Birth Control is About More Than Pregnancy
It’s time to reframe this conversation
On Wednesday morning, Vox published the following headline: “Poll: 80% say women should be able to have sex for pleasure, not pregnancy.” The article goes on to examine the data from a recent study about American attitudes towards sex, but it’s a little hard to get past the headline, isn’t it? “A new poll on public attitudes toward birth control finds that Americans are pretty progressive about it,” reads the subhead. I guess we’re supposed to be excited that one in five Americans thinks women should only have sex as if they want a freaking child as a result.
The poll was conducted by PerryUndem, “a nonpartisan public opinion research firm in Washington, DC,” and covers topics like whether respondents believe women should have access to affordable birth control, believe birth control impacts women’s freedom or oppose defunding Planned Parenthood. The results, which I hesitate to call good but will call “okay, fine,” indicate that the majority (in many cases close to 70%) of Americans support at least some reproductive freedoms, which paints a slightly more optimistic picture than the grim one we’re seeing in Washington.
Still, a little digging into the study reveals a line of questioning that remains shrouded in sexism. How are we still here? How are we still framing all this as a women’s issue? We knew we wanted to open this conversation on Man Repeller, but we weren’t sure how. Below is the conversation we had in our Slack room trying to figure that out. In the end, we just decided to just publish the dialogue and open it up you guys. How does all this make you feel?
Haley: Yeah definitely
Leandra: We’re working so hard to protect these rights and being so tough but are we doing ourselves a disservice by assuming all of the responsibility?
Haley: I guess it’s good to see is the stats are more in our favor than the news lets on. 80%…
“This point is worth pausing on. One of America’s two major political parties is ideologically committed to policies on women’s health that most Americans don’t agree with at all.”
Leandra: Yeah. Worth pausing on. But not surprising. You know?
Haley: Right…but the rhetoric always makes it seem like half the country disagrees with us, rather than just 20%
Leandra: OBVIOUSLY 80% of Americans think women should be able to have sex for pleasure
Leslie: How is this a discussion/poll? Would we ever do this for men?
Haley: Well, they phrased the question like that to point out how insane it is right? Because really what they’re asking with that question is, “Are you for or against birth control?”
Leandra: Yes, but I think the story is: Why are we even asking? I mean I know why we’re asking, but can we just all take a minute to acknowledge that if we keep getting pregnant, that’s not a female issue. That is a human issue. So in the event ALLTHEBILLS pass and you are a man who knocks up a woman, how about a corresponding bill that legally beholds the sperm donor to child care? I’m speaking in extremes. But I don’t understand why it took me until right now to realize that we are essentially being manipulated into fighting for sexual liberation
Leslie: It is left to a woman to figure it out, pay for it, etc.
Leandra: Which will yield men as the greatest benefactors of this coup
Leslie: It’s bizarre
Leandra: It’s embarrassing. It’s a double standard I had not even considered. Like, what are we fighting for? This way, instead of making noise that resists the bills, we accept but suggest that “male rights” are adjusted accordingly. This sucks
Leslie: There’s a thread of biological determinism that runs through it
Haley: I guess there’s two things about this article. 1. The headline is depressing, yes, but when you read through, the point is: Americans don’t feel as strongly about restricting reproductive rights as all three branches of government are making it seem. Which is good. Or rather, it’s better than if it weren’t true. 2. The fact that we are even asking the question about sex for pleasure is bizarre. It’s weird to see it stated like that. It strips away the context and makes you realize what we’re fighting for. Feels very 1960
Leslie: It also makes you realize that the slut narrative isn’t going away
Haley: Yeah totally
Leandra: Yes the slut narrative is such an important part of this. It feels like an overwhelming manipulation! We’re fighting to stave off unwanted pregnancy? When did that become a female issue? IT TAKES TWO IT CANNOT HAPPEN WITHOUT SPERM.
Leslie: “Some had moral objections to birth control, or balked at the idea that they should have to ‘pay for’ a woman’s choice to have sex.”
Haley: “A woman’s choice” to have sex? Do they know what sex is?
Photo by Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images.