Clinic in Afghanistan

Thanks to my friend Andrew, I got sent this link about a women’s clinic in Afghanistan. How amazing is that? 3 female soldiers have begun a free clinic in Paktika, Afghanistan, to help the local women who are too impoverished to afford the healthcare they need.

I am so impressed, and I absolutely cannot wait to read more!

05/21/2009. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. 2 comments.