You Don't Control My Birth Control
In the summer of 2015, a month before I started my freshman year of college, my parents sat my sister and I down in front of the TV. An episode of 20/20 about a recent university rape case was on and they wanted to talk to us about it.
The reality, they explained, was that you had to do everything in your power to keep yourself safe from predators. In other words, you had to constantly watch your back. My mom bought us bejeweled cans of mace, warned us never to walk with headphones on, and encouraged us to take self-defense courses. They explained that they weren’t trying to scare my sister and me, but we should be on the lookout when we're out.
Young women are used to hearing lectures about their physical safety. Walk in pairs, watch your drink, take care of your friends. All of this is helpful, but I sought a different kind of safety for my body as well. I wanted to get on birth control.
When I started "the pill", I was encouraged by my parents to not let any of my older relatives know. Other than the obvious “I don’t want to talk about my sexual health with my grandparents” point, I wondered why it was any of their concern what I was doing with my body.
I began to notice mixed messages about birth control everywhere I went. In college, one of my professors encouraged us to talk openly about our struggles as women. At the same university, another professor lectured us on how a woman’s primary role is to be a child-bearer. It was bizarre to see these two beliefs exist at the same institution.
Women still face criticism for taking birth control. Many women use it, but it remains controversial. I've often been asked why I'm taking birth control and some people even try to shame me for my reasons. I’m tired of being told I shouldn’t take my pill in public because “no one needs to know,” and others implying that I'm a "slut" because I want to ensure I have safe sex.
Before I got into a relationship, I had to explain to my dates that being on the pill didn't mean that I wanted to sleep with them. You can guess how well those conversations went over.
The Price of Being a Woman
I’ve heard the joke that if birth control were for men, it would be free and available on every corner and in every vending machine. And it seems to go without saying that no one would judge men for taking birth control just to have sex—they would be applauded for making smart decisions concerning contraception.
Why is it so hard for people to let women protect themselves? I know there isn’t a direct answer for that. Some people don’t like to think of women as sexual beings. They prefer women to conform to age-old gender stereotypes. But we don’t live in those days of docile domesticity anymore. Some parents still aren’t comfortable with having The Talk with their daughters yet encourage their sons to go out and "have fun". It’s not only archaic thinking, it’s insulting.
Ultimately, no one controls my birth control. You can tell me that it’s immoral or unladylike, but neither of those are true. You can call me a slut or tell me that I should be ashamed, but I’m not convinced. It has never bothered me that I take something to protect my body, and no one should be able to shame me for that. I don’t want to think about pregnancy or taking care of a kid now. I want to take care of myself and I will never, ever apologize for that.