What if I told you some women actually wanted to have sex for non-baby reasons?
As a reminder during our fancy new era of Christian fundamentalists trying to make contraception controversial: “More than 99% of women aged 15–44 who have ever had sexual intercourse have used at least one contraceptive method.” Because the people-standing-with-handwritten-signs thing will never die, Buzzfeed decided to put a face to a behavior that’s more popular than watching TV by having women explain why they use contraception. (I am making gentle fun, because this entire situation is so ludicrous, but I appreciate the effort. The louder the “SLUT” accusations get when aimed at 99% of women, the more pushback is sadly required.)
But the judgy church ladies of the world would not let this stand! Wonkette linked a website called Catholic Sistas (yes, that’s their name) who decided to respond with “Why we DON’T use Birth Control“. Considering how few women don’t use contraception, they appear to have managed to get a quote from each and every one of them.*
I will say that one huge difference that’s immediately apparent between the Buzzfeed piece and the Catholic finger-waving piece is the implication of each sign. Buzzfeed ladies all had signs that were very personal to them, with no implications about people who choose otherwise. However, each and every sign that the Catholic ladies are holding can be summed up as, “Because I’m better than you stupid sluts.” It’s actually a nice distillation of the difference between reactionary politics and liberatory politics, especially since the belief that you should never have sex unless you’re open to having kids is so arbitrary, much like arguing you shouldn’t watch Game of Thrones unless you’re training to sword fight. It’s being hostile to fun for no other reason than it’s fun.
But enough of the preliminaries. I know you guys just want to see the pictures!
And 99% of women apparently don’t! Seriously, this notion that women can only love men through utter submission—including ceding all control over your body not just to him but to any sperm he sends in your direction—is really what’s behind all this. Never mind that most men actually share in the general belief that being able to have sex without getting pregnant is a good thing to be able to do. That’s why, no matter how much these folks wax on and on about how this is supposedly all about loving people and humanity, it’s a deeply dehumanizing ideology. It’s about being so infatuated with this abstract notion of male dominance and female submission that you can’t even see the human beings right in front of you who have actual, real life uses for sex outside of just acting out some kind of ritual domination of the female body.
Not that all pregnancy is about submission, of course. In fact, for most people, pregnancy is just how you make a baby, not some demonstration of submission and fealty to her man’s overpowering of her body. Which is why we should get to control when it happens.
If you’re having sex without trying to get pregnant, then you are a gross, terrible, debased person who is worthless is a common theme here. “Toxic waste dump” is just one expression of it, but there are others:
Another woman, too lazy to do the selfie thing, wrote, “Because it perpetuates the objectification of women as worthless sexual objects, constantly at the disposal of men in our commodity driven culture.” The theme is clear. Women who have sex for pleasure are “sick”, “broken”, “toxic”, “worthless”, and don’t “respect” their bodies. The possibility that having sex for your own sake and instead just to reproduce could be a healthy choice made out of self-respect is denied implicitly.
There was also a lot of confusion about biology, including statements like “Because nothing in the world smells better than a baby’s head” or “Because a baby in mommy’s tummy makes my older kids so excited” suggest that some contributors are unaware that there are forms of contraception that are impermanent. In fact, most women both have children and use contraception over the course of a lifetime.
Or this: “Because I really don’t think it’s healthy for my body to think it is perpetually pregnant.”” But actually being perpetually pregnant is apparently okay.
There were also a number of women who are unaware that hormone levels fluctuate by natural means, and seemed to think that the only “hormones” that could ever be in your body would be introduced from outside sources:
“Because I love the first little flutters of a baby growing within me.”
This one is hard to read, but mostly it’s a bunch of scare-mongering about blood clots and hormones. But, if you’re sincerely worried about those things, I have bad news for you: Pregnancy causes a much bigger surge of the hormones that scare you than the pill ever could. If you’re concerned about blood clots or blood pressure problems, pregnancy is much more serious. About 5% of pregnant women experience preeclampsia, a condition of elevated blood pressure that can raise your chance of having a stroke. Pregnancy and childbirth are known to raise the chances of blood clots. Blood clots on the pill are relatively rare, with 3 to 9 women out of 10,000 developing them, over a baseline of 1 to 5 out of 10,000 in women of reproductive age who aren’t on the pill.
There was also misinformation claiming the pill is bad for the environment (it’s not, though having children certainly is). But outliers aside, taking the comments together you begin to see what the actual argument is: That in order to be a good woman, you should abhor sex and embrace an irrational sentimentality about children that precludes concerns like having more than you can feed.
Good Women Don’t Like Sex
“Because I want my husband to actually be involved in our decision to have sex and know that I’m not carrying the weight alone and that he is not just using me for sex.”
“Because immediate gratification without consequence is not the highest good.”
“Because if I didn’t want to have a baby, I just wouldn’t have sex.”
“Because I am responsible and make mindful decisions, accepting the consequences to every action I make.”
“Because I don’t need anything to control me, I can control myself.”
Good Women Have No Other Desires But MORE BABIES
“Because I love babies!”
“Because I love the first little flutters of a baby growing within me.”
“Because siblings are a gift.”
Because I love the spontaneity, thrill and joy my family brings to me each day….. something I never had without them.”
“Because I love the way my husband puts his hand on my pregnant belly.”
“Because life is a beautiful thing. Always.”
In all seriousness, while it sounds like these women are saying they’re too stupid to know that, over a lifetime, you can both have babies and use contraception, I don’t think that’s what is going on. What we’re looking at is the damage that gender essentialism does to people’s ability to think clearly. These are people who believe “good women” show how “good” they are by how much they love babies, and therefore the more babies you have, the better a woman you are!
The ones that are saddest to me are the ones who’ve decided to use this messed up way of thinking as a way to test their husbands, convincing themselves the way he “proves” he loves you is by valiantly going without sex. There’s not much room in this ideology for the possibility that sex could be a way to express love or, gasp! that women might actually be the ones to want sex.
*That or a whole bunch of them are lying. My money is on “lying”. There’s so much pressure to preen about how you’re a virtuous objector to contraception and no way people are going to find out what you’re actually doing…..