It's been a secret I've been holding onto. It got under my lip and I've been biting down hard so as to not let it slip out. It's covered in the scent of shame and the memory has become a large heavy cement block stuck in the middle of my doorway.
I took the morning-after pill.
Wow, ok, there it is, you've said it.
That wasn't too bad, was it? What's all the guilt and shame about?!
Hmm, yes but..... I took it because I had sex with a guy without a condom and I was on the 12th day of my menstrual cycle and
...and because you were being responsible.
Right, I was being responsible.
But also wrong, because a responsible person wouldn't have had sex without a condom in the first place.
Hold the phone. Who was on the end of that naked, no condomed penis?
And how often is a man fertile?
Well, one hopes, 365 days of the year.
And did he feel bad for not using a condom?
Erm..... well, not really. He just said it felt better without one. And I'd already had to stop him inserting twice before because he wasn't protected.
Right, so he was focusing on his own sense of pleasure and pressured you into having sex unprotected numerous times?
And after all this, you're the one feeling ashamed for having sex without a condom and embarrassed for taking the morning-after pill?!
This was the stressful conversation I had with myself a few months back. Ashamed and stressing out because I'd had unprotected sex, again, and had to use emergency contraception. The experience of purchasing the pill was fused together with a feeling of guilt encouraged by past and present conversations.
A woman needing to use emergency contraception should be something we support, not shame. Being judged negatively for being responsible and taking the morning-after pill is yet another example of women's sexuality being policed.
The pharmacist who sold me the pill made me feel awkwardly aware of my actions. I was asked personal questions about my sexual habits and contraceptive decisions, and encouraged to consider controlling my fertility by using the coil. This left me with a feeling of frustration and injustice - why had that conversation only been demanded of me and not included the man who's sperm I was having to protect myself against in the first place?
In the weeks that followed, I found myself sinking into a spiral of panic and sadness, playing out internal conversations that didn't feel dissimilar to those I experienced after having an abortion. I started revisiting horror stories about the pill increasing my chances of infertility, questioning what was even in it to have such crazy side effects and why these conversations hadn't been what the pharmacist talked with me about with care and kindness when purchasing it?
Experts and professionals discuss the myths and facts surrounding emergency contraception, explaining the reasons for why the pill should be cheaper, unfeared and bought off the shelf.
I was encouraged to discuss this further after listening to a brilliant episode of Woman's Hour in which experts and professionals discuss the myths and facts surrounding emergency contraception. They explain the reasons for why the pill should be cheaper, unfeared and bought off the shelf without the complimentary gift of judgment and shame. Their conversations left me feeling a sense of relief which turned into outrage. I had been conned into becoming part of yet another element of societies shaming of female sexual experiences.
The absurd conclusions that a woman acquiring the morning after pill makes her reckless, irresponsible, slutty, dirty, unaware, unsafe, lacking in self decency, is thoughtless and oppressive. A woman needing to use emergency contraception should be something we support, not shame. Being judged negatively for her responsible awareness of fertility (and adhering to the pressure of controlling it) is one more example of how female sexuality is policed in a damaging way by this patriarchal world of ours.
No coil has been inserted into his penis like women have into their cervix, no injection into his balls sack, or morning before pill to pause his sperm... he can just look down at that little tinker and praise the soldiers marching on.
If I was a man, I wouldn't be encouraged to question my fertility until there may seem to be a problem with it. A man can look down at his little tinker and praise the soldiers marching on, justifying how his penis should stay unprotected because "sex doesn't feel the same when using a condom". If women got a pound for every time they heard a man say that... No pill has been pushed onto men to pause their fertility, no coil has been inserted into their penis like women have pierced through their cervix ( a procedure that can be easy for some women, incredibly painful and traumatising for others), no injection into his ball sack, no morning before pill to pause his sperm for up to three days, no pill from the pharmacy which requires a consultation about his sex life, contraceptive habits and decisions to better improve his "reckless" behaviour. It's interesting that not one of those things does a man have to worry about yet there is a very high chance that he'll be fertile every single time he has sex.
It's interesting that not one of those things does a man have to worry about yet there is a very high chance that he'll be fertile every single time he has sex.
On the other hand, a woman's menstrual cycle is possibly one of the most important parts of her bodily existence. The idea of having to control and manipulate it seems, for want of a better word, sad. A menstrual cycle can shape and narrate a woman's life in wonderful ways, from her energy to her creativity, her appetite to her appearance. Her cycle may naturally fluctuate helping her to understand more about her health and mindset. She can track her fertility by understanding her body's anatomy and how it changes throughout the month. Therefore, to be encouraged to control, cover-up or stop a menstrual cycle feels as absurd as the shame, guilt, and judgment laden upon her when taking the morning after pill.
My own personal decision to let my menstrual cycle be as natural as possible is something I want society to support by encouraging further development for male based contraceptives. I want men to be in charge of those pesky little sperms and prevent them from making me pregnant. I want men to support women by wearing those fucking condoms without question until another option has been created. I want there to be enough of us demanding this so that a solution is developed and put into action. This is my wish, now how can it become a reality?
Written by Bethany Burgoyne