Contraception, Exploitation, and Perversion

As you may know, my How I Lost Faith in the Pro-Life Movement post last November went viral. Well, it’s still being read, and people are still commenting. There’s one response I’ve gotten lots more than once that has really set me back, scratching my head. Here’s an example:

Contraception also perverts sex. What, woman are free to be used by men? Men can now satisfy their lust without any fears of taking responsibility. I wish woman and men were more respected. You are made for more.

The thing is, I remember thinking like this, once upon a time a long time ago. I believed contraception allowed men to exploit women. The basic idea was that if women didn’t have the high cost of pregnancy attached to sex, they wouldn’t have an excuse to fall back on when telling a boyfriend “no.” Further, sex without consequences made it so that men could get what they wanted from women—i.e. sex—without then having to commit to them as part of raising offspring. The problem is that all of this flows from the idea that we feminists have replaced purity/progeny-based sex with, well, nothing, when the reality is that we’ve replaced purity/progeny-based sex with consent-based sex.

Let me see if I can untangle this.

What, woman are free to be used by men?

This idea that women are suddenly open season for exploitation if sex and procreation are decoupled flows from a patriarchal assumption that women are lesser and are only afforded any respect at all because of their mystical and magical ability to bear children. You take away that maternal aspect, and women becoming nothing but trash to be used. In other words, if women didn’t have magical mystical baby-making power, why would men give a fig for them or their well-being, except to keep them around as sex toys? Women’s worth and value and virtue is tied to their role as mothers and givers of life, which becomes their sole role for existing—this is what is meant by the lament for the loss of “respect” for women. More on the concept of respect in a minute.

Men can now satisfy their lust without any fears of taking responsibility.

Satisfy their lust? Men are incapable of forming mutually fulfilling relationships? Men are incapable of approaching women as equals worthy of respect and worth getting to know? I don’t want a man hanging around me with the sole desire of slaking his lust on me, but I don’t want a man respecting my hypothetical desire to not have sex solely because he’s afraid of getting me pregnant, either. Because isn’t that what this sentence says? That the only reason men kept it in their pants outside of serious committed relationships was that they were worried about getting women pregnant and then having to shoulder the burden of helping raise a child? Of course, all of this is predicated on an imagined past, because (a) men did not keep it in their pants outside of serious committed relationships in the past and (b) plenty of men have always shirked the responsibility that comes with childrearing and (c) men have long used women’s inability to control their procreation as a way to control and abuse them, as we see in the current practice of birth control sabotage.

I wish woman and men were more respected.

Yeah, me too, and you’re not helping.

What feminists want is not to free women to be exploited (which by the way, women have always been exploited, contraception or no contraception) but rather for women to be respected as equals, individuals, and fellow humans, not treated as a role, a tool, or a toy. Respect is about viewing women as people rather than seeing them as tools whose only purpose is to serve men, or placing them on a pedestal as an ode to their magical maternal power. Here, let me put it simply: Regardless of what this commenter may think, a person’s ability to respect someone is not tied to that person’s ability to procreate, or, in this case, to that person’s inability to control their ability to procreate.

You are made for more.

You better believe we are. Look, this idea that women have to be able to use “I might get pregnant” as an excuse to get a guy to take her “no” for a “no”—that’s very very rapey. That’s suggesting that men are brutes who push and push and push and can’t possibly be bothered to, I don’t know, respect women’s wishes. Women don’t need excuses for not having sex. Consent is about empowering a person to simply say “no” if she—or he—does not want to have sex—and to have that “no” respected. And personally, I believe consent is a concept men are indeed capable of grasping. I not just think women are capable of way more than simply the biological function of procreation, I also think men are capable of more than simply viewing every contracepting woman they come in contact with through the eyes of a rapist.

Let me make one final point, and it may be the most important point to make here. Women can want sex too. I suspect that the commenter who graced my blog with his comment probably thinks that any woman who has a lot of premarital sex is being exploited. Not so. Women are just as capable of being sexual beings as men are. And yet, you would never see this author suggest that a woman might use contraception to take sexual advantage of the men in her life because she would no longer have to keep her sexual appetite in check for fear of the possibility of pregnancy. Oh no! Women are to be placed on a pedestal, eternally pure, whether virginal or maternal, and having sexual desire would knock her from that pedestal!

Contraception frees women to choose when and if to have children. It gives them control of their lives and their bodies. It enables them to set their own destinies. And if there are men who look at a contracepting woman and see an easy target for exploitation, the problem lies not with contraception but with those men.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • ako

    My first thought in reading that was that a lack of contraception was never a particularly good way of protecting women from exploitation. Yeah, there are some men who are willing to sexually abuse or exploit women, but not risk pregnancy, and are ignorant or unimaginative enough to not be able to figure out how to sexually exploit a woman without intercourse, but they’re an incredibly small subset. When it comes to abuse, what the lack of contraception mostly does is put the women at risk of unwanted pregnancy, which can cause a lot more harm.

    • Baby_Raptor

      And the pregnancy is usually what an abuser *wants,* because kids tie the victim down and make her less likely to leave.

      • Mars

        My 18 year old daughter is pregnant because of a man like this. He was apparently removing the protection right before the end and he freely admitted that he got her pregnant on purpose because “she was a keeper” He also stated that if she had a girl, she was not getting birth control until he had a male child. Thankfully, she’s at home with us now.

      • Baby_Raptor

        Has she checked into pressing charges on him? He just admitted to raping her.

  • Alice

    “Yeah, me too, and you’re not helping.”

    BAM, I so want to steal that line. :) Awesome post all around.

    Side note, I never nitpick, but in this case it could be confusing. The “not” here was a typo: “Respect is not about viewing women as people rather than seeing them as tools whose only purpose is to serve men, or placing them on a pedestal as an ode to their magical maternal power.

  • Jayn

    That the only reason men kept it in their pants outside of serious
    committed relationships was that they were worried about getting women
    pregnant and then having to shoulder the burden of helping raise a
    child?

    Given that men pressuring women to have sex without condoms is apparently a big enough issue that it was dealt with in my sex ed classes, I wouldn’t say that even with contraception available this is really on some men’s minds. As you said, plenty of men have always shirked responsibility after getting a woman pregnant–why would contraception move these men to start taking responsibility before the fact? Some people don’t care how they affect others–the presence of ways to change that effect isn’t going to matter to them.

    • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com/ KevinKat

      And women are free to say “go take a wank” to men who refuse to use contraceptives.

      • Christine

        They are/should be free to say that, but I had to read about a really disturbing study in my Women’s Studies class that suggests they don’t feel free to do so. It was a little bit outdated, but when we looked at condoms (it was a class about technology and gender), we had to read this study that said, basically, that there are lots of women who weren’t comfortable asking the guy they were sleeping with to use a condom. (This study is what made me realise that one of the big indicators for if you were ready to sleep with someone is if you were comfortable discussing condom use with them. Casual sex? You’re not ready for that if you’re uncomfortable asking a near-stranger about condoms. In a relationship? If it’s not at a point where you can discuss testing/condoms, you’re not ready for sex.)

        Even among those who were comfortable doing so, a lot of them would claim it was because they didn’t want to get pregnant, even if they were on the pill, because asking him to use a condom for any other reason wasn’t comfortable enough for them.

        We have to remember that just because a mechanism exists to solve a problem, it doesn’t follow that everyone will be able to use that mechanism.

      • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com/ KevinKat

        Another of the problems is the stigmatization of sex. We’re afraid of seeming like sexual beings and therefore we don’t want to actually talk about what we want and how we want it. Sex should be a fun time of discovery, and we spend most of it worried about what our partners are going to think.
        I approach my sex life in a very positive way. Consent, communication, and exploration are all critical to my relationship.
        If we didn’t get so unnecessarily freaked out about the prospect of enjoying sex, then we’d be so much better for it in the end.

  • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com/ KevinKat

    Besides that, building a relationship on the premise of “I don’t want to have sex with you unless you’re having a baby from it” is a really shitty way to treat someone you, supposedly, care about enough to form a relationship with.
    Do these people think of women as anything other than a vessel for a baby? I love my girlfriend, she and I are very much in sync and have a lot of fun together. She’s got dreams and desires more than “baby” and I want to help her get there.

    • stacey

      Of course they see women as more than vessels for pregnancy!
      We are also suppose to be helpmeets, servants, and sex dolls for our husbands.

  • Baby_Raptor

    If by “more” and “respect,” this commenter means a life of being some guy’s baby machine, then no-Fucking-thanks. I’ll keep my low self-esteem and “amounting to nothing.”

  • jhlee

    Are infertile women then worthless or fair game for exploitation by this commenter’s logic? What a creepy way of thinking.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    The thing is, I remember thinking like this, once upon a time a long time ago.

    I often read things on this blog that I totally relate to, having grown up in a conservative Christian home.

    And then, sometimes I read things on this blog like this post, and realise that there are some parts of your life that I’ll never relate to – because, conservative or not, I wasn’t raised in a fundamentalist home.

    …this is something I’m rather glad I can’t relate to.

    • LizBert

      This anti-contraceptive rationalization is also very Catholic, it was during marriage preparation that I heard it for the first time.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Yuck. My marriage counseling (with my childhood rabbi) was pretty simple. It went mostly like:

        So have you talked about religion? Good. It could still be tricky in a mixed marriage so keep communication open.
        Finances? Yeah, you’ve already talked about those too? And you mostly agree on them? Good.
        Children? You agree on those too? Excellent.
        Well, you two obviously get along pretty well, you both want to marry the other, and you’ve talked about the big stuff. See you at the wedding!

      • LizBert

        We had months of classes and meetings. We had to take an NFP class and we missed a “retreat” at the church where we live and had to drive 150 miles to another church one Saturday to watch a 7 hour DVD series with fill-in-the blank workbook about “God’s Plan for a Joy Filled Marriage.” It was outrageous. They literally told us that anal sex is ok as long as when the man ejaculates it is in the woman’s vagina. Because god doesn’t have better things to care about.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        That doesn’t sound fun at all.

      • LizBert

        I think it was designed to test our true commitment.

      • Pofarmer

        It’s not. Been there done that.

      • Olive Markus

        Infection much?

        Who sits around and makes up these rules???

      • Beutelratti

        People who suppress their “natural” urges and accuse others of suppressing and ignoring their own nature.

      • Ibis3

        Just to clarify in case anyone out there is unaware: DO NOT do that–switch from anal to vaginal sex without cleaning the penis (or other object) or changing condoms in between. Doing so can lead to infection.

      • ArachneS

        DH and I had the NFP classes like that too LizBert, except that the couple teaching our class said something to the effect of “the anus isn’t made for sex and we don’t know why someone would ever want that, but all kinds of sex need to finish with the ejaculation in the vagina, so….”

        Being from a old traditional catholic family who never talked about sex… ever, this was the first I had heard about the “official catholic rule” on what catholic sex is supposed to be like. Nevertheless, at the time what I mostly took from it was- pulling out was a sin, using a condom was a sin, for the purpose of preventing that semen from finishing in that vagina… A year or so later, I heard the song “Every Sperm is Sacred” and this is the first thing I thought of.

  • Niemand

    Just to note, one technique (male) abusers use to tie their (female) victims to them is sabotaging birth control so that their victim becomes pregnant and is pressured to stay with their abuser “for the sake of the baby”. Contraception is one of the things that has made it possible for women to walk away from relationships that are or become abusive.

    • ako

      Very true. Even before you factor in the social stigma against single mothers, pregnancy creates a lot of added practical and emotional pressure for a woman to stay with the one who got her pregnant and try to stick things out.

      • Niemand

        In case you were looking for this sort of thing…one article on birth control sabotage in women who are physically abused (with lots of references to other studies documenting similar abuse):

        http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0010782409005228

      • http://www.allourlives.org/ TooManyJens

        The lead author of that study also worked on a pilot program that counseled women in abusive relationships on reproductive coercion and helped them access birth control. Not only were the women in the pilot study less likely to have an unintended pregnancy, they were more likely to leave their abusers. I feel this may have been not just because they didn’t have a child connecting them with their abusers, but also because they had someone actively telling them, “this is a problem. You don’t deserve to be treated this way,” and supporting them in getting what they wanted.

        http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0010782410004117

      • Little_Magpie

        Which means that the study may be flawed as statistically meaningful, but the researchers were doing the right (humane) thing.

    • persephone

      It happened to me.

      • Olive Markus

        My abuser tried. He used various means.
        I have emails he wrote after I’d left him declaring that his biggest regret was that he hadn’t forced me to have a baby, so that I’d always be in his life. Note: He never said he wished we had a child together, but that he’d forced me to have one. In his mind, he was within his right to force me had he been able to get me pregnant.

      • jhlee

        Ugh, I need a shower after reading that. I’m so sorry you ever had this asshole in your life, and hope only good things come your way from now on.

      • Olive Markus

        Thank you so much! I am sorry, too, but only thrilled that he is gone (mostly). I have a great man now :D .

      • Saraquill

        I’m happy for you that you are no longer with him.

      • Olive Markus

        Thank you so much :) . Me, too!

      • persephone

        Yes, children tie you together forever. Even with a protective order, because of the children we still have some interaction.

      • Olive Markus

        So true. I’ve watched it happen before, and the fact that you are forced to share custody of your child with an abuser? I don’t have words. It is the stuff of nightmares :( .

        ETA: I didn’t read your post correctly and hadn’t realized what you said. I’m so incredibly sorry that you’ve had to go through this :( . I can’t even imagine and words fail me. You have my deepest sympathies and all the hope that you have supportive friends and family. Please take care of yourself as much as possible. **HUGS**

      • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com/ Basketcase

        Upvoted to show my support of you and your success at getting away from that creep. Yeuck.

      • Olive Markus

        I truly appreciate your show of support. I can’t emphasize enough how this blog and the stories and encouragement from posters here have helped me. It has been many years since I left, but many of the things I’d gone through didn’t start to make sense until I began reading and participating in this blog. I have done a lot of processing, questioning and healing in the last couple of years. It seems trite just to say Thank You, (or maybe overdone, I don’t know :D ) but I mean it with all of my heart. To all of the participants here.

      • southwestofTX

        Me too.
        But I aborted mine (true story).

      • Olive Markus

        Had pregnancy occurred in my situation, I would have done exactly the same. The idea of sharing a child with that man makes my hair stand on end. No way.

  • kisarita

    and how is forcing a woman to bear children she doesn’t want , how is that NOT exploiting her body? An unwanted pregnancy is nine months long use of her body. (not to mention motherhood which is forever. )

    • http://yllommormon.blogspot.com/ aletha

      You wrap it up in a package that says “Babies are the love of God”; then make her think she wants children, or else what good is she?

      • Niemand

        And how is this sort of gaslighting not emotional abuse and exploitation?

      • Kate Monster

        Because of Jesus.

      • Rosie

        “or else what good is she?” Which is why I seriously considered suicide instead of abortion when I had an unwanted pregnancy. Fortunately I was far enough out of the church at that point to not actually try it.

  • Trollface McGee

    Men are 100% sexual, women are asexual. There can be no middle ground as men and women are completely different in everything they do, especially sex. That’s why they see women who are sexual as being exploited and why they assume every lesbian has been abused, because no normal woman would ever want something like sexual pleasure, they want babies and they like making men happy. Men get horny, women start thinking about baby booties to get in the mood.

    I don’t even know how you fit in married straight couples into this argument. Are they just supposed to have sex when they want a baby..I know every sperm is sacred and good and all but really.

    • Jayn

      It just hit me how totally effed up the double standard is. If a woman has sex with a man, she’s not respecting herself. If a man has sex with a woman, he’s not respecting her. While they do ultimately want BOTH sexes to abstain, they totally frame it around a woman’s body and nothing else. It’s read as a sign of low self-esteem for a woman to be sexual, but not a man, nor is it a sign of low respect towards men for a woman to want to have sex with a man without being willing to give him a child. They’re trying to show respect for women, but they’re doing so in a way that assumes men need to be coerced into giving it. Men get respect, women have to demand it (and we’re not even really allowed to demand it, as Debi so vibrantly points out)

      • Newbie

        And did it ever occur to these people that there are plenty of women who may want to bring home a boy toy, have her way with him and toss him to the side when she’s done? In that scenario, the man is the one who might feel disrespected if he had real feelings for her, and the woman is the one who took advantage of contraceptives to “exploit” that man. But I suspect that such a hypothetical might cause that commenter’s head to explode.

    • gimpi1

      Unless I’m mistaken, Trollface, this is part of what led the Mormons to embrace polygamy.

      The logic went like this: Sex with your wife when she couldn’t conceive (such as when she was already pregnant or nursing) was sinful, because it was lustful, not procreative. Men avoiding sex with their pregnant wives to avoid sin would have no sexual outlet, and so would be tempted to go to brothels or cheat on their wives, also sinful. In fact even thinking about such actions was sinful. The solution, have several wives, so one of your wives would always be fertile, and thus available for sex without sin.

      Amazing the contortions we tie ourselves up in, when we decide to make consensual sex without procreation a sin.

      • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com/ Basketcase

        I had to say something, but I really dont know what to say. Thats kind of shocking, and yet, I can actually understand that logic, awful as it is, in the context of these sorts of communities.

    • LizBert

      Thinking about baby booties would totally kill my mood. Like shot in the head and run through with a sword.

      • trinity91

        me too, and I actually want children.

    • realinterrobang

      Do any of you suspect the dichotomy Trollface McGee brings up is a natural consequense of a culture that operates strictly around subtractive masculinity (i.e. the idea that anything a woman is, a man cannot be, definitionally)? I definitely see intimations of it in some of the rhetoric that implies that women taking control of their sex lives “emasculates” (or “feminizes”) men.

  • BobaFuct

    I think the underlying assumption behind comments like this is that women have no free agency when it comes to sex…it’s just something they do because men want it. Apparently, that’s okay when children are a possibility, because men won’t force themselves on women with reckless abandon…but take away the consequences and men are just sexual Huns looking for the next village to plunder.

    I guess that, if you admit that women actually like to have sex and are just as horny and lustful as men, then they lose both their virtue and vulnerability…Christian patriarchy is all about protecting virtue, but if a woman is just as sexual as a man and thinks the same “impure” thoughts and has the same urges, then Christian men are left with nothing to “protect” them from and lose the upper hand.

    • The_L1985

      They’d hate me. I have always had to slow myself down in relationships, because I always wanted sex way before my SO at the time was ready!

      So, not only was I definitely at least as lustful as a young man, I also was perfectly capable of holding it in check until my partner was also ready. I handily disprove everything purity culture says about “why unmarried people have sex” from those two facts alone! To say nothing of, oh I don’t know, THESE:

      - I want to have children, but not right now.

      - I view marriage as an important commitment, but not as a requirement for sex.

      - I have no problems with people using BCPs for birth control and/or medical reasons.

      - I don’t “use sex to get” anything. I have sex because I’m horny and my partner consents. Using it as a bargaining chip would just cheapen it.

      • smrnda

        I like that you mentioned that you’re not using sex to get anything – it’s so hard for these people to grasp that women might actually just want sex sometimes for its own sake.

  • John Kruger

    Does this commenter realize that when a woman is already pregnant it is also impossible to conceive (again)? Are all pregnant women also free to be used? Children cannot get pregnant either, I suppose there is nothing stopping them from being used as well. What about other men? The idea that as a man I am a thoughtless sexual user held back by only the risk of pregnancy is really insulting.

    This is just a bald rationalization, anything that can punish the bad, bad sex should never be prevented, because if there is no punishment people will run amok. Dream up something that supports your preconceived notion and run with it, regardless of how true it might actually be. Too sad.

  • centaurie

    Let me make one final point, and it may be the most important point to make here. Women can want sex too. I suspect that the commenter who graced my blog with his comment probably thinks that any woman who has a lot of premarital sex is being exploited. Not so. Women are just as capable of being sexual beings as men are. And yet, you would never see this author suggest that a woman might use contraception to take sexual advantage of the men in her life because she would no longer have to keep her sexual appetite in check for fear of the possibility of pregnancy. Oh no! Women are to be placed on a pedestal, eternally pure, whether virginal or maternal, and having sexual desire would knock her form that pedestal!

    THIS.

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

      Seconded.

  • KarenJo12

    Thank you. I read a lot of Catholic stuff, mainly to try and understand my husband’s family. Everyone who approves of the Catholic ban on contraception mentions that women aren’t “respected” if they use contraception. You have provided me with the best response to that argument and the best translation of what those people are really saying. Women are only our magic baby powers; our minds and other organs are a waste of space.

    • smrnda

      Respect is something people tend to define on their own terms. Respect for most women (me for example) requires that my ability to make decisions like that for myself be respected and that I don’t have what I want get second-guessed.

      If a guy can’t respect a woman because she’s using contraception, that seems like his problem.

  • Niemand

    I wish woman and men were more respected. You are made for more.

    Just wanted to comment on this bit. Most people in modern, western society have gotten the idea that they can’t run around saying that women are less important, capable, independent, etc than men and be taken seriously. But they can couch the same sentiment in rhetoric that superficially sounds like they’re trying to empower women or prevent exploitation or otherwise increase equality. As here: the commenter talks about wanting women and men to be “respected” and “you are made for more” where presumably the “you” is Libby or other women or about how he wants women to not be exploited by men.

    Respect, being able to be more, not being exploited…that all sounds good. But it is quickly obvious that the commenter is not interested in giving women “more” (or making it easier for them to obtain “more” by their own efforts with fewer barriers). Instead, the commenter is interested only in limiting women, restricting their roles, forcing them to choose between their sexual beings and their ambition to be anything more than only the mother to an unlimited and uncontrolled number of children*.

    So, I have a rule: If I see someone posting any rhetoric about how they want to make women “free” or “more” or that they are the true feminists, I look at what they are proposing. If the proposal limits women’s choices rather than expanding them, I do not consider that a feminist view. Including some “radical feminist” propaganda that talks about how evil birth control is or how science is a male construct or any other gender essentialist nonsense. But especially men whose idea of “being more” (for women) is all about making sure that women spend all their time pregnant or with small children.

    *There is nothing wrong with having any number of children you choose. But most women, given free choice, will chose to have 0-4 and have interests other than being pregnant and taking care of babies. Maybe that ambition is to spend lots of time with their older children or to have a career or to be a lady of leisure. Whatever. It’s not possible to fulfill that ambition if you are always pregnant or raising small children.

    • Lunch Meat

      “You can have ‘more,’ as long as the ‘more’ you want is what I think you should have more of (and you’re having less of what I don’t think you should have).”

      • Niemand

        Yeah, the underlying assumption here is that women are foolish little girls who don’t know what their “real” wishes are and what is “really” in their best interests. And so need men to tell them…

      • Beutelratti

        That is exactly what always bugs me about this way of thinking. No matter how much that person claims to respect me, they are always denying my agency to some degree. My experiences don’t matter, my opinions don’t matter, my desires don’t matter. They cannot be what I perceive them to be, because they don’t fit their way of thinking.

  • Plutosdad

    That commenter really makes me uncomfortable, what a creepy comment. “you are made for more”.. therefore he/she wants to make you dependent on men and random chance? It seems to me the commenter wants you to be LESS, not more, by making sex have life changing consequences, and making sex the most important issue of your life.

  • Fledgeling Feminist

    Twisting words…similar to the Boykin’s titling their book “So Much More.”

  • http://www.allourlives.org/ TooManyJens

    The idea that a woman has to give up her ability to prevent conception so that she’ll have a good enough “excuse” to say no to a man she doesn’t want to have sex with (because her desire not to have sex with him isn’t a good enough reason) is horrifying. To see it put forward under the guise of elevating women just makes me want to pull the covers over my head and cry.

    “And if there are men who look at a contracepting woman and see an easy
    target for exploitation, the problem lies not with contraception but
    with those men.”

    This. Why is this so hard to understand?

  • Abby Normal

    -My mom was in a homeschool group with some Catholic women who didn’t use birth control, and she told me that they all seemed to HATE sex. There was always one of the women griping about her husband “getting amorous again”. Well, duh, how can sex be something you look forward to when it always results in another pregnancy?

    It almost makes me wonder whether the wacky ideas that these folks get about female desire is due in part to sort of a self-fulfilling prophesy–the woman grows to dislike sex because she gets tired of being pregnant all the time, and the man just assumes that women must just not like sex in general.

    It’s a crappy basis for a marriage, if you ask me.

    • MyOwnPerson

      Truth. Sex is so much better without the dark cloud of pregnancy hanging over it.

    • Niemand

      I got pregnant after having sex once. It was deliberate and wanted, but the pregnancy was pretty miserable, with a lot of nausea and a very painful, life-threatening delivery. It took me a while to get over the fear that that would happen again even knowing I was protected by birth control. I can’t imagine how scary it would be to have sex knowing that another pregnancy could come at any moment.

    • Leigha7

      That reminds me of a pamphlet I read awhile back from shortly after birth control came out (it was from some sort of archive site, but I don’t remember which). It had a story of this married couple who really loved other and enjoyed having sex with each other, but they couldn’t afford to have any more kids, so they were desperately trying to keep their hands OFF each other, and it was tearing their marriage apart. They were considering splitting up, and then they learned about birth control and it saved everything.

      I was far from being alive at that time, but it really made me wonder how common that sort of story was. I sometimes think people don’t realize just how drastically the Pill changed everything (kind of like vaccinations, which I *know* people don’t realize, given the things I hear from anti-vaccination people and how they’d rather risk their kid dying from a serious illness than give them horrible awful vaccines that may have a tiny, tiny chance of a side effect). We owe a lot to that invention.

  • Abby Normal

    Oh, and if a man really has designs on taking advantage of a woman, since when has “Oh noes, I might get her pregnant!” been enough to stop him?

    • Niemand

      A couple who are dating might decide between them that they don’t want to risk pregnancy and therefore not have sex. That is, a decent man who is interested in his partner as a person would take that into account and might decide WITH HER, that that is the right thing to do. And as a result, they will miss out on the fun and bonding experience of sex and get literally nothing in return.

      A still fairly decent but more patriarchal man might decide that he isn’t going to have sex with a woman he’s courting because he wants to “do the right thing” by her. But then he may want sex badly enough to start pressuring her into marrying him so that they can have sex and still be respectable. And she may want sex with him badly enough that she agrees, even if she has doubts about marrying in general or marrying him in particular. Result: high risk marriage.

      A man with no interest in a woman at all except as a sex toy will not be stopped by the risk of pregnancy, unless he thinks he’ll “get caught”. So he will probably go ahead and have sex with her but put the “blame” for the sex on her: she’s a slut or is trying to trap him into marriage. Result: the woman gets pregnant and blamed for it.

      In short, even if some men are stopped by the risk of pregnancy, it does not lead to better outcomes.

      • Ibis3

        A still fairly decent but more patriarchal man might decide that he
        isn’t going to have sex with a woman he’s courting because he wants to
        “do the right thing” by her. But then he may want sex badly enough to
        start pressuring her into marrying him so that they can have sex and
        still be respectable. And she may want sex with him badly enough that
        she agrees, even if she has doubts about marrying in general or marrying
        him in particular. Result: high risk marriage.

        Or he may think of *this* woman he’s courting as reserved for his pleasure and legitimate procreative purpose at a later date, and *those* women over there as mere objects for any man’s use and who cares if pregnancies result, they are whores/sluts/society’s trash in any case. There will be child slaves and street urchins and kids dying of starvation and infants exposed and grim institutions where the children too will be sexually exploited, but that’s not his concern.

        We’ve seen this play before. But as the Botkin sisters post illustrated, these people live in their own bubble where the past is a high class Victorian drawing room in an English manor except everyone is a Puritan American.

      • Nancy Shrew

        *snort* Even the Victorians are too sexy for them. That’s great.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        I’m pretty sure the Puritans would have been weirded out by a lot of the Botkin stuff, especially the “daddy is my boyfriend” thing. That was most definitely not the Puritan ethos.

        Victorians were permitted to kiss once they were engaged. WAY to sexy!

  • JBH

    The line “you are made for more” reminds me of the “I’m worth waiting for” program they taught in my junior high (public, but in a small southern conservative town). I have so much hate for the idea behind both of them, that having sex somehow taints you and makes you worth less. That message caused me a lot of pain growing up, and it took me years to really get past it and have a healthy attitude about sex.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      The problem is, “I’m worth waiting for” does have a germ of a good idea in it. Waiting for sex until one is ready (nothing to do with marriage per se, just do I want to and do I feel responsible enough to) is a good idea. I know a friend of mine who was told something similar did indeed wait longer than she would have, by recognizing the pressure her then-boyfriend was applying on her and refusing to have sex she really didn’t want to have. She had sex later, when she was ready, and was very glad she had waited that extra year or two. What she took away was that she was not a sex toy and her desires mattered; if she didn’t want to have sex, she shouldn’t, and if that was all a guy wanted her for he wasn’t worth dating.

      Like most evangelical/fundamentalist things, though, the germ of a good idea gets twisted into a shaming, blaming, soul-crushing (yeah, ok, there’s no souls but you get the picture) idea.

      • JBH

        I agree, everyone should feel like they can wait to have sex until they are ready. They should also feel okay making the choice to have sex when they are ready and know how to make responsible, safe choices. I think all of those things are equally important, and each should be given the same weight.

        “I’m worth waiting for” puts a lot of emphasis on one of those things and ignores the other two. It took me a long time to feel okay trusting my own desire – that I could really choose to have sex and and enjoy sex and that was okay. In the end, the program was just another way to pressure me into acting the way someone else wanted me to act instead of having confidence in my own decisions.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Nodnod. One of the reasons such programs are so insidious is that they do have some good ideas in them, but those ideas get crushed under the weight of purity culture and thus do more harm than good. I’m sorry you had to go through such a program and the self-doubt that it instilled in you.

      • Nate Frein

        And when you criticize the program for the purity crap, they turn around and spin a narrative of how you want thirteen year olds to just sleep with anyone.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        I know! The automatic, defensive straw-manning gets tiresome.

  • Nightshade

    So they are saying that contraception can be used against women? So can mace or pepper spray, so why not take those away from women too? Or kitchen knives?

  • Beutelratti

    I also always wonder how rape plays into this “Birth control is being disrespectful to women”-scenario. If a woman is on the pill or has an IUD, she is protected against pregnancy from rape as well. A woman not on birth control is not protected and do rapists really care if they get women pregnant or not?

    I somehow get the impression that the possible child that results from a pregnancy from rape scenario again becomes punishment, this time not for the woman, but for the rapist. You disrespected the woman, so here’s a child that you have to pay for. And again it doesn’t matter that it was the woman that had to be pregnant and give birth against her will. The woman always gets erased. There’s just men and there are “unborn children”.

    • Anon

      ‘I somehow get the impression that the possible child that results from a pregnancy from rape scenario again becomes punishment, this time not for the woman, but for the rapist. You disrespected the woman, so here’s a child that you have to pay for’

      Except that outcome has one of three consequences and none of them are exactly good.

      Best Case: Rapist was prosecuted to the full extent of the law and is serving a very long sentence in prison. At which point he cannot help pay for the child.

      Worse Case: Rapist is not caught and prosecuted because he goes underground and cannot be found. Because of this he will not pay for the child.

      Worst Case: Rapist is not caught and prosecuted and then in order to get child support the victim must put his name down as the father of the child. Meaning that he could sue for custody and then the whole thing comes out in that court. Yes the mother gets child support but she also has to live with her rapist being free.

      • Niemand

        Even more worst case scenario: Man claims it was consensual sex, is believed, sues for custody and wins or wins joint custody and woman is stuck with coparenting with her rapist or having her rapist be the primary parent of her child. In some countries, possibly including the US, she may be ordered to marry her rapist.

      • Beutelratti

        Yes, you are right, I haven’t thought this through completely. I guess I just assumed that your worst case scenario was most likely, because I somehow find it hard to disengage the “contraception means disrespecting women”-crowd from the victim blaming-crowd. So in my mind the most likely outcome was that the man would be somewhat blamed but not really, because the woman had it coming.

      • Whirlwitch

        In some parts of the US, as well as other places in the world, if a rapist is identified as a father, he has custody rights, even if the court agrees that he is a rapist. So your second Worst Case would also include “rape victim and her child are both forced into contact with rapist, with rapist having some degree of parental control over child”. This also happens pretty much everywhere if the court does not accept that he is a rapist, which is very very possible.

    • Kate Monster

      Quite creepily, many of these sects also view pregnancy-from-rape as God sort of giving the woman a silver lining. Sure, you were attacked and may be scarred for life both mentally and physically–but hey! you got an adorable little gift from God too! It’s an argument you see frequently when anti-choice activists try to justify the belief that women who have been raped don’t deserve the option to abort.

      • Beutelratti

        Actually, I’ve seen that sort of thinking before from a rape survivor. She had a child and now is very much anti-choice even though she considered abortion. She says abortion was murder and children from rape are a gift from God and who are we to question him? It’s perverse if you think that through. The only logical conclusion is that God is okay with rape.

  • TLC

    “Contraception also perverts sex. What, woman are free to be used by men? Men can now satisfy their lust without any fears of taking responsibility.”

    Obviously, the commenter has no concept of howw historically, women have been used by men simply because women were considered property, and were forced to comply with men’s desires. And historically, men were able to satisfy their lusts without taking responsibility. Sadly, making contraception available to women hasn’t changed this in many places around the world, even today.

    I think this commenter’s biggest hangup is the freedom implied here. Being able to choose to use contraception implies that a woman is intelligent and wise enough to decide that she doesn’t want a baby at this time. It means she has the freedom to select a birth control method that works best for her and her partner. And then she is free to use the finances, intellect, time and other resources she has to create and maintain a meaningful life. This seems to be a very foreign concept to the “purity” folks and their extremely limited view of possibilities for women’s lives.

  • MyOwnPerson

    I think this guy has got it totally backwards. Historically, the burden of contraception has been on women. If women didn’t want to be pregnant, it was their job to keep their legs closed. Babies were just something that happened as a result of sex. With modern contraception more of the responsibility of procreation falls on the man. When sex is decoupled from babies, babies are something that responsibility can be taken for, rather than the result of men slaking their lusts.

    • Newbie

      Exactly. If you take into account that an unwanted pregnancy will be a lot harder on the woman than on the man (since she’s the one carrying it and it’s generally easier for him to run off and avoid responsibility), it’s the women who now have the same opportunity to have casual sex for fun only, which has been acceptable for men to do for centuries.

  • Katherine Hompes

    There is a saying- that a pedestal is just as confining as any prison.

    I’d much rather live free on the ground, thanks.

    • Hilary

      Yeah, that one comes to my mind a lot too, with these “I’ll respect you to death in this little tiny space to exist” types.

  • J-Rex

    I always wonder how people like this rationalize relationships between long-term couples that use birth control. I think they imagine that people who use BC are out partying and having sex all the time with the men being the ones pushing for it and leaving girls without calling them the next day and having no consequences, and the girls are just going along with it because they’re stupid and thought the guy loved them!
    But what about in healthy relationships? How is anyone being exploited simply by not having kids? My boyfriend and I have sex because it’s fun and we love each other, but we also hang out with people, watch movies, cook dinner, etc. What do they think happens? In their world, me and my boyfriend have sex that I don’t want all the time and I’m left alone and crying while he goes off to find other women who he can bang without getting pregnant.

    Why can’t they let go of their narrative that women hate sex and love babies?
    Since I want more sex than my boyfriend, am I the one exploiting him?
    If women don’t get horny, why are there vibrators?

    • Gillianren

      My boyfriend and I have been together for ten years. Our only child is eighteen days old. We decided when we wanted to start trying, and I believe we’re happier for it. Certainly we have a better relationship together than we would if we’d had kids immediately.

      • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com/ Basketcase

        Congratulations Gillianren :) My husband and I have been together a little over 5 years, and our only child is just about 4 months old. Like you, we decided when we would start trying, and it certainly was NOT as soon as we got married!

    • Christine

      If women don’t get horny, why are there vibrators?
      Because society is going to Hell, didn’t you know that?? /sarcasm

      • Kate Monster

        I thought it was because feminism and evolution turned all the nice, ladylike women into manlike slut monsters.

      • Ashton

        I suddenly want a tshirt or pin that says “Slutmonster” on it.

  • Ibis3

    Moreover, this focus on single women “giving the milk away for free” so no one will want to marry buy them, completely overlooks that the majority of women using contraception are married and often already have one or more children. Presumably, the man most important in her life already “respects” her.

    Women generally use contraception so that they can provide well for a couple of children instead of poorly for many–assuming that they would even survive so many pregnancies in good health. How was such a situation respectful toward women in any sense? People suffered it because they had no choice. Now we do and they want us to surrender it, so children can still be the punishment women have for having sex, whether in or out of wedlock.

  • Lucreza Borgia

    Do married couples who use BC not exist according to the commentator?

    • Ella Warnock

      Well, yes, but our sex is “perverted.” What that means to the commenter, I have no idea.

      • MyOwnPerson

        In this context perverted must mean awesome.

      • Kate Monster

        In MANY contexts, really…

      • Beutelratti

        Actually, I still remember how as kids we called pretty much everything that was related to sex “perverse”. It seems like some people never grow out of that phase…

      • Lucreza Borgia

        Possibly. All too often, I see these types talking about how if only us wimmins kept our legs closed and waited for marriage, we wouldn’t need abortion or birth control because, somehow, marriage magically makes those things superfluous?

      • Niemand

        Well, yes, but our sex is “perverted.”

        Only on really good days. Oh, oops, did I say that out loud? (walks away looking innocent.)

  • Saraquill

    “Men can now satisfy their lust without any fears of taking responsibility.”

    Now? Men and women have been having consequence free lust since the invention of masturbation.

    • Hilary

      Like . . . like . . . like . . . with batteries included!

  • Ella Warnock

    “Contraception also perverts sex. What, woman are free to be used by men?”

    Not one of these anti-contraception types have ever been able to tell me how my tubal ligation renders me “free to be used by men.” Oh really, just any random man can just come along and, what, somehow telepathically know that I’m “barren,” so it’s on like Donkey Kong? I suspect the fact that I’ve been happily married for 26 years is what really throws them off, and I also suspect that they just ignore that fact or claim that I must be lying because it doesn’t fit into their tidy little paradigm. Whatever.

    All contraception ever did for us was assure that we would remain childfree. And childfree women really cause their heads to explode, so I further suspect that they just convince themselves that we really don’t exist.

  • Rachel Heston-Davis

    This reminds me of my short stint trying out NFP (not for religious reasons).

    One of the reasons they presented NFP as a good thing was, basically, “Well otherwise your partner just expects sex sex sex all the time every night and this frees you up to actually have a real relationship because you can’t have sex all the time.”

    It made me wonder, in all seriousness, if these people had really done any research (hell, even asked around with a few friends) of couples who actually use contraception. Their view of how a relationship functions when contraception is involved was so off-the-wall that there were many times where I wanted to speak up and say “Actually, that has not been my experience, nor the experience of the other five married couples that we are very close with.” It was like they assumed that if sex was constantly possible, that couples do nothing else, and that they neglect the actual root of the relationship. Again I ask….did they do ANY research into how real couples actually function?

    • Gillianren

      My boyfriend has a lower sex drive than I do. We probably spend more time watching movies together than having sex. Especially these days!

    • Lucreza Borgia

      Apparently, men can only show their love with their penis. Denying them sex forces men to pursue other activities such as chopping wood to seem manly while you stare at him lovingly with a cold beer on hand for the exact moment he becomes thirsty. Or something…

    • smrnda

      My encounters with some religious people make me think that, in some religious subcultures, it’s actually believed that men *only want sex* and that only by forcing a man to jump through hoops or go without it, they’ll never do anything else with a woman for any reason. This might apply to some guys but those guys are people with serious issues and aren’t ready for relationships. If the only way to get a guy to have a conversation is to promise sex, or deny him sex until he does it, that guy is *not relationship material.*

      Guys like that probably ended up that way by getting warped by purity culture.

    • Olive Markus

      I railed against a woman on the Pro-Life Movement thread last week about that very thing, perhaps a little more viciously than I should have. NFPers love to proclaim that the abstinence required in their method is good for their relationship, as an argument for their method and against contraception. My mind boggles (and explodes in anger) at the arrogance and the refusal to notice that real couples in real relationship abstain all of the time, we simply don’t schedule our abstinence around a chart.

    • Christine

      That was my husband’s reaction too. It wasn’t pushed quite as heavily (I suspect that the nurse who did our instruction may have not believed it, but was required by SERENA to make that claim), but while he was polite, he did point out that he was a little skeptical of that, and inquired as to the source for the statistic.

      Why is it so hard to find other places to learn how to chart your cycle? The anti-birth control religious aren’t that large a percentage religious population even, not to mention the general population. And once you take the subset of those who are willing to use some birth control, as long as it’s “natural”, there’s no way that the majority of people who want to learn NFP actually buy into the religious agenda. Do most people just use books, and having an instructor (or teaching couple) is just a propaganda trick on the part of the religious groups? Or are there ways to learn how to chart properly (and I frankly believe that a lot of people wouldn’t know how to do it without help) that I don’t know about?

      • Olive Markus

        I’ve learned how using the book “Taking Control of Your Fertility,” several iPhone APPs (at one time :) ), and various websites. I am tracking my cycles as a tool to help balance my hormones, not as birth control, however, so the stress to get everything just so doesn’t exist for me. I’m fascinated by it and diligent enough, but I don’t stress about it at all. I can miss a day or two, know that my temperature is weird because I hardly slept and refused to get up earlier than I need/want to and be 100% fine with that. I’m more fascinated by seeing these correlations. If I had to do this for birth control, I think the stress would give me a breakdown. Using it is as a loose educational tool is kind of fun :) . And I realize over time that I was interpreting wrong, seeing signs wrong, or whatever, but it’s part of the learning process.

        I could see if I needed to be 100% sure of what I was doing, an instructor/support/guidance would be helpful, though.

      • Christine

        Actually I guess it really did help to be able to go back & forth with the instructor. So while learning would probably have worked just as well from a book, the instructor was useful. (This was while we were trying for me to get pregnant, so I had to be able to read my charts as well as if I was trying to avoid pregnancy.)

  • Jolie

    Interesting how they don’t complain about women being able to satisfy their lust without consequences :P

    • Kate Monster

      Women don’t have lust. That would be unfeminine. DUH.

  • Ms_Morlowe

    How recent do they think the invention of contraception is? Different forms, some seriously reliable, some not so, have been around for millennia. Literally. It’s not like pulling out is a new concept. There have always been ways of having sex that didn’t lead to babies or other ‘consequences’.

    • Christine

      As valid a point as that is, the pill is widely (not just by the anti-contraception groups) considered to be a huge turning point in women having the ability to not get pregnant. It’s also often pointed to as a factor in the sexual revolution.

      • victoria

        IIRC, the pill was the first contraceptive method that was both a.) reasonably effective and b.) didn’t require the cooperation or even the knowledge of the man.

      • Christine

        And point b) is very relevant when working in a framework where it’s shameful to want sex but people understand that sometimes things happen. You could pretend to your partner that you weren’t actually expecting to have sex (not carrying a condom) and avoid the shame of being “loose” or “forward”, while still being protected against pregnancy.

  • Niemand

    Re contraception and the efficacy of NFP: I’ve just reviewed the requirements for a clinical trial of a condition completely irrelevant to reproduction. As is usual, the study does not allow pregnant women or women who might become pregnant or men whose partners might become pregnant to participate because no one wants to put a fetus at risk with a drug that MIGHT cause damage to it (even though the animal studies say no risk and the drug probably can’t pass the placenta…but that’s a different issue). Anyway, the study doesn’t restrict participation to the infertile, but it does require use of adequately effective birth control by both men and women who are participating. Not included in the list of adequately effective birth control: NFP. In other words, the medical community, at least, does not accept NFP as effective birth control.

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