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#DearJohn: On Rape Culture and a Culture of Reproductive Violence

Working on #DearJohn, something has been made really, creepily clear to me: For my entire life, I’ve been so privileged, and so steeped in a culture of violence, that I’ve been able to remain largely unaware of one really, really important and traumatic form of sexual violence.

I was born in 1982. I started to have consensual sex with dudes in 2000, when I was eighteen. I’ve never lived in a world where I couldn’t have an abortion, if I needed one. I used to say that I would never, ever have an abortion (the same way that I used to say I would never, ever have sex with anyone but my husband, or maybe I’d have sex for the first time once I was engaged, a few months before my beautiful princess wedding, which, WHOOPS, THAT ONE DID NOT PAN OUT FOR ME) but I always knew, on some fundamental level, that if I needed an abortion, the possibility would be there. What I didn’t see — what I just started to see this week — was how much violence exists in our culture, aimed at discouraging me from getting one even as it makes it more likely that I will need one, or around making my access to it so hard as to be impossible.

I’ve needed the Morning After Pill four times, since 2000. Actually, I’ve needed it way more than that, but I’ve only tried to take it four times. Once I officially Lost My Virginity, a lot of my early sexual experiences were abusive: I would classify them as consensual, but they weren’t pleasurable, they often involved a certain degree of coercion or silencing of my needs, and the men had a totally dismissive attitude toward my body, my pleasure, my health, and my needs that I absorbed as a natural and acceptable part of sex. My first boyfriend told me that it “worked better if I didn’t move,” if that tells you anything. And when condoms broke, I was told that it wasn’t a big deal and I shouldn’t talk about it and everything would be fine and the big deal! Stop making it! So I shut up about it. I was used to wrangling with dudes over whether or not they had to use condoms — all guys hate condoms! Being pressured not to use condoms is a totally normal part of sex! I thought — and I thought I was doing a great job of being responsible, because I managed to hold out and insist that they wear them. I was not doing a great job, it turns out. But nothing in my environment told me that I should, I didn’t have any information about sex that didn’t come from the guys I was having sex with, nobody told me that I was valuable enough to take care of myself (or to NOT HAVE SEX with guys who resisted condoms; the first time a guy stopped to put on a condom by himself and without my asking him to, I was fucking flabbergasted) and so I didn’t. I was so divorced from any context in which valuing my own health could be considered appropriate or natural that I didn’t protect myself. I didn’t get tested for STDs (I’m amazed that I never got one, considering how some of these guys operated) and I didn’t try to take Plan B.

Keep in mind: I wasn’t anti-choice, at this point in time. I was staunchly pro-choice, even though the thought of having an abortion myself was still emotional and scary, given the messages I’d gotten growing up. I just wasn’t okay with protecting myself. I’d absorbed so many abusive messages about how little I mattered when it came to sex or life in general that I couldn’t take steps to keep myself healthy and non-pregnant.

The first time I did try to take Plan B was when one of the boys just straight-up “forgot” to put a condom on altogether. It was after a Halloween party, we were both drunk, and he finished so quickly that by the time I said “hey, you need to put on a condom” the damage was done. I thought at the time it was a drunken mistake; now I remember how freaking surly he always was about the condoms, and how many games of “just the tip” we played, and I’m not so sure. He refused to drive me to the Planned Parenthood on the OSU campus in Columbus, even though it was (I learned later) only a few blocks away from his house. I had to get all the way back to my college campus in rural Ohio — and my Mom drove me, so there was no way I was going to ask HER to swing by PP — and then get my college roommate to drive me forty-five minutes in another direction, to a clinic in the middle of nowhere, where Yahoo! web search told me I could get the pill.

And that was where I got my first inkling, of how scary the forces arranged against choice can really be. The first person I saw was a doctor — he was a man of color, and had an accent; I read him as maybe an Indian guy — who made a face when I told him about the situation, then told me he’d write the prescription and that I could go back to the waiting room. Then, when I was in the waiting room, a different doctor — a white lady — came up to me and said that she’d been told I had asked for the morning after pill, and that she needed to speak to me outside for a second. I followed her. And then she told me she couldn’t give me the pill, and that I needed to leave right away.

I freaked out. “I only have a few hours left to take the pill! This is the only place that has it that I could get to! What am I supposed to do if I get pregnant, get an abortion?” She explained to me — with a terrifying lack of scientific accuracy, considering that she was a doctor — that Plan B was an abortion. (It’s not. It changes the chemical climate within your body so that you can’t get pregnant. You probably know this, but I didn’t at the time.) “But you’re a doctor! You can’t just refuse to give people medicine that they need!” She told me that she was a doctor, and had delivered real live babies, so there was no way I was getting the pill. “Well, will you deliver my baby, if I have one? Can I deliver it, to you? Can I, like, send it to you, and you can raise it and send it to fucking school? Because I’m a teenager, I’m in college, there’s no way I can have a kid right now.” And then she said it:

“Well, I guess you should have kept your legs together.”

Yeah. I stormed right the fuck back into that clinic, I demanded that someone fire the bitch — I used the word “bitch,” a lot, really loudly — and I said that I wanted my fucking pill and I was not goddamned leaving until I got one. At which point, the male doctor came out and quietly said that he’d spoken to me before, and he’d filled my prescription already, and he handed me the pill.

I said in an earlier post that this happened in 2000, but when I think about it, it must have been 2001. Because 9/11 had just recently happened, and everybody was pushing to Liberate The Middle East For The Women, and I remember thinking that this was something I should remember: The brown doctor with the accent giving me the pill, and the nice white lady trying to kick me out of her clinic and calling me a slut.

My experience with the pill was weird. I don’t know if I took it wrong — they didn’t give me any instructions for how to take it — and, for a while, I thought that they had somehow given me the wrong thing. I’ve since learned that other people have had reactions that were as bad as mine — through the comments on this very post, in fact — but at the time, I was completely unprepared and freaked out. I started to bleed a lot, right away, and the hormonal experience was intense, like having your period and ovulating at the same time, for several days. None of my other experiences of Plan B have been even remotely similar. When I told my therapist about it, he told my mother. She had a whole long process around “forgiving” me. Which she did, eventually, and which she told me about years later. Still: I cannot say that any part of this experience was handled well by any medical professionals whatsoever.

Anyway, I needed it again in late 2007. That time I went to the emergency room — again, I was clueless; I had just started having sex again, after a six-year relationship, and I really didn’t know how anything worked — and I asked for an STD test as well, and the lady doctor was really nice and patted me on the shoulder and said I was a very responsible person and this must be a scary situation for me. But I still paid sky-high emergency room fees, I still had to wait for four hours to get it done, and I still had a big fight with my insurance company over it. At the time I was frustrated; now I’d give anything to have an insurance company to fight with.

The next two times I needed it, I’d actually spoken to other women — speaking to other women about birth control was just not a part of my experience, before I started blogging about feminism — and I knew it was available over-the-counter, and cheaply, at Planned Parenthood. The last time I needed it, my I actually asked my Mom to drive me to PP. It turns out it’s not that hard to ask, if you take your shit seriously, as I eventually learned to do. Although I still had this bizarre story about a uterine tract infection that needed urgent treatment within twenty-four hours and couldn’t be treated over the counter and no it had nothing to do with that night I went out with my friend’s friend and came back at seven in the morning and oh OKAY mother, IT DID, are you HAPPY NOW, yes this was a PERFECTLY NATURAL REACTION TO A RECENT BREAK-UP and no I did NOT DO THIS A LOT and YES I DID USE A CONDOM it just BROKE, OKAY, will you just DRIVE ME PLEASE. And then it turned out that my mother couldn’t drive me, so my stepfather had to do it, and that is just one more chapter in the story of The Worst Break-Up, Ever, Of All Time. I took my first dose at the counter of a doughnut shop, over my French cruller. I did not even care. Judge me, doughnut-lovers! I fucking dare you! My month officially cannot get any worse at this point, I dare you to try!

But I’ve never needed an abortion. I’ve needed access to birth control that I didn’t have. I’ve needed emergency contraception, when birth control failed, or when my partners refused to honor my need for it. I know that if I needed an abortion, I would get one; I know that if I got pregnant right now, I would need an abortion; I live in New York City, so it wouldn’t even be hard, although I wouldn’t be able to afford it without my partner’s help.

But we’ve been talking about “forcible rape,” right? And how fucked-up that construction is, how all rape is based on a lack of consent and “force,” in the sense that you get beaten up, is just an additional crime? Probably everybody reading this blog knows that a lot of people don’t understand that principle. And they don’t understand it because we live in rape culture; so much sexual violence is normalized, and accepted, that it’s invisible. We can’t understand that it’s rape unless we also see physical injury, or a knife, or a gun.

We also live in a culture of reproductive violence against women, and against trans people with uteruses. We live in a culture of reproductive violence against anyone who can get pregnant. And so, so much of the violence is invisible, even to the people who experience it, because it’s normalized. When my boyfriends tried to pressure and coerce me not to use birth control, it was a form of violence. When I was raised, as a devout Catholic, without any reliable or scientifically accurate information about abortion and birth control — when I was encouraged throughout my own life to value my health less than I valued fetuses — it was a form of violence. When condoms broke, or guys “accidentally” had sex with me without condoms, and I was treated with hostility and shamed for being upset about it, it was a form of violence. When I wasn’t given information about how Plan B worked, when I was told it was “a form of abortion,” when information proving that wrong wasn’t widely accessible to me, it was a form of violence. Having to go 45 minutes away to get it? Violence. Not being taught, as an essential part of self-care, where to access it? Violence. I should have been told “it is a normal part of self-care to brush your teeth, shower frequently, use tampons or pads, always use birth control and to know that Planned Parenthood will give you emergency contraception for $15,” ALL of those messages should have been TOTALLY NORMAL AND WIDESPREAD throughout my adult life, but they weren’t. Not being given appropriate instructions for how to take the pill, or being prepared for or warned about its potential side effects, and experiencing intense physical discomfort with no warning? Violence. Yeah, obviously, being slut-shamed and thrown out of a clinic was violence. But everything that occurred along the road, everything that got me there, was a totally normalized form of reproductive violence, and I didn’t see it, because no-one ever told me to identify it as violence when it happened.

I guess what I’m asking is that we continue this fight, and that we not let our own inability to see reproductive violence — because we live in a culture of reproductive violence, just as we live in a culture of rape — produce apathy. The measures proposed now are forcible: They will harm or kill women and trans people. “Fetal personhood” will harm and kill women and trans people. Denying health coverage to people, if that health coverage stands to harm their fetuses, will harm and kill trans people and women. Making it impossible to access funding for abortion will harm and kill trans people, and it will re-victimize survivors, even if full rape exemptions are in place. And these are the cases in which we can easily identify force and violence. They’re the “forcible reproductive violence” cases, if you will. But it’s still happening all over and in far subtler ways. People’s lives and health are regarded as totally fucking expendable, if they happen to have uteruses which could potentially harbor fetuses, and this is absolutely not in any way unconnected to the fact that women and trans people are disproportionately targeted for rape. The attitudes behind rape and reproductive violence are the same attitude.

So, yes. We have to keep going. We have to keep fighting the fight against reproductive violence, and against bills which legalize its most forcible and lethal manifestations. We have to keep educating ourselves, and we have to keep moving. Because taking “forcible rape” out isn’t a win. We’ve been fighting against rape, and we’ve been fighting against reproductive violence. What I’m asking you to do is to not act as if the “rape” portion is all that matters. Because these two things we’re fighting are very, very, very much the same.

108 Comments

  1. Alicia wrote:

    This hits pretty close to home for me. I had to take Plan B once, when a condom broke and it was only a week into my birth control prescription. (I am a worrier who doubles up her safety methods if she possibly can.)

    And it was two in the morning, and raining like pure sin coming down from the heavens, and the only all-night pharmacy that dispensed Plan B was an hour’s drive away. The then-boyfriend said he had work in the morning and I lived only fifteen minutes away from the pharmacy and refused to drive with me.

    So I drove myself, and at one point I know I went the wrong way down a one-way street, and I was trying not to cry, and as I walked into that pharmacy all I could do was hope with every fiber of me that the person behind the counter was a decent human being who would not give me a stink-eye or a lecture or refuse to fill the prescription (we had conscience clauses at the time, I think).

    And the pharmacist was a dude a little older than me, and he was extremely nice. So nice and normal that I felt able to ask specific questions about drug interactions and such. At the end, I was so relieved I was in tears, and I wanted to hug him, which would probably have weirded him right out.

    All of which is a long way of saying: you are right in every way.

    Friday, February 4, 2011 at 9:13 pm | Permalink
  2. roesmoker wrote:

    Yes. So many times in the world of casual dating/sexytiems I have had guys pretend they “can’t” do it with condoms on, or say things like “you’re on the pill, right?” in this snide dismissive way like if I was then condoms weren’t necessary – HELLO, you are not my trusted boyfriend of many months! – or straight-up not have any condoms on them, while still expecting to get laid. And there were a few times I was dumb and caved to the pressure instead of KNOWING that anyone who wants to have casual sex without a condom should just be told to GTFO right now, do not pass GO, do not collect $200. It’s just so exhausting to fight the same battle over and over. Sometimes I get tired.

    And it makes me SO MAD that this is considered status quo, that everyone just knows that “guys hate condoms” and will basically do anything to get out of having to wear them and women are unfun uptight bitches for wanting to have safe sex.

    Friday, February 4, 2011 at 9:18 pm | Permalink
  3. roesmoker wrote:

    PS I too used to say to myself “I could *never* have an abortion” while believing I was totally pro-choice (I was, for other people, but it would be different if it was mine) but guess what? If I got pregnant right now, I would absolutely have one and I am really lucky and privileged to be able to afford it and to live in NY where I can easily obtain one. And you are absolutely right that in this fight we cannot forget that our reproductive rights are constantly being eroded and attacked and to not have access to safe and affordable contraception including Plan B/abortions is UNACCEPTABLE.

    Friday, February 4, 2011 at 9:22 pm | Permalink
  4. Bethany wrote:

    As someone raised devoutly Roman Catholic, your sentence “When I was raised, as a devout Catholic, without any reliable or scientifically accurate information about abortion and birth control — when I was encouraged throughout my own life to value my health less than I valued fetuses — it was a form of violence” really hit home for me. Thank you.

    I wish I had known that coercion was violence. I remember in high school thinking “well, he’s letting me not have sex so I should do these other things he’s insisting” when my boyfriend would insist on other acts I did Not have any interest in doing and did not receive any joy in.

    Thank you for writing this.

    Friday, February 4, 2011 at 9:28 pm | Permalink
  5. monica wrote:

    Thank you for sharing these incidences with us, Sady. You make a really excellent (if saddening) point.

    I was born in 1989, and I feel like I get a lot of those messages that you didn’t, about birth control and emergency contraception and things; but it might just be because I’ve been engaged online in the feminist blogosphere since well before I became sexually active. Either way, I think the advent of the Internet, and especially the way I and other (middle-class) kids my age have grown up familiar with and savvy about the Internet, has made a huuuuge difference. Scarleteen can do a lot to counteract the effects of abstinence-only sex education, I think.

    Friday, February 4, 2011 at 9:31 pm | Permalink
  6. Allison wrote:

    I’m reeeeally embarrassed that I used to always tack on ‘but I would never have an abortion myself’ onto any statement voicing my pro-choiceness. Ugh, ugh, ugh. Gross.

    Friday, February 4, 2011 at 9:42 pm | Permalink
  7. octopod wrote:

    I may have some kind of response to the actual point of this post later, but I will tesll you the following: I have taken Plan B once, and it was exactly like you describe the first time you took it, and it was definitely what I thought it was. So I don’t think the clinic was fucking with you, FWIW.

    My working hypothesis is that the controlling factor is where you are in your menstrual cycle. Plan B is basically a huge whack of progestin, so it seeme to me that your hormonal state when you take it is probably highly relevant to your body’s response. Just FWIW.

    Friday, February 4, 2011 at 9:44 pm | Permalink
  8. Sady wrote:

    @Octopod: That’s totally useful information. The weird thing is, the other times I’ve taken it, it just didn’t have any effect on my hormones or my cycle that I could actually feel or see. I had my period at the usual time, maybe a day or two early at most, it wasn’t an unusual period in any way, and I didn’t feel any different, aside from some slight nausea. Once I took it right after I’d ended my period, and I got a bonus week of light spotting, but that was about it. This time, it hit me immediately, like within a few hours, totally off-cycle, EXTREMELY heavy bleeding, and the hormonal feeling was so intense that it was like being drugged; not to be gross, but it wasn’t just emotional sensitivity, it was physical hyper-sensitivity that was either pain or (GROSSNESS ALERT) weird, extreme arousal unconnected to anything in my environment. And I NEVER feel even REMOTELY sexual when I’m on my period. So it was just a totally bizarre experience that doesn’t line up with any other Plan B experience I’ve ever had.

    EXTREME OVER-DETAILED DESCRIPTIONS OF PLAN B FEELINGS COURTESY OF FEMINISM.

    Friday, February 4, 2011 at 9:51 pm | Permalink
  9. Tawny wrote:

    FWIW, that doesn’t mirror my Plan B experiences either. Both times I’ve taken it, it’s just had…mostly no effect on me that I could feel.

    But the stories here mirror my own a lot, too, and thanks for sharing them. I too grew up pro-choice but quiet and weird about it, and I too had to run the gauntlet to get Plan B once. Not as strong a gauntlet, but a gauntlet nonetheless.

    I bet everyone has these stories, and I think we should be far more vocal about them because I’m not sure that people are going to GET IT otherwise, which is REALLY frustrating.

    Friday, February 4, 2011 at 10:13 pm | Permalink
  10. MikeV wrote:

    “EXTREME OVER-DETAILED DESCRIPTIONS OF PLAN B FEELINGS COURTESY OF FEMINISM.”

    ^This is why I Feminism.

    I really relate to the part about the pseudo-consensual first sexual experience. My first time (thankfully not “all the way,” though most everything two guys can do short of it WHOA TMI) the guy pretended to be really shy and sweet (Nice Guy (TM)) for the several days I knew him and then it turned out he was just putting on an act trying to get me in his bed the whole time. Oh yeah, and he waited until I tried pot for the first time, so thanks dude.

    Anyway, I really liked the post, and after a really long time of battling about it, I think I can finally call myself firmly pro-choice and I look forward to fighting for the rights of women and trans persons!

    Friday, February 4, 2011 at 10:16 pm | Permalink
  11. I wonder if things actually got worse since I was a young ‘un. See, I was born in 1956, and during most of my 20s Planned Parenthood was my primary physician as well as source for birth control, and I don’t recall there being as many barriers to going there, either physical or psychological.

    Admittedly, we didn’t learn a whole lot about BC in high school, even in New England — but when I got to college everyone passed around copies of “Our Bodies, Our Selves” and “The Joy of Sex” — and talked about them — and it was not, all in all, a bad program of sex ed.

    I wonder how much the clinic demonstrations have been any effective barrier to woman-controlled contraception, at least as much as to abortion. I mean, when you need an abortion you’re freaking-out scared, maybe scared enough to go through the gantlet — but if you “only” need to go to PP for BC and other regular, non-emergency medical care, how much harder must it be to brave the mob?

    Friday, February 4, 2011 at 10:27 pm | Permalink
  12. Laura wrote:

    I had to take plan B once because of a condom breaking situation. And I have some mild social anxiety and live in Kentucky so I was a little wary about going into Wal-Mart and asking for it. So my wonderful then-boyfriend (now husband) went in for me. And came back 10 minutes later with it. He wasn’t hassled and, other than the cost, was so much easier than getting to a PP and dealing with all that. And I felt fine. No bleeding or cramps or anything.

    I know I was really lucky. And part of the reason that I (or my hubby) can walk into a grocery store in KENTUCKY, throw down my HSA debit card (privileged to be insured, for sure!) and walk out with Plan B, no questions asked is because, for years, people have been loudly and in public demanding that people be allowed all the medical care available.

    Friday, February 4, 2011 at 10:28 pm | Permalink
  13. firefly wrote:

    Thank you for mentioning Plan B. I hope I will never have to need it, but it’s reassuring to know that it’s available over the counter at Planned Parenthood for $15.

    Friday, February 4, 2011 at 10:38 pm | Permalink
  14. wilywoman wrote:

    Wow. Sady, you just keep writing profound truths that make me realize the important things I haven’t heard. Like, that it’s not wrong to make choices for myself. Or to take care of myself. And more importantly, that I don’t have to tolerate the violent messages of shame. Of course I know these things on some level, but you help me to feel the weight of them. The Oh!-I-matter-too part.

    THANK YOU FEMINISM, FOR SHOWING A HEALTHY CONTRAST OF CURRENT SEX “EDUCATION” WITH DESCRIPTIVE DETAILS. Seriously, I’ll gulp down all the informative experiences I can find to understand birth control and Plan B. It’s still a drought around here.

    Friday, February 4, 2011 at 10:40 pm | Permalink
  15. Karen Fung wrote:

    I want to add my voice to chorus expressing appreciation to Sady for writing about this. There’s certainly a lot here that resonated for me, though I am in a very different situation than most of you: namely, I’m in Canada, and it wasn’t until the past 3 or 4 years that anybody said ANYTHING about abortions or birth control being not available — and when they did there was some pretty vocal protestation. Which I will always be grateful for.

    Your stories stirred up a lot of memories. Like the guy who told me he was “allergic” to latex condoms and I went and bought propylene ones because I assumed he was, like, just telling the truth and Look, I found non-latex condoms! Yay! Because I’m not comfortable with pumping my bodies full of Hormones, OK? And not realizing until YEARS later that he was MORE than likely lying through his fucking teeth about it.

    Or, the only time I felt strongly enough that maybe the condom broke, I happened to be out of Canada entirely. I was in a European country, in fact. I remember asking for the pill. The (male, white) pharmacist went away for a moment, came back, and asked me if I could read Dutch, and I said no, so he explained what I was supposed to do in English to me. And it was done without drama or question. And understanding that has never been far from me since that happened about 4.5 years ago.

    I’m not able to participate in #DearJohn, but do know, I’m so rooting for you.

    Friday, February 4, 2011 at 11:04 pm | Permalink
  16. Devin wrote:

    I had a condom break once, so we* went and got the Plan B, and J (my girlfriend-at-the-time) had a fairly serious-type reaction, not quite as intense or as fast as you describe, Sady, but definitely heavier-than-normal bleeding and cramps at the wrong time of the month.

    *On account of my mom raised me to respect the people I love and so it never actually occurred to me that not coming along was an option. Thanks Mom!

    On that note, while we were at the Planned Parenthood, no less than four women asked J if I was her boyfriend and expressed their approval. So dudes, if you’re thinking it’s going to be awkward chilling at the PP, it’s not. Total strangers will come up and tell you how much you rock for sitting in that chair reading a magazine.

    Friday, February 4, 2011 at 11:26 pm | Permalink
  17. of making many books wrote:

    Wow, thank you for writing this. My Plan B-inducing scare was also when I was 18 (2005), and it was on July 4th which meant that PP was closed. Surreal memory image: standing in front of a closed PP, in crisis, while a parade marched down the street. (I ended up getting it at Walgreen’s– no bleeding, but craaazy headaches.)

    I guess I’ll add here that I ended up going back to that PP a year later for my abortion (circumstances involved a bad Pill experience and an all-over-the-place older boyfriend who didn’t like condoms). I had insurance because my dad is a Vietnam Vet. The first time I went in (for a required ultrasound) they told me it was all going to cost $35. After the procedure, they announced that it would $555… I guess because my military insurance did not cover abortion (surprise!), yet neither would Medi-Cal since I had insurance. Thankfully my generally irresponsible BF had a credit card. (This is why #DearJohn needs to exist.)

    MAJOR LIFE RECOVERY COURTESY OF FEMINISM (and feminist blogs)

    Friday, February 4, 2011 at 11:41 pm | Permalink
  18. tinfoil hattie wrote:

    What keeps getting obscured in this discussion is that now we are fighting for crumbs. Abortion is supposed to be legal in the U.S. But obviously, that does not mean a woman (or girl!) has to be able to get one. We are fighting for CRUMBS. We should not have to keep narrowing and narrowing the definition of what kind of abortion is okay. The damage has been done, and women have lost. We should NOT have to justify to CONGRESS why we need an abortion! It’s disgraceful and shameful that this is where we are. It’s a desperate and bitter fight that keeps getting more and more unfair. My rage knows no bounds.

    I was born in 1960, so I have watched this narrowing with horror and dismay and anger.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 12:02 am | Permalink
  19. J wrote:

    I was never the “But I’LL never get one” kind of pro-choice girl, because by the time I knew enough to even think about it, I was sixteen years old and trying to find a place to get one. In Texas. But I couldn’t get one there, because there are parental permission laws. So I had to go to New Mexico, because their parental consent law is enjoined from enforcement. And that? Is reproductive effing violence. Nobody should ever have to drive herself three hours to give herself a future. Ever.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 1:10 am | Permalink
  20. Christi wrote:

    A friend and I were talking about #HR3 and that led to sharing our experiences with contraception, ECP/plan B, Planned Parenthood (awesome), and university health centers. I’m not as comfortable sharing details here, but I do think that these conversations are incredibly important for women to have with each other.

    Somehow talking about it and hearing the universality of our experiences makes me more determined to fight against the slut-shaming and disrespect in this culture.

    I was born in 1971, fwiw.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 3:43 am | Permalink
  21. Jo wrote:

    I’m in the UK, and reading about your experiences has made me more grateful than ever for the NHS and for over-the-counter access to emergency contraception.

    I’ve taken the morning-after pill (as it’s generally known here, which is inaccurate in a way as it can be taken up to 48 hours after unprotected sex) a total of three times, due every time to a broken condom.

    The first time was at university; I went to my doctor, explained what had happened, and she prescribed it. No shaming, no haranguing, no unpleasantness. Second time I bought it over the counter at Boots, a large UK pharmacy chain. It cost £25. Again, no unpleasantness; the friendly pharmacist who served me just made sure I knew what to do. Third time was another over-the-counter experience, this time at a chemists in a very deprived part of East London, where I happened to live at the time. I was prepared to pay, again, but the pharmacist just asked me to fill in a form with a few details, then handed over the pill. He was very non-judgmental, too, I recall.

    Getting the morning-after pill for me is never going to be a problem, as long as I live in the UK, and for that I am extremely grateful. (I’d be keen to hear experiences from other Brits, too.)

    Each time I have experienced hardly any side effects. Again, I’m damn lucky.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 6:47 am | Permalink
  22. Samantha B. wrote:

    Y’know, it just strikes me that the major pro-choice advocacy groups are NOT winning lately. (Even if they succeed here, as Tinfoil Hattie points out, these are fucking crumbs.)I don’t know if it’s because they’ve been shoved into a corner by the larger “progressive” movement, or that the organizations themselves have become stultified as they’ve gotten older, or…what. I do know that, say, Hillary Clinton is NOT my feminist hero because of her vote on behalf of the conscience clause and her inclusion of a sweeping exemption for “conscience” in her own health care plan ( http://www.alternet.org/reproductivejustice/77289/obama_is_the_best_candidate_for_choice/?page=1 ) And she’s just one example of “feminist” leadership that’s failed us in order to play politics nicely. The anti-choicers made it very clear that they were taking an incrementalist approach, and our putative heroes went skipping along with it. God fucking bless you, Sady, for putting up a noisy fight that reaches across generations, that makes anyone feel like they can get involved, and that builds a community of support even while it’s playing full frontal attack.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 7:21 am | Permalink
  23. Zooey wrote:

    This piece made me so angry and so sad. I live in the UK, and I have never had any trouble getting access to contraception. I’ve never had to take the ‘morning-after’ pill or needed an abortion, but part of the reason for that is that when I went to the doctor at the age of 15 and asked to go on the pill, I was prescribed that and given a bag full of condoms, and had a sane conversation with a doctor who asked me what my relationship was like (in a very non-judgey way, but enough detail that if I had been in a not-so-good situation they would have probably known and had the chance to help).

    The fight that I see my US sisters engaging in makes me angry, and also sick with fear as I seem my government dismantle our health service and watch the UK slide towards an increasingly monetarised situation. I fear that my children and grandchildren will face some of the same kinds of attempt to legislate about their bodies.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 7:41 am | Permalink
  24. Zooey wrote:

    PS Seeing the fight also makes me PROUD that women are not taking this shit lying down. That part of it gives me hope.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 7:42 am | Permalink
  25. Matarij wrote:

    I am with Jo in that I live in the UK and am very grateful that I do. I watch the healthcare debate in general and the reproductive rights debate in particular in the States in horrified fascination. That a country which thinks it is the pinnacle of the civilised western world quite blatantly denies its citizens healthcare – AND THINKS THIS IS OK – is mind blowing. And that is before we even get to the reproductive healthcare argument. Our political system is bad over here, but the US political system is beyond description – who are these people (mostly men) who keep getting elected? Why do they get elected? Do people not vote? Or do they vote in an uninformed way? What is going on?

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 8:01 am | Permalink
  26. eli wrote:

    This makes me so angry, mostly because I know those feelings of being in bed with someone and having it be not a given that of course condoms are going to be involved.

    I’m outraged in retrospect at things like, “Do you have a condom?” “I’m safe baby” “Um, no.” while inwardly thinking, “The very fact that you are trying to get me to have sex without a condom proves that you are not SAFE.”

    I want to go back in time and stop myself from having this sex with reluctant, resentful boys. But all I can do is tell myself that from now on I’m only going to have sex with guys for whom condom use is a combination of enthusiastic or matter-of-fact.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 8:09 am | Permalink
  27. k not k wrote:

    Tinfoil Hattie, you are so fucking right. I live in Europe now and both of my Plan B related experiences have been 100% drama free and extremely simple. Even though you have to speak to a gynecologist, get the pill prescribed to you, and then go to a pharmacy, which is complicated and involves talking to at least 3 people! The receptionist at the gyno even made me a HAND-DRAWN MAP to the nearest pharmacy once! And the pharmacist was like “don’t worry too much about side effects hun, I’ve taken it a couple times and it was fine. Give us a call if you are experiencing anything unusual”

    And yet when I had a Plan B Oversharing Session with friends in America over Christmas, people looked at me like I was from another planet when I described that kind of routine courtesy toward a person seeking medical treatment. WTF.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 8:12 am | Permalink
  28. AK wrote:

    Some outside perspective:

    A friend of mine has an American boyfriend, who once said that he always had figured that the odds that his girlfriend wouldn’t have sex with him (or have huge hangups about it) would be around 50-50, and I never really understood why. I think I unconsciously imagine American culture as “just like ours except everyone speaks English” (I’m Swedish), probably because American media is everywhere here and thus kind of feels like “home” even though it’s not. I know the gender roles are a bit different but that didn’t seem to be the whole explanation. I thought there must be something else going on, but I couldn’t figure it out.

    Then, I started reading http://www.fugitivus.net/ and Tiger Beatdown, and I learned just how hard it can be for Americans to get birth control, plan B or an abortion, even though they’re legal. Here, there are youth clinics that seem pretty similar to PP, except they are not controversial at all. You will probably visit one as part of sex ed around 8th grade. Abortions are free up to a certain age (18 or 20 or something) but even when they’re not, they won’t cost more than 300 SEK (around $45). Minors don’t have to notify their parents. Birth control is subsidized and you can get free condoms from the youth clinics. Some people dislike abortions, but they have no political influence, and absolutely no one thinks the plan B pill is immoral.

    Several of my friends have needed plan B, some of them while minors, and they just went to the nearest youth clinic and asked for it. No charge, no hassle, no protestors, no conscience clauses, no having to travel hours and hours just to find a clinic. Just swallow the pill, withstand some friendly teasing and get on with your life.

    I think this difference between American and Northern/Western European women’s lives is absolutely fundamental, and to me it completely explains why my friend’s American boyfriend expected that girls wouldn’t sleep with him – not because they wouldn’t want to or because American women are more sensitive to pressure from gender roles, but because they would be taking a huge personal risk. I totally get why a lot of people wouldn’t be up for that. (It also explains why some Americans want to use condoms and the pill at the same time – before understanding your lack of abortion access that seemed pretty paranoid to me, but now I get it!)

    I try to imagine not having access to affordable birth control or abortions, and it’s a horror movie level of scary. Just imagining that someone could impregnate me against my will and not being able to do anything about it… holy shit.

    To conclude (sorry for the novel!), I wish you the best in this struggle. I really hope that your daughters, like me and my friends, will have the luxury (well, human right) to never have to think about whether they are allowed to kick an unwelcome guest out of their bodies.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 8:19 am | Permalink
  29. Victoria wrote:

    The one time I used Plan B it not only produced a reaction just like Sady et. al.’s awful ones, but it mangled my cycle for three months. Periods every three weeks lasting 7 or 8 days, debilitating pain, etc. I thought I could wait it out, but when I went to my doctor and told her what was going on, she said it was extreme, but not unheard-of to react that way. (And it was definitely the real thing; I popped it out of the branded package myself.)

    All this conversation makes me simultaneously grateful and sad that 1) I’ve never really minded being called a bitch and 2) that I’ve had to be a bitch to demand what I need. For much of my adult life, I behaved in the worst of the “irresponsible” ways, betraying my own health and happiness. Then in college in the 90s I took my first women’s studies class and met a bunch of ladies who were far more sophisticated than I was, and I started to rethink exactly whose priorities I’d been honoring. Not my own, for sure. Up to that point, nothing in my life had ever confirmed my right to even have priorities, much less insist that they be honored.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 9:37 am | Permalink
  30. lalouve wrote:

    I agree with AK, being Swedish too. Incidentally, I have a stading offer for anyone who lives where they cannot access Plan B and are worried about this: if you want to keep some in the house, email me at lalouve@livejournal.com, and I’ll go down to the pharmacy, buy some, and send it to you. It’s not inexpensive (except when gotten from youth clinics, which I can’t), so I can’t do this for everyone, but I’m willing to put some money down for female solidarity.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 9:50 am | Permalink
  31. mekal wrote:

    I live in Northeast Ohio, and on my way to work I have to pass 2 anti abortion billboards. One showing a photo of a fetus claiming it’s Gods creation, and another slashing a politician for supporting it. If I decided to drive another 2 exits further, I would be forced to see yet another billboard pleading “mommy please let me live”. I am sick of it. This private should not be public. My vagina is no ones business but my own. Women and men, in their own vehicles have to drive by these everyday and attempt to look the other way. I know that somewhere, somehow this is eroding our reproductive freedom, it is guilt inducing and shaming, for reasons based on an outsiders perspective of what they think is right for your life and your body. It is such an invasion of my personal space and I want them taken down. Thank you for sharing your experiences, I too was born in 1982 and even as a young girl I was given anti self messages. In 5th grade I was stabbed in the vagina with pencils on the playground by two boys who held me upside down while I screamed, and when I told the teacher, I was taken to the counselor who told me I instigated it by having a crush on one of the boys. I was 10, what the hell did I know about anything? Expecting men and boys to care for your sexual health or even their own is an ongoing battle. The issue of sexual respect and unwanted pregnancy couldn’t be more affiliated and that ignorance breeds violence. Seeing those boards today and experiencing my life as a woman in this community has made me a firm believer that the fight is not over and there is so much left to do. Now where are my matches:)

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 10:19 am | Permalink
  32. Hobbes wrote:

    Why the HELL do Catholics push misinformation about contraception on the next generation? This was my experience too, and reading the comments it sounds pretty widespread.

    My 19-year-old brother started having sex a few years ago and my dad has been complaining to me that he finds Plan B boxes in the trash instead of condom wrappers, because apparently my brother was taught (as I was) that condoms don’t work and if you get naked together you WILL get pregnant. It just apparently never occurred to my dad to tell him otherwise, because he thought we were learning all that in school…

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 10:28 am | Permalink
  33. Jhe wrote:

    Adding to the discussion about regional differences in provision, do you know where I had the least trouble/hassle getting the morning-after pill? IRELAND. This was in 2003; there was an exceptionally good women’s health clinic on the north side and it was the sanest experience I’ve ever had. No questions asked (beyond medical ones). I presume it’s not been legal there for much longer than that, and I have so much admiration for the women who must have had to fight long and hard to make it available.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 10:29 am | Permalink
  34. Sarah TX wrote:

    I haven’t finished reading this AT ALL, but I wanted to validate what other people have said – it’s basically just a really intense dose of the same drugs that are in some birth control pills, and AFAIK there just hasn’t been enough research on how or why “lady hormones” affect people differently at different times in their lives or menstrual cycles.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 10:47 am | Permalink
  35. Loquamani wrote:

    I had many of the same totally dismissive attitudes of my own body, and pleasure, and health, and I had always attributed it to the fact that as a child I had a lot of very invasive, painful medical procedures done where I was routinely told, at best, to just deal with it, and at worst, that it didn’t really hurt, it’s not that bad. But maybe that’s just everywhere, for everyone. I don’t know if that makes me feel better or worse…

    It took (entirely chosen) pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding; literally handing my body over to someone else for a period of years, for me to become my own fierce protector. It damn well is MY body, I make the decisions and the boundaries, no-one else.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 11:13 am | Permalink
  36. Sady wrote:

    @Victoria: Okay, that’s good to know. I’ll edit accordingly. Woo, finding out things about your health! And I’m sorry your experience was so gross, too.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Permalink
  37. Mimi wrote:

    Oh the Catholic church and how it fucks up our sexuality. I was lucky enough that my Episcopalian mother sent me to Planned Parenthood when I started having sex – couldn’t have my dad knowing about it, of course, but it’s kind of amazing.

    I was born in 1975 and started having sex in 1992. At the time our local PP was just a little office tucked in next to the big shopping area, no biggie. I was dropping off flyers last year and saw their new facility. The guy who I was driving with told me to go in on my own because they “always look at him funny.” I have never seen such security! Multiple levels of automatic door control, no access to an actual person, because they were all behind bullet-proof glass. It was UNREAL. Things just keep getting worse.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Permalink
  38. Linda wrote:

    I completely support your work, Sady. I DID grow up without access to legal, safe abortions. Roe v. Wade passed during my 20th year. I recall impulsively having sex with a boy when I was 16, an age during which impulsiveness outperforms all higher judgment, and then afterwords, worrying about becoming pregnant due to my childish mistake, knowing that I would do whatever I had to do to obtain an illegal abortion, no matter the consequences. Fortunately, I did not have to go down that road, but only due to pure luck.

    I had a conversation with an anti-choice acquaintance several years back, in which she recounted to me how her sister had had an abortion, only to later profoundly regret that decision, and so now, her sister advocates against choice. I’m not sure which scenario is more lacking in thoughtfulness and intelligence: having sex with no precautions or falsely thinking that, had abortions been illegal, this person would not have obtained one. At least in my case, my decisions were made when I was very immature. In the case of this other person, even with the benefit of hindsight and reflection, she is unable to see that she may have gone through with an illegal abortion anyway, despite its serious risks, and might have died during the process, or been severely injured, or at the least, been rendered unable to ever have a child, by someone who lacks the medical training and skill to perform abortions legally and safely.

    I am eternally grateful to my local Planned Parenthood clinic for being there for me when I later became pregnant, as a single adult, due solely to receiving very bad birth control information from an ob/gyn (male, of course, as no woman doctor would EVER have recommended the recently available, insufficiently tested method of BC that resulted in my immediate pregnancy). The care I received at PP was very good, very sensitive, very intelligently overseen by the entire staff and the attending doctor, and at a cost that I could afford, $400-$500.

    My only regret that I carry forward in my life is having trusted my reproductive health care to advice given by a male doctor. However, I learned an important lesson, and that is to never again choose to be treated by a male ob/gyn, a lesson I am sharing with my 15-year-old daughter.

    I don’t simply actively support abortions being included in the comprehensive health care for all of us who support the right to choose, I also do so for the unmindful people like the sister of my acquaintance, because without our efforts, she may not be living a satisfied life today that includes a family, including children. Whether she ever recognizes it or not, our efforts made it possible for her to make what she now considers a mistake, without losing her life over it.

    Thank-you, Sady!

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Permalink
  39. Adam wrote:

    My brother and his girlfriend had a hell of a time trying to get the Morning After Pill in East Texas; he was shocked at how the pharmacy staff tried to shame them and now gives a lot of thought to these issues. Thank you very much for sharing this.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Permalink
  40. Hillary wrote:

    When I had to take Plan B, I was working on a tiny touristy island in the Atlantic that will remain unnamed (hint: the Obamas have been there.) It happened on a Sunday afternoon, so everything was closed that day. The next day, the pharmacy I went to after work…did not have it in stock. My work schedule ran from 8-5, and as far as I knew that was the only pharmacy open after 5. The next day I asked to be allowed to leave during my lunch break (and it ended up taking much longer than that, fortunately my employers were understanding). I went to ANOTHER pharmacy which didn’t have it in stock. Desperate, I saw a sign for a women’s clinic and stopped there. They didn’t have the pill (because now you can get it over the counter…right?) but they called another pharmacy, which said they had it, so I went there. (Boyfriend had had to leave the next day since he had been just visiting, but he paid for the full $60 since the incident was definitely his fault.)

    No one was even rude about it, and I don’t think they were lying to keep me from getting it. But I could not believe it would be so hard to find, even on an island – surely all the rich people there need it every now and then?

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 2:47 pm | Permalink
  41. Hillary wrote:

    Also, re:Linda I promise that not all male OB/GYNs are bad doctors, and I’ve definitely been treated poorly/judgmentally by a female OB/GYN. Obviously it’s a personal preference whether you would like to see a male doctor or a female doctor, but being male doesn’t preclude one from being a good lady business doctor, ignorance does.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Permalink
  42. ms wrote:

    Sady, all those things are wrong, but I don’t think they’re all violence. Calling them violence risks losing the meaning of the word. If not teaching people about contraception is violence, and not telling people about possible side effects of pharmaceuticals is violence, then what is a physical attack? Violent violence? Both hostility toward women and violence toward women are wrong, but, in my opinion, they are not synonymous. There can be hostility without violence.

    The Morning After Pill didn’t exist when I was in my 20s, so that’s an advance, but other than that, I agree with Doctor Science that it seems like things have gotten worse since then.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Permalink
  43. Dawn. wrote:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this Sady. You are absolutely right–it’s all reproductive violence in some form.

    I consider myself incredibly fortunate that I’ve never needed an abortion, but I do live in fear of that prospect because I live in Ohio (born and raised) so I know I’d have to jump through some serious hoops to get one. I am also forever thankful to Planned Parenthood–without them I wouldn’t have an ob/gyn or access to birth control because I don’t have health insurance (can’t afford it).

    When I read comments from European women, it makes me so jealous, haha. I can’t stand the fact that my being born in America prevents me from accessing medical care, including reproductive health services. So not fair.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Permalink
  44. TheBellWitch wrote:

    It’s shocking that something so incredibly common – family planning – is somehow so controversial. With all the reproductive rights fuckery going on, I got curious and looked it up, and according to the Guttmacher Institute, 39 million American women ages 15-44 use contraception. (I don’t know how/if trans people are counted in this stat.) Only like 7 percent of people who could get pregnant but don’t want to don’t use birth control. But when the public debates on Planned Parenthood or sex ed in schools or Plan B kick in, it’s like all those people just disappear and suddenly trying not to get pregnant is this unnatural and rarefied thing. It makes no damn sense.

    My East Texas Plan B story is this: Shortly after moving here, I found out my new insurance would cover Plan B as a preventative medication. Awesome, free backup plan! The catch was you had to buy it through their mail-order prescription service, which means the drug takes at least a week to get to you. Not so effective for Plan B.

    But no matter, I thought – I’ll just get a prescription from my doctor and order some to have on hand. After all, I’d read on PP’s website that it’s not a bad idea to have some Plan B in your nightstand. So when I went in to the doctor for my new patient visit and saw the Physician’s Assistant, I explained the situation and asked for a prescription.

    She looked at me like I’d grown two heads and said, “No, we’re not going to prescribe that to you.” I was confused – I’d just moved to Texas, maybe there was some sort of state law I didn’t know about? When I pressed her, she literally put her head in her hands like she couldn’t even deal with me. Then she lied to my face, telling me Plan B wasn’t available over-the-counter in pharmacies, either.

    I later called my insurance company to clarify the whole mail-order Plan B catch-22, and the woman I talked to said, “Oh, they only give you that if you’re raped.” ???

    It’s nothing as bad as what Sady and others have shared, but even now it makes me furious to think of that PA lying to her patients like that. My heart goes out to those who’ve come up against this shit when it’s an emergency. Like Tinfoil Hattie said, we really are fighting for crumbs.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Permalink
  45. goldengirl wrote:

    My boyfriend who pressured me to go on the pill so he wouldn’t have to use condoms went on to rape me a few months later. So, there’s that.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Permalink
  46. Other Becky wrote:

    The one time I took Plan B (about 2003 or 2004), I had very little trouble getting it — went straight to Planned Parenthood. Still had to be prescribed at that point, but they had a hotline that would do it over the phone. But PP itself — my experience was like Mimi’s. Multiple doors that I had to be buzzed through (I’m assuming there were cameras), thick bulletproof glass…

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Permalink
  47. EyeScream wrote:

    I’ve only ever taken Plan B once,when I was 17. The guy I’d had sex with told me it “wasn’t a big deal” and left immediately, but another guy I’d just met that night offered to drive me around until we found someone who would dispense it (I was over the legal alcohol limit for driving). We went to Walgreens, where the pharmacist would only let me buy it because the guy I was with was 18, even though the law in my state says you don’t need a prescription unless you’re under 17.

    Other than that, though, she was really great – she explained how the pill would work and what it would probably feel like and gave me information on alternative forms of contraception (I already knew what she told me, but someone else might not have). I was very grateful for that experience.

    Later, however, I found out that the guy I’d slept with was most likely sterile and had “forgotten” to tell me about it. He didn’t understand why I didn’t want to see him again, either.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Permalink
  48. Victoria wrote:

    @Sady: My doctor is amazing. I’m so lucky to have her & have access to her care. And I think the lack of information provided to you fully supported your suspicion that they gave you the wrong drug, and don’t think you have to edit.

    @Mekal: I’m so torn about billboards, etc. I lose my temper every time I see one, but I’ve had to strike this deal with myself in order to have a good relationship with my (Catholic, anti-choice) mom, that as long as you’re not advocating for legislative change, I’m okay with you trying to convince people not to abort.

    That’s simplistic and naive bullshit on my part, of course. The point of those billboards is to sway public opinion, not the minds of desperate pregnant people, and the point of swaying public opinion is changing the law. I know this. But because I’ve been able to talk to her in this way, my mom has come around to believing that while she sees abortion as wrong, it’s not a matter for the law to govern, but a deal you strike with your own moral code.

    I do, however, honk, yell, and flip the bird at the old men who stand outside my neighborhood clinic with lying, misleading signs (always old men; signs showing a 2-year-old as representative of the body of a fetus). I have a hard time not throwing eggs or something at them, a battle with my own moral code.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Permalink
  49. MaryAnn wrote:

    This is a totally right-on post. As someone who also experienced sexual violence in the form of dudes totally abusing my body for their own pleasure, it is awesome to read this post and see this community coming together to talk about it. For most of my sexual life it was completely normal and acceptable for dudes to refuse to wear condoms and then get angry at me (after the sex was done, of course) for not being on the pill or whatever. I remember begging some dudes to wear condoms and then just relenting because it was so exhausting and they would never give up. I was also raised Catholic and was told a million times that Planned Parenthood was an abortion factory with evil people happily hurting women and babies all day long. I have so much anger at the people who denied me the right to control my own sexuality and body and I consider it a miracle that I never got pregnant. I also consider the misinformation my family members gave me about sex to be neglect and abuse; I could have been physically harmed because of the bullshit I was made to believe. This is part of why I would never judge anyone for getting an abortion or an STI.

    Unplanned pregnancy is part of simply having a uterus. Not to mention all of the coercion and violence piled on top of that, which clearly makes abortion happen more and more.

    Also, I am not sure if anyone mentioned this already but I think that the price of Plan B varies state by state. Here in Michigan it is around 40 bucks over the counter.

    Thanks, everyone, for an awesome conversation.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Permalink
  50. Amnesia wrote:

    I’d like to see every one of those anti-abortion billboards replaced with messages like, ‘Hey, guys, not ready for fatherhood? Use condoms!’ and ‘They didn’t want sex right then, but you did it anyway. Guess what? That makes you a rapist.’

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Permalink
  51. Sady, I was also born in ’82, and I probably beat you to having sex by a couple of months (I was *almost* 18 my first time). I have never had to use Plan B, and I’ve never had an abortion, mostly because I didn’t know about Plan B and because when I needed an abortion, I didn’t know how to get one/couldn’t afford one/was significantly mentally ill. I am now the mother of a 7-year-old daughter, and one of the most important things to me as a parent is trying to ensure that my daughter never has to go through the things that I went through as a young woman.

    What I can most relate to in this post is the idea that it’s REALLY easy for we ladies to ignore, downplay, and treat as unimportant our own health and safety when we are raised to expect men to disregard it–and they do.

    Which, of course, is a great way to get pregnant at 19, end up a single mother at 20, and suffer years of depression, suicidal thoughts, and self-loathing. Having the technical, legal right to choose doesn’t do a hell of a lot of good if we don’t know what our options are, don’t know how to get information, and/or can’t otherwise access the care that we need. And the only way for us to have that is to build a society where people TALK about this shit and where people don’t have sex if they can’t talk about it.

    So, kudos to all you ladies with your “TMI” posts. Because, seriously, there is no such thing as too much information on this issue.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 7:24 pm | Permalink
  52. Stacy wrote:

    Like MaryAnn said, the price of Plan B and other services varies buy state and sometimes even by clinic. Some states supplement the federal funding that PP gets with funding of their own. I live in Texas and Plan B is $40 at PP here. I think its about the same anywhere else you can get it here. And yeah, in response to people from Europe – I do think the fear of pregnancy does make American women paranoid about sex. But then, that’s what a lot of these anti-choice puritans are really after.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 7:37 pm | Permalink
  53. Dominique wrote:

    This fight is utterly harrowing. It’s why I never wanted to try to get an abortion and got sterilized instead. I consider myself lucky that, when I requested a tubal ligation at age 25, I was referred to a gynecologist who, as a woman, had a lot of sympathy for my certainty that I didn’t want children and knew this since age 12. She was from India and more progressive than Canadian doctors at the time. However, she warned me that I would face a panel of male doctors seeking assurance that sterilizing me was the right thing to do. They ended up deliberating and deciding in my absence that yes, I could have one. Without her support, I couldn’t have gotten the surgery. And in Ontario, until perhaps 10 years ago, it was paid for by government. As a student, I was quite thankful.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 9:49 pm | Permalink
  54. Isobel wrote:

    until now I thought that the morning after pill was a form of abortion. all the teachers at my school made it sound like that anyway.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 9:50 pm | Permalink
  55. qwerty wrote:

    I live in a (very) catholic country in Central Europe.You can only get an abortion if you were raped,your pregnancy is a risk to your life/health or the fetus is seriously malformed.I read we’re one of the most pro-life societies in Europe(like,50-50)…except,it’s mostly our grandmas who feel that way.I mean,we’re in the f**king EU.Right-wing is losing votes,year by year…It’s nowhere near legalising abortion but I don’t feel it’s getting worse-that’s always something,right…

    I’m obviously not speaking for everyone here ’cause I live in a big city,have the Internet,etc-if you live in a small village and get pregnant you’re REALLY screwed-but here in the city,I think I’d be able to get one if I nedeed it.It’d require jumping through some serious loopholes but I’ve known since I was little what “period induction” in the newspaper small ads section means…plus there’s always Women On Waves.And I think you can fly to the UK to get one.

    As for Plan B,we may be a country of religious freaks but I never really heard of anyone having problems getting it.I know 2 girls who went to 2 different doctors at 15 and well,one was asked 2-3 times how old she was and got a look,but there was no problem whatsoever in a pharmacy.I actually helped her find the doctor through some Plan B ad in a teen magazine.

    There’s a lot of people with strong beliefs but you don’t really worry about bible bashers while going to a pharmacy,the most such person feels entitled to is giving you strange looks and being rude really.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 11:19 pm | Permalink
  56. Val wrote:

    Sady…you are brave…always…

    I’m Canadian, so some of this is truly, deeply, foreign to my experience.

    It’s not all sweetness and light up here, of course.

    My best/oldest friend, the genetic counselor, talks about clients referred to her from rural communities …very…late…when it (must have been) clear to their GP that an abortion was a LIKELY OPTION THAT THEY NEEDED TO KNOW ABOUT SOON SO THAT THEY COULD ACCESS IT IN A WAY THAT WOULD NOT BE MORE TRAUMATIC THAN WAS ALREADY THE CASE. And that stalling was maybe so that they wouldn’t have an abortion?

    Even she says this has always been rare and is getting more so as those small town GPs retire and die.

    I can’t really fathom the idea of people being willfully mislead/denied reproductive health information in the way that so many of you here have experienced.

    My deepest sympathies and outrage…

    I wish you had your own Henry Morgenthaler…sure, some people hated him…rejected their Order of Canada medals when he got his.

    But, seriously, a Holocaust-survivor, pro-choice zealot doctor guy? who goes across your country opening abortion clinics?

    ROCKS…

    Otherwise, I just expect all these services, reasonable, non-judgey advice and general humanity to be available

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 11:29 pm | Permalink
  57. Val wrote:

    And, I can’t edit my own comments…last sentence was relevant…two edits back and I thought it was gone…

    Argh…

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 11:32 pm | Permalink
  58. Suzers wrote:

    Thank you for writing this. It’s so important to hear.

    I’m in the process of marveling at how less than three years ago I treasured a letter promising my future husband I would never kiss anyone until the day I married him, and then yesterday I sent an email requesting an appointment at PP because my boyfriend and I get too nervous about condoms failing to keep relying solely on them. I’m so lucky that I’ve had voices like yours, Sady, and all the other awesome People Who Feminism On The Internet, to teach me to be confident about these things and to tell me how I can take care of myself, before I’ve been in any bad situations.

    So many people don’t have it, though. Appreciating my situation makes me more desperate to work on behalf of those people and stop the violence.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 11:46 pm | Permalink
  59. roesmoker wrote:

    @LOQUAMANI – I had that too, I was routinely told that the pain I was feeling “wasn’t real” or that I was being a baby. I have a very low pain threshold and a lot of things hurt me that other people wouldn’t have felt. But having your painful reality denied repeatedly sets you up for not feeling able to trust yourself and police your own boundaries.

    Sunday, February 6, 2011 at 4:35 am | Permalink
  60. Ashley wrote:

    MS-

    We don’t risk “losing the meaning” of violence. We have the opportunity to redefine violence in a system that has intentionally worked to make violence more and more acceptable.

    Violence is anything that intentionally does harm. When the violence is systematic and institutionalized, it’s systemic, institutionalized violence. Making the definition of “real” violence smaller and smaller is the kind of thing that abusive people and systems want to do, constantly. Real peace will be freedom from all forms of violence, large and small.

    Sunday, February 6, 2011 at 5:12 am | Permalink
  61. san wrote:

    Having just relocated from the UK to the US, reading this is scaring the hell out of me. I’ve worked in sexual health in the UK, I’ve taken emergency contraceptive numerous times (+10, I guess), I’ve had an abortion, I’ve been raped, I’ve had STIs, etc etc. It is so important that these be taken for granted that a lot of these are pretty normal, standard aspects of sexual relationships (the STIs and constant possibility of pregnancy, at the least, because no contraception, emergency or not, is 100% failproof).

    I’m a lot more responsible now than I have been in the past. But needing emergency contraception happens sometimes, and getting pregnant happens sometimes, no matter how responsible you are. I know where I am now there are a couple of free clinics and a handful of Planned Parenthood, and that’s a relief to have at hand. But it’s shocking how obscured and messy (and goddamn expensive) the process is here, when it should be an accepted, normal part of healthcare. Of course, the UK is not without its share of sexual health problems, and stories of doctors refusing to prescribe the pill, anti-abortion protesters, anti-abortion groups parading as pre- and post- abortion counselling services etc. And there are still far too many women and young girls who have no idea of the choices available to them in that situation, so education is crucial crucial crucial. But the key there is that there *are* choices, affordable choices, available, and there need to be if people are to go about their daily lives in a healthy responsible way.

    Sunday, February 6, 2011 at 5:37 am | Permalink
  62. iatc wrote:

    @lalouve That’s so awesome of you to offer that. I’m Swedish too and I’ve only now *really* begun to realise how much I’ve taken our options for granted.

    Sunday, February 6, 2011 at 7:16 am | Permalink
  63. Joy wrote:

    I grew up in a family where my mother wore a Tshirt saying “Women belong in the House AND IN THE SENATE” and feminism (first wave at least) was in the water (born ’73). I was lucky to have decent doctors, even one who, without preamble, said, “Here is a prescription for Plan B. Every woman should have this in her medicine cabinet. Just in case.”

    Despite all, I still have internalized slut-shaming, among other issues. The culture wars are very real and ARE wars, violence implicit in the definition. I’m in my late thirties and still trying to unlearn and untangle it all. I didn’t have the term rape culture until I started reading TB. I didn’t know I needed the term, even though I knew there was a problem. There is power in naming, and of course in calling out. Thank you. Again.

    On to the Feminism TMI:
    All these varying descriptions of Plan B reactions remind me of my early miscarriages (another thing we aren’t supposed to talk about but MUST to stay sane). I know it’s about attempting to breed, not staying unpregnant, but I can’t recommend enough the book “Taking Control of Your Fertility”. (There might be similar books, but I don’t know them.) Every woman has a different cycle, which can vary according to far too many health issues to list (even a cold can throw some woman off). That every28days rule? Total bullshit for so many women. Knowing how to tell IF you’ve ovulated, WHEN that happened, how LONG your fertile phase is, all of this is vital knowledge. This is knowing your body. This should be taught along with wiping front-to-back. It’s basic self-care. It shouldn’t be something you have to find and learn when you’re lost in the woods of being less successful at making babies than you wish to be, once you’re finally ready.

    Sunday, February 6, 2011 at 8:50 am | Permalink
  64. Megan wrote:

    Thank you so much for continuing to rail against HR3, Sady. The last time I took EC (within 8 hours!), I still got pregnant and had to abort for the second time in three years. (Now I have an IUD. IUDs pretty much rock, people.) I’m so grateful that I was able to choose whether or not to remain pregnant.

    Sunday, February 6, 2011 at 10:56 am | Permalink
  65. Is there a reason for Plan B to be a prescription drug? It looks as though people’s lives would be better if they just had it at home for when they needed it.

    Sunday, February 6, 2011 at 11:31 am | Permalink
  66. @ ROESMOKER — I’ve also experienced the minimizing of my pain. My entire life I have had (what felt like) extreme pain with my periods. I asked my mother about it, I asked doctors about it, for years and years. Every single time I was told that everyone has cramps, that I should take some Aleve and that this was normal.

    Until I tried to get pregnant. And tried and tried and tried. It took proof that I can’t conceive to get doctors to take me seriously. My pain, which I’ve always had, was suddenly a Very Big Deal when it became evident that I was not an up-to-spec fetus incubator. I was diagnosed in five minutes flat.

    Apparently there was a medical issue I HAVE ALWAYS HAD but was somehow overlooked by all the doctors I saw when I wasn’t trying to get pregnant. They could have helped me when I was twelve and talked about the pain. They could have helped me when I was eighteen and talked about the pain. They could have helped me when I was twenty-five and talked about the pain. But at thirty-one, unable to get pregnant, suddenly my pain mattered.

    Sunday, February 6, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Permalink
  67. Just wanted to add — my comment is not in any way intended to minimize the main point of this excellent post, which is of course about having control over *not* becoming pregnant. I know these discussions can be fraught, but I think that the problems those of us who are trying to become pregnant have are really the other side of the same coin. If this is derailing I sincerely apologize and please feel free to ignore me!

    Sunday, February 6, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Permalink
  68. Allison wrote:

    I’m 24, raised in Alabama, and have seen far more acts of violence on behalf of potential people than anyone ever should. I was actually eating a block away from an abortion clinic the day it got bombed several years ago. We had no real sex-ed when I was in school, despite the harrowing acts of violence taking place in our own city. It’s abominable that these acts of violence are viewed as common by our culture, even more so that they’re viewed as acceptable by a vast majority of the population. Every time I’m confronted with a “pro-life” protest, either at the university, or in the middle of the streets on southside, I’m typically targeted for a lecture, because I’m female and at the ripe reproductive age so I should be doing my part to grow society and how many kids do I have at home and blah blah blah. I’ve found that the men (and yes, it’s always run by men, who will never have to give up their rights to their bodies in order to help society “grow”) typically blanch when you ask if they have daughters at home and how they would feel if some man tried to tell their daughters that sex is fun and birth control is bad and they were essentially raped, and turned up pregnant.

    As for Plan B, I’ve never been in a situation where I needed it personally, but it’s always been reassuring to know that if I did need it, it could be found at the local walgreens. It’s more expensive than PP, but as long as you’re over 18, you don’t need a prescription or parental consent. A few years ago, when I was about 19, I was fortunate enough to be sick and at the pharmacy waiting on a prescription to be filled when a terrified 16 year old girl comes rushing back to the pharmacy, begging the pharmacist to sell her Plan B. The older colored man behind the counter was very understanding, but refused to sell it to her, as she was under age. She sat down next to me and cried for about 10 minutes before looking at me and asking how old I was. I gladly took her cash and bought her the pill, because how can a woman not help her fellow females when it comes to something as important as this. Especially when, in Birmingham, PP isn’t widely advertised and virtually no one will tell a scared teenage girl where to find it, and the health department is sketchy and scary, as well as confusing to actually navigate the building.

    I find it appalling that the world we live in is trying to reduce females to nothing more than breeding stock, and that we are dumbly following the masses led by men who are intimidated by women who want to live their own lives.

    Sunday, February 6, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Permalink
  69. Carrie wrote:

    Yes to all of this, and a small point on Plan B- dosages and drug schedules (taking 2 separate doses versus taking just 1 pill 1 time) have changed once or twice since it was FDA-approved in the US, and not every doctor recommends the same dosage or schedule now, so that may explain some of the variation in reactions to emergency contraception. Also, just wanted to point out that there’s a new form of EC on the market in the US (Ella or EllaOne) that is effective for up to 5 days after unprotected sex, condom fail, etc. The 5-day window makes it slightly less scary if you need it over a weekend or holiday.

    Sunday, February 6, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Permalink
  70. CassieC wrote:

    I’ve taken Plan B probably 4 times and had one miscarriage at around 3 months. I’ve always been rich and priviledged to live in a family which supported all my choices. I’ve had some logistical problems around getting to Plan B on time (working, travelling), and those smaller issues were enough to send me into a panic.

    This is about the basic right to live one’s life on one’s own terms. I can’t imagine the terror of not having access to contraception or abortion. Lack of access and information is violence, no doubt about it, and thanks for writing it so clearly, Sady and all of you.

    Sunday, February 6, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Permalink
  71. Jennifer P wrote:

    Oh Sady, you make me cry and pump my fist in the air about once a week with this blog.

    Don’t think that Plan B shenanigans only happen to rural women or women who don’t have the full range of information. My boyfriend and I had a condom malfunction one night, so I called a local pharmacy (in my major very liberal metropolitan area) to confirm they stocked the stuff. When I showed up, the pharmacist was busy helping a family with a child. She was very friendly and helpful to that person – “If you guys have any questions, call here any time, we’ll sort it out,” and gave the kid a pat on the head.

    Then it was my turn. Pharmacist went ice cold was all “Let me check, we might not have any in stock” and I had to say “Well, when I called 15 minutes ago you had it in stock, so I’m optimistic.” (Pharmacist Lie #1)

    She came back with it and rung me up. She did not ask me if I had any questions. I said “It’s been a while for me – do I need to take it with food? Anything else I need to know?” She said it didn’t matter when I take it (Lie #2 – with food is better) and that I had better be “Really sure I wanted to do this, because once I start there was no turning back.” I said “Um, turning back from what?” and she said “If there is a baby, once you take this you’ll definitely kill it.” (Pharmacist Lie #3 – Plan B won’t stop an existing pregnancy). And then she said gleefully “It’s going to make you really sick, too.”

    So I added a bottle of water to what she was ringing up and I took it in front of her. And then I asked the store manager for a form and I reported her judgmental lying ass for malpractice.

    If this shit is going down on the North Side of Chicago, it’s going down everywhere. I could have been a 16 year old girl who didn’t know her rights instead of a 35 year old who could stand up for me.

    Sunday, February 6, 2011 at 8:18 pm | Permalink
  72. Other Becky wrote:

    @Joy — totally agree with you that this is basic self-care that “should be taught along with wiping front-to-back”. Guess what else I was never taught? Took me 3 cases of bacterial vaginosis before anyone told me.

    Sunday, February 6, 2011 at 10:17 pm | Permalink
  73. Lu wrote:

    Lalouve, you’re fantastic. I am heartened by the sisterhood (if I can use that kinda old-fashioned expression, which I happen to love) I’m seeing on this thread, and it reminds me of the Jane abortion underground. It’s horrible that we American women are brought up and live in such retrogressive conditions. Tinfoil Hattie is right on that these are crumbs, and what I see here is a lot of women firm in their belief that we are not going to stand for this.

    Goldengirl, I also had a boyfriend whose long-term plan was to get me to go on the pill so he didn’t have to use condoms, telling me how wonderful it felt without them as if it were some future paradise for both of us. (Yeah, right. BOTH of us.) I realized that that was effed up, but until you spoke up about it, I didn’t realize just HOW effed up it was. Luckily, and my own long-term plan was not to ever let things reach that point, and indeed, the relationship didn’t last very long. That was just one of many ways in which he tried to control me, even in just 3 or 4 short months. Sexual coercion is never the only way in which dudes and their allies evince their misogyny; it’s just another facet of their whole patriarchal upbringing.

    Sunday, February 6, 2011 at 11:26 pm | Permalink
  74. Lu wrote:

    p.s. sorry about the extra “and” after “Luckily.” Hope it made sense anyway.

    Sunday, February 6, 2011 at 11:27 pm | Permalink
  75. Sarahred wrote:

    Reading this website has been a huge wakeup call- I don’t feel as alone about so many issues. I still can’t believe how bad American women have it when it comes to birth control and pregnancy termination- the scary thing is there are some Australian politicians who seem to feel we’d be better off the same…cough cough *Tony Abbott* cough cough…. Sadly, I hope you know how much your website means to me and others all over the world.

    Sunday, February 6, 2011 at 11:40 pm | Permalink
  76. Artemis wrote:

    The first time I had PIV sex in six and a half years, the condom broke. I was scared to death–I didn’t know Plan B was available over the counter, I was pretty sure I was ovulating or about to ovulate. My (fortunately wonderful) boyfriend called two Planned Parenthoods before we found one that was open, he drove me to the clinic and paid for the pills.

    I was terrified it wouldn’t work. All I’d heard in school was how often every birth control method ever fails, and I knew it wouldn’t work if I was already pregnant, so even though it had only been *three hours* since the condom had broken, I spent the whole week-end scared, eventually having a panic attack at my job over it.

    I tell this story sometimes and make it into a joke–parts of it were funny even when it happened. I make everything into a joke as a defense mechanism all the time anyway. But thinking about it now, and reading so many other people’s experiences (I also got really, dreadfully nauseous after taking the first pill), I’m remembering it was kind of awful, actually, and hoping that nobody else ever has to have a panic attack in the middle of the mall because they haven’t been given accurate information about birth control options.

    Monday, February 7, 2011 at 12:32 am | Permalink
  77. Jennifer wrote:

    @Nancy Lebovitz, that question in itself is a whole post. Technically Plan B isn’t a prescription drug and is available over the counter, but only if you’re 17 or older, and you still have to ask the pharmacist for it cause it’s *behind* the counter, and of course the pharmacist has to not be an asshole and give it to you, and of course the pharmacy itself has to have it in stock and not be assholes and claim “no one buys it so we don’t stock it”, and of course you have to have a pharmacy that’s open within traveling distance within the 72 hours that the pill’s effective, and of course every hour it loses effectiveness. So, there’s all that.

    One of my favorite PP campaigns was “Back Up Your Birth Control”, which was basically treat Plan B like you would Tylenol or band-aids: something you keep on hand at all times, so it’s there when you need it.

    Monday, February 7, 2011 at 2:30 am | Permalink
  78. melissa wrote:

    This post and all of the comments scare me; I was just thinking about how I wish I could just stop taking the birth control pill since we use condoms anyway and haven’t had any bad luck with them.

    I didn’t realize it was SO COMMON for them to fail like that.

    I just hate taking the pill so much! I always wonder what life might be like without being crazy on estrogen (serious mood swings) or with a healthy libido (it’s destroyed mine to the point where it’s non-existent).

    But young people just can’t be sterilized. I don’t know what the big fuss is about it. I KNOW I don’t want children. And it’s not because I’m young and want to party longer… I’m not that kind of girl. I wasn’t raised with particularly good family values and I just know that any child of mine is just going to be verbally abused. I’m not interested in bringing another person in such an unpleasant world. The guilt would be unbearable.

    I can’t wait to have a normal sex life without all of this fear of “what if?” clouding my brain. I wish that if doctors refused to go the vasectomy route, they would at least pay for our birth control and condoms in the meantime. *huff*

    Monday, February 7, 2011 at 11:59 am | Permalink
  79. April wrote:

    I am going to repost this on my blog with proper citation. I just want to spread the word. I am also going to link to this post, and I thank you for writing such a powerful article about this issue.

    Monday, February 7, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Permalink
  80. Jinian wrote:

    I’ve taken Plan B twice, both for broken condoms, within two months of each other — the only time that’s ever happened. The first time I felt a bit sick but that was it. The second was an emotional nightmare; I felt incredibly miserable, guilty, and even violent for maybe a day and a half. I also attributed it to interactions with my cycle, since my experience obtaining and taking it both times was very easy and the man in question was supportive. It’s a crap shoot, but it’s not a 9-month gets-you-a-baby crap shoot, so I’m really glad it was available.

    (Tangentially, does anyone remember the anti-Plan B campaigns from U.S. right-wingers saying teenagers would start having massive orgies every weekend and just taking Plan B on Mondays? Clearly none of these men had ever taken Plan B, what a surprise.)

    Monday, February 7, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Permalink
  81. Kristen wrote:

    I just had to take Plan B this weekend due to a condom break, and after paying $40+ I am kicking myself for not researching if I could find it cheaper somewhere else.

    Conclusion: you are ABSOLUTELY right. I should know that I could get it more affordably from PP, but growing up Catholic and attending solely Catholic schools, of course that knowledge was kept from me. UGH.

    Monday, February 7, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Permalink
  82. IrishUp wrote:

    A very powerful thread.

    Just a bit of a PSA, for those who know that access to Plan B would be/is currently difficult for them:

    Drugstore dot com sells Plan B for $55, and they do have overnight shipping for a premium, but free ground shipping on orders >$25 of nonprescription items.

    Monday, February 7, 2011 at 6:46 pm | Permalink
  83. Sara wrote:

    For all the women who’ve had problems with condoms breaking: the most common reasons condoms fail, are they’re either old, damaged, or used too dry.

    What you can do to stop them breaking:

    1. Carry condoms yourself. They keep best in a cool, dry place, e.g. the bottom of your underwear drawer (not so great if you ever have sex outside your own bedroom, though ;) Guys often keep one in a wallet in their pocket (i.e. at body temperature) for months and then they don’t work so well… and while any condom is better than none, they work best if you don’t let them overheat. Even a handbag is a better place for them than a pocket; or if you must carry one in your pocket, replace it regularly.

    2. Learn to put them on. You have more to lose if something goes wrong, and unfortunately, some guys do try to sabotage them. Best way to make sure it doesn’t get torn on a fingernail (accidentally or deliberately) is to do it yourself.

    PS: Putting them on doesn’t have to me a ‘mood killer’, either; there are ways to make it fun ;)

    3. Make sure you have enough lube. Dry = too much friction = breakage. Carry some KY or whatever you prefer… or at a minimum, buy lubricated condoms.

    Lastly, spermicides aren’t necessarily your friend. They can reduce your chances of getting preggers if a condom breaks, but they can also cause irritation which makes STI transmission more likely… not my preferred back-up method.(Instead, I second the other commenters on this thread, who suggested getting Plan B before you need it, so you have it handy if something goes wrong.)

    Tuesday, February 8, 2011 at 8:19 am | Permalink
  84. scyllacat wrote:

    Lots of comments, lots of thought, a tear in my eye, which is becoming common with your posts.

    Thank you for being courageous, Sady. I doubt I will ever talk to Persons of Vagina with the same strength.

    Tuesday, February 8, 2011 at 9:11 am | Permalink
  85. Garland wrote:

    Moderation Note:

    Person 1) I am not linking your anti-PIV article not because I am slain by the idea that women might collectively shrug off the shackles of PIV, but because the transphobia on your site is just… cloying.

    Person 2) Your comment included slut shaming and support of reproductive violence. I don’t care if you are old enough to be my mother, you can take your opinions elsewhere.

    Tuesday, February 8, 2011 at 11:39 am | Permalink
  86. Reha wrote:

    Thanks so much for this post.

    I’ve taken Plan B once. I was working a job that required long hours, so I left the minute I could that day, and took a bus and two trains to the Planned Parenthood, which was closing up for the night just as I got there. I felt panicked and weirdly ashamed, but I begged the security guard to let me in — it was the last day, and I didn’t know what else I could do. He was really kind and understanding and told me not to worry — as of a few weeks before, I could get it at any drugstore; it’d just be $50 instead of the $35 PP charged.

    The pharmacist seemed sort of bored by the whole affair and just gave me a quick run-down on how to take it while ringing it up. Looking back, I think I kept expecting someone to be cruel to me because despite almost a year of feminist blog reading, I still thought I had something to be ashamed of.

    FWIW, I didn’t have any significant reaction to it at all — just a bit of spotting the next day.

    Tuesday, February 8, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Permalink
  87. tinfoil hattie wrote:

    @Allison, slight derail: The older colored man behind the counter

    This made me cringe.

    Tuesday, February 8, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Permalink
  88. JKS wrote:

    1. I have had a condom break on me once, and as someone who is wary of hormonal birth control in terms of my health, I tried the ‘vitamin c’ method to bring on menses as detailed in “Hot Pantz.”

    http://www.indybay.org/uploads/2010/04/06/hotpantz.pdf

    It involved putting a 500mg vitamin c tablet into my vagina every 12 hours and taking it orally. It burned like a motherfucker but it did bring on menstruation. Something worth thinking about, because it didn’t create mood swings and is easily and readily available pretty much anywhere.

    2. Also, condoms break if they aren’t the right size. The only time a condom broke on me, my partner was rather large, and used a regular size condom. It has been my experience that larger penises really do require a larger condom.

    3. I think a distinction needs to be made between ‘violence’ and ‘oppression.’ Oppression is the actual situation described in the majority of this article, as opposed to violence. Oppression can be violent or non-violent, but it is predicated on hierarchical social systems which are inherently oppressive and use force and coercion to achieve the objectives of the ruling classes. Being denied access to information isn’t violence, it’s oppression. Being slut-shamed isn’t violence, it’s oppression.

    Categorizing everything as “violence” doesn’t do anyone any favors. It misidentifies the actual problem–the source of coercion and oppression–and allows people the easy out of scoffing…because indeed, although systemic oppression such as patriarchy often leads to outright violence, what is being described in the majority of this article is actually a framework of oppression, not violence.

    Tuesday, February 8, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Permalink
  89. mekal wrote:

    @Jennifer P- Absolutely Fabulous!!!!! I hope she thinks twice next time before she lies to anyone who needs medication.

    Tuesday, February 8, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Permalink
  90. MaryAnn wrote:

    @Melissa
    Check out IUDs (intrauterine devices) if you do not want to be on the pill anymore. There are two types, hormonal and non-hormonal, and even the hormonal one (Mirena, lasts for up to 5 years) has only one type of hormone (progestin) which is not usually associated with mood swings. The non-hormonal (Paragard) will last up to twelve years has no hormones at all. Some physicians will have an issue with inserting an IUD (it is a device that is inserted and stays in your uterus) in women who are childless. Go to a Planned Parenthood or find a doctor who will do it. I am 28 with no children. I have the Mirena and I love it. They are also reversible, if that is an issue for anyone. @ me if you have any questions about my experience!

    Tuesday, February 8, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Permalink
  91. amory wrote:

    I just want to say that I can relate completely to everything you describe. I agree that they are one and the same fight. It’s about control of our own bodies. You should check out thhe Jane zine on zinelibrary, if you haven’t read it before. It’s about Chicago’s underground abortion service in the 60′s and early 70′s (before roe).

    Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 2:43 am | Permalink
  92. Em wrote:

    Re: violence/not violence, I just want to throw out there that I consider emotional abuse to be psychological violence. I understand the argument about not diluting the word, but I disagree. Refusing to acknowledge verbal and mental abuse with violence only serves to delegitimize it a la “sticks and stones”.

    Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 6:59 pm | Permalink
  93. Fiona wrote:

    Wow. Triggery.

    Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 11:51 am | Permalink
  94. Kelsey wrote:

    Excellent story on the lack of proper sex education for women – but also men. I live in Canada and you’re given pretty decent education on what I think of as the “first step” of birth control – the pill, condoms (male and female), IUDs, spermicide, etc. etc. But things like the morning after pill, abortion, or joint responsibility for birth control and STI prevention are minimized – along with “How to actually have good sex, and yes, everyone involved is supposed to enjoy it.” In an ideal world, all aspects of sexual health – not just how to not get pregnant – would be covered, in school.

    Saturday, February 12, 2011 at 12:25 am | Permalink
  95. Sally wrote:

    I’m 48 now…you spoke to so much of my experience in 1981 when I turned 18 and found myself pregnant during my freshman year in college. I had an abortion. I was lucky to get good care and was able to confide and have my older sister drive 1.15 hrs. to my college from her law school to drive me over to the clinic 1.45 hrs. and back near my hometown. I’m printing this out for my sons, now 12 and 9. They’ll each get a copy in their “memory box”. I have vowed they will be taught differently and they are. Thank you for this post.

    Sunday, February 13, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Permalink
  96. tylrjm wrote:

    I haven’t read all the comments yet, but when I have time, I will. But HOLY SHIT YES, Sady! I’m from Canada, and since being sexulally active, I have never onmce had a sexual encounter with a man wherein condoms were anythimg but a given. And I have had quite a lot of causual sex! I’m currently in an open relationship with a man, and condoms are a pivotal part of the deal. I think, growing up, my sex ed was pretty good, and I think that must be true for most of my generation. The idea that a guy would take it for granted that there would be no condom just boggles my mind.

    Sunday, February 13, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Permalink
  97. R wrote:

    To the person(s) above looking for sterilization – check out Essure. Great, permanent, and an alternative to tubal ligation (tiny outpatient procedure! no incision – they go right up through your cervix) and the doctors listed on their website are usually willing to give it to you without a lot of guff. I did get some “but what will your husband think if he wants kids??” but replying with a short “well, he’d be shit out of luck then wouldn’t he?” and a big-ass grin did the trick. My health plan covered the whole thing too, and now I save almost $500 a year on birth control. …Great post, and heartwrenching comments.

    Monday, February 14, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Permalink
  98. anonymous wrote:

    Alison, #68:

    The older colored man behind the counter was very understanding…

    “Colored”? I realize that Alabama is stuck in the 1950s, but, really.

    Melissa, #78:

    And it’s not because I’m young and want to party longer… I’m not that kind of girl.

    Oh for fuck’s sake. THIS is the kind of slut-shaming we shouldn’t be seeing on a feminist blog. If you DID want to “party longer,” who the hell’s business would it be?!

    Monday, February 14, 2011 at 7:31 pm | Permalink
  99. Ella wrote:

    @Melissa:As someone who hormonal birth control is also not super fun for, you might want to look into an IUD- they can be completely hormone free, and are very effective. I don’t use them myself, because I sleep around to much to *mote* use condoms, but I have several glowing reviews from monogamous friends. Also, while condoms do sometimes break (three time Plan B user, right here), if keeping some plan B in stock is an option for you, it’s not the end of the world. Obviously your choices are your own and you should do what’s right for you, but I’m much happier being meriserable for three or four days on very rare occasions than having to deal with pill related drama all the goddamn time.

    Tuesday, February 15, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Permalink
  100. Seisy wrote:

    My home parish must have been run by hippie catholics, at least judging from how different my experiences were from those of some of the other commenters.

    Though I have to ask, since it seems to be something everyone is agreeing on, so i must be missing something- what’s wrong with being pro-choice but not personally wanting an abortion? Or am I misreading?

    Tuesday, February 15, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Permalink
  101. marge wrote:

    I am way above child bearing age. At the age of 16 I began to be sexually active. This was before Roe v. Wade and not much after birth control pills. No way I could get the pill without my mom knowing about it. My boyfriend used condoms most of the time, but every month I was so anxious before my period came. It was probably that nervousness that would cause it to be delayed more times than I care to remember. I spent half my high school years worried about whether I was pregnant and what I would do if I was.

    Reading all these comments I think the advice I would give to any sexually active young woman, would be to go to PP TODAY and buy a Plan B pill for $15 and carry it in your purse. I can only imagine the peace of mind that would have given me.

    We need to do a much better job of educating both young men and women on BC. My daughter had 2 abortions and I know she knew about BC, because I must have told her about a million times. But what I did not teach was the pressures that young men put on young women to have unprotected sex. Looking back I know that I was incredibly stupid but lucky in my own teen age years. Sex ed should be taught everywhere, school, home, church and in TV commercials. If we can have Viagra commercials constantly shown, surely we could have intelligent and sensitive commercials advocating BC.

    Wednesday, February 16, 2011 at 10:48 am | Permalink
  102. Meru wrote:

    Thank you Sady. Thank you so much for writing this. I live in Ontario, Canada, and we are lucky enough to have abortions covered by OHIP, without any type of parental consent necessary. And I wish this was true for all women- knowing that I had a safety net when I was scared, knowing that I didn’t have to sacrifice (what I thought would be the end) of my family’s approval for my own health and security made me MORE adamant about safety, more insistent on protection and respect from my partners. I have taken the morning after pill three times throughout my life- twice with one partner, who took me to the pharmacy right away and paid for it (in his words, when I told him I felt bad about the 45 dollar price tag “You know what’s more expensive? A baby! :) ”. Violence still exists. A partner of mine that refused to even admit that the condom broke, despite the fact that practically begged him to take me seriously- that is violence.

    Wednesday, February 16, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Permalink
  103. Anonymous wrote:

    Thank you so much for this post. It hit me hard.

    I was born in 1975 and always considered myself a feminist, a protector of my body, a “smart girl”. I made my boyfriend wait a year and a half before we both lost our virginity at age 17.

    But when I finally became sexually active, I found myself feeling like I wasn’t enough. My boyfriend didn’t want to have sex that often and I thought I was a failure. Men were supposed to be about one thing and one thing only, right? And mine wasn’t.

    I became willing to comprimise again and again, hoping somehow to make myself “good enough” for my partner. I felt like I was “not enough”.

    We broke up and my world started expanding. But then one day I was raped in the back of a bar and told the next day by a friend that it wasn’t “rape”, it was a misunderstanding.

    I quit requiring condoms.

    I let guys do stuff to me I never wanted to do.

    Finally, I realized I was putting myself into positions where I could potentially catch something I couldn’t get rid of, I decided to stop having sex altogether.

    I’m in my thirties and it has been a decade since I last had sex. How awful that in my sick twisted mind, the only two options are “sacrifice myself and my happiness for a guy” or say “ABSOLUTELY NOT” for the rest of my life – to feel that my back is in a corner when it comes to sexuality and those are the only choices.

    When the TSA started groping people and taking naked pictures of our bodies, I felt such violation.

    Then all of the legislation started coming out regarding abortion, I felt even more violated.

    I joined the National Organization for Women last week, because while it seemed for awhile like they were old and immaterial, I’m beginning to see that perhaps they are our last hope.

    Wednesday, February 16, 2011 at 6:17 pm | Permalink
  104. UKgurl wrote:

    When I lived in London, I once had a condom break.

    Within 20 minutes of getting out of the shower, I had my pill and I was back home taking it.

    Then, when I freaked out cos I’d been bleeding heavily for a week, I saw a doctor who said it was nothing to worry about, and oh did I want to try the birth control pill?

    Different. Fucking. World.

    Thursday, February 17, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Permalink
  105. Jennifer wrote:

    I just happened upon this blog…I freaking love you.

    Friday, February 18, 2011 at 8:50 pm | Permalink
  106. woland wrote:

    I know I’m very late to this thread, but I was surprised and pleased the first time I noticed that Plan B is available in Ontario on the pharmacy shelf. No worrying about having to deal with blastocyst-fetishist pharmacists.

    I know we Canadians can come across as smug in this kind of situation. I feel so bad for US women for the crap you put up with, and wish I knew what we could do to help.

    Friday, February 25, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Permalink
  107. Grateful wrote:

    Sady, for ALL the reasons that you’ve listed above, they are the reasons why I’ve had 4 abortions – all before the age of 18. Not one time during that period was sex a choice, enjoyable, or understood by me. My pregnancies were by long-term boyfriend, but the amount of ‘silent abuse’ and other forms of shame that I endured were unknown to me at the time. I remember being literally TIRED of arguing about using condoms, and I had NO IDEA that I could have said ‘it’s my body, so it’s MY choice not to have sex with you’. Actually, the one time I did decide to speak out, I was greeted with a fist to my face – so now I’m pregnant WITH a broken nose…at 15. I distinctly remember thinking to myself HOW did women manage relationships and sex if the man was always fighting, denying use of a condom. Were women just going with the flow and having abortions? I thought this was NORMAL because I wasn’t taught otherwise. I thought sex was SUPPOSED to be an endless, upsetting, discouraging, painful FIGHT. I thought this was normal. THAT is violence.

    I remember asking my boyfriend at the time why he didn’t want to use a condom. His response was ‘because I was his girlfriend, so he didn’t HAVE to use one’. Had I been equipped with the knowledge I have now, I would have cursed him too short to shit.

    I say this to say thank you. Thank you to all of you who are reaching out and sharing your stories. I’m at my computer crying like a water fountain because I hurt for all of you who have had to endure this type of treatment and swallow it as a state of ‘normalcy’. God bless every one of you.

    ..and to the Brits, it is strange to see you all be treated with such dignity and courtesy when applying for your Plan B LOL!

    Friday, February 25, 2011 at 10:22 pm | Permalink
  108. Ailly wrote:

    As a RN student who has just gotten a job at a pharmacy, and as a lady who lives and works in Virginia, this post and comments are all incredibly moving and a big reminder that I have the opportunity to be the positive experience for another woman in need.

    Saturday, March 5, 2011 at 10:18 am | Permalink