Trigger warning: Mentions of sexual abuse
On the book of face last night, a friend shared a meme that's been going around. It's standard issue, on the order of, "These people have the right to make decisions for you about your birth control. You, your doctor, not your boss."
Along comes a nose-in-the-air commenter. "I think we need to divest employment from health insurance," she starts. All right, I'm with you so far.
Then comes the kicker. "But if one can't afford the basics," she continued, "Maybe one should re-think one's sexual habits."
BECAUSE WHORE PILLS ARE ONLY FOR SEX AMIRITE LADIES?!
My mother spent a lot of time in the hospital when I was a kid. Liver failure one time, Addisonian crisis another time, ovarian cancer, and lupus. Whenever she spent a week in a hospital, I was sent to my crazy, overly-strict grandparents' house. I hated it there. During one of these stays, when I was nine years old, I went to pee and noticed a dark brown stain on my underwear. I showed it to my grandmother, who looked surprised and ill-prepared. I didn't get a lot of moral support from her, mostly just a feeling of irritation that I was bothering her with it.
Our Catholic school sex education classes talked briefly about menarche, and about how it "takes a couple of years" for cycles to even out. Mine never did. My periods would show up every six months and drain me dry. I'd go home from school and fall into bed with all my clothes still on. One memorable incident in middle school, I'd fallen asleep in my jeans the night before and wore them again to school the next day. I was bending over a counter in the science room and a classmate piped up, "What's that spot on your jeans?" Stained clothes, stained sheets, and inexorable exhaustion were the name of the game.
When I was 13 my mother got tired of dealing with it and marched me down to our college town's Planned Parenthood. I was humiliated. My body wasn't cooperating, and since my mother's then-husband had a history of molesting me I was especially nervous that he would consider my being on hormonal birth-control as "the go-ahead".
The nurse practitioner took a very brief look. Since I was still a virgin she didn't see any reason to do an internal exam. She did her external exam and prescribed me Ortho-Tricyclen. I waited for a few months until my next period showed up, and began taking them. (Thankfully, my mother left her husband shortly thereafter, so I didn't have to worry about whether I was "asking for it" by being on the pill.)
After a few months of saying to myself, "Oh, this is how this is supposed to work!" I was very grateful to my mother for what she did. I was also very grateful for Planned Parenthood's existence, because we were poor and they were willing to take care of me for free.
I did eventually become sexually active, but in my mind birth control is not forever linked with omgsexytiems.
I tried explaining this to the internet commenter, who shrugged and said, "Yeah my sister has PCOS. And men are responsible for birth control too and that's why I said 'one should' and not 'women should'." Well, fabulous. As soon as men can take a pill that improves their health and reduces their fertility and as soon as their ability to attain that pill is blocked at every turn because of slut-shaming behavior, that'll be relevant.
I began taking the pill for a health reason. I continue to use birth control for health reasons - being able to definitively say I won't get pregnant is something I consider to be a side benefit. I'm on hormonal birth control whether I'm having sex or not. The irony is, the PCOS makes me damn near infertile to begin with. I decided recently that I'd like to have a Mini Simon, and the effort that's going to require is enormous.
I'm incredibly tired of this all. I almost didn't write this, because it's exhausting. I'm shouting into the wind, that not all pill-takers are whores, and not all of the benefits of medication that works on my reproductive organs involve a penis. I'm tired of having to explain over and over my history, of having to be the one to point out the logical fallacies. I'm tired of thinking to myself, "What year is this?" I'm tired of women being told to keep their knees together, when men are complaining about their inability to inseminate and run.
I'm tired of being told to sit down and shut up for the crime of having a vagina and trying to take care of it.