Happy Earth Day, readers!
Surprised to hear that from yours truly? Well, let the record state that while I remain miserably apathetic about recycling (because it’s stupid and it uses more energy to break down and refashion the original materials than it saves), I am totally and 110% crunchy when it comes to avoiding – and helping my family avoid – hormonal pollution.
On a practical level, that means we make careful choices with our dairy and meat purchases, we don’t drink the appalling tap water available to us here in bella Roma, and I don’t use hormonal contraception. Now, I have one or two other reasons for refusing to pop the Pill, but for the sake of this post, let’s focus on the simple fact that it’s bad for you.
Like very, very bad. And also pretty terrible for the environment and surrounding inhabitants, e.g. your neighbors. Human and animal alike.
So without further explanation, I offer to you (and I will permanently link this on the header bar at the top of the blog) my semi-infamous ‘Green Sex’ talk.
When I was a FOCUS missionary and way back even before that when I was a grad student at good ‘ol Steubie U, I began to draft and then revise this talk, giving it every couple of months or so to varying crowds of (mostly) college-aged audiences at conferences and at colleges around the country. While I’ve been off the speaking circuit for a good long while now, popping out babies and moving overseas and whatnot, the content is still relevant – perhaps more so with all the HHS nonsense still brewing at home – and so I want to share it with you here.
So why aren’t we hearing more about it? It seems like the green thing to do – in light of mounting evidence of the effects of chemical contraception on the natural environment, would be to cease and desist all chemical contraceptive use at once. Or else. But… that doesn’t seem to be on anybody’s political agenda these days.
But the consequences of contraceptive use on the environment – both externally, in nature, and internally, within the human body – are staggering.
First, a little background on who is “using:” From a report by the Guttmacher Institute (the research arm of Planned Parenthood), issued in January of 2008, we have the following statistics:
Good to know. Let’s build upon this information with some facts from the front line, taken from
the drug info packet of Ortho Tricyclen – the number one prescribed oral contraceptive in the United States:
1. “may increase your risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer”
But I haven’t thought of a more fitting name for it yet, so “green sex” it is.
Some food for thought:
Why aren’t we hearing more buzz about “greening” our sex lives? Why hasn’t there been public outcry over the massive amounts of environmental pollution produced by hormonal contraceptive use? And perhaps most disturbing of all, why aren’t women up in arms about the ramifications that even short-term contraceptive use has on their health?
Because going green – in the bedroom – is not the most convenient option. Because we don’t really care what we’re doing to our bodies, as long as our bodies are performing exactly as we tell them to.
- If you miss 1 pill, take it as soon as you remember.
- Take your regular pill at the usual time, even if it means taking 2 pills in one day.
- Continue taking your pills, but use another effective method of birth control (in addition to your pill) for 10 days, even if you begin a new pill pack or have your period.
- If you miss 2 pills, take two pills at once, then 2 pills the next day.
- Continue taking your pills, but use another method of birth control for 10 days.
- If you miss 2 or more pills at the start of a new pack of pills and have had sex, you are at risk for pregnancy.
Sounds rather complicated. But what if you are taking your dose on time? Read on:
So by convenient, I suppose the manufacturers mean mind-numbingly complex. If Tylenol had such stringent dosing practices, I wonder whether it’d be the number one painkiller on the market.
Myth # 2: Contraception is responsible:
Our waterways are becoming saturated with astronomical levels of estrogen, decimating animal populations in the surrounding ecosystems. Case in point: Boulder Creek – (yeah, this town gets a lot of weird press) is now home to a bizarre, mutated kind of “transgendered trout.”
Boulder, Colorado is turning a blind eye to one to the mutation of one of their beloved indigenous animal species for the sake of … convenience? A strange phenomenon for a city known to be infatuated with all things animalia… but then, stranger things have happened in Boulder.
Myth # 3: Contraception is liberating
Truth: Contraception is anything but freeing. Need we revisit the tedious litany of instructions for proper use of the Pill?
The truth is, contraceptives have made women less free, not more. Because for every claim of convenience –
There is an equal and opposing consequence – take the following three examples:
And while it would seem that while there most certainly are individuals and companies who are benefitting from the tremendous sales of contraceptive products, we – the women who use them and the environment in which we live – are not making out so well.
Perhaps the biggest myth enshrouding the practice of contra-ception, Latin for against the beginning (of life) is the unshakable claim that somehow those little pink pill packs have made us, as women, free.
To read much of recent modern feminist literature, one might very easily assume that the entire achievements of equality enjoyed by the fairer sex in the past century were accomplished thanks to the invention of the Pill.
Truth be told, the assumption that any woman could be, potentially, ‘protected’ from the dangers of an unwanted pregnancy and available for sex sans consequence has led to the expectation that every woman is exactly that: available.
A girlfriend of mine was recently dating a guy – very casually – and they ended up back at her apartment one evening after dinner, chatting on her couch. After a few minutes of small talk this ‘nice guy’ got down to business, asking if they were, you know, ‘safe’ to hook up.
“So are you like, on something? I mean, are we safe?”
“Are we safe?” she wondered incredulously..
He turned red (to his miniscule credit) and elaborated “You know, are you like, on the pill?”
“Um, no, I’m not. And is that seriously how you just asked me to sleep with you?”
The conversation – and the brief relationship – ended about 3 minutes later.
The point was, the assumption, the entire burden of ‘responsibility’ was on her shoulders. Only difference between this guy and a million other dudes on campus was that he had the crass to say it out loud.
And neither a condom nor a chemical contraceptive can guarantee ‘protection,’ whether from deadly disease, unwanted pregnancy or no-strings-attached sex. Despite what you may have heard in health class, or down at the campus health center (which very conveniently stocks loads of free samples from dozens of pharmaceutical companies hawking product and brochures from Planned Parenthood hawking, you guessed it, product).
According to a 2010 economic analysis of contraception by economist Timothy Reichert entitled ‘Bitter Pill,’ “Contraception creates a demand for abortion.” He likens contraception and abortion to complementary forms of insurance that resemble primary insurance and reinsurance. “If contraception fails, abortion is there as a fail-safe.”
Data collected from 1960 to 2005 confirms his thesis that the practices of contraception and abortion should rise until equilibrium levels of sexual activity are reached – and indeed, the statistical evidence shows a strong correlation between the rise in legal abortions and the rising use of contraceptive technology.
But we are not simply a target demographic, potential customers and consumers. Women in particular have been gifted with a unique and complex sexuality which lends itself to long term investment in a lasting sexual relationship.
Because of the widespread availability of contraceptive technology, a woman is now compelled to enter the sex market at a younger age and ‘compete’ while she is a scarcer commodity, while at the same time driving the cost of abstinence for other women to an historical high.
Women who choose to delay their entrance into the sex market until they desire to marry find themselves at a profound disadvantage, both from the perspective of availability of potential mates and the stiffer competition from younger sexually active women who, by nature of their suppressed fertility, are available for consequence-free sex.
In plain terms, what this essentially means is that from a strictly economic perspective, the availability of contraception compels women to make themselves ‘sexually available’ in order to compete with their peers for a rightful share of the market.
It’s a rather grim way of looking at romantic relationships, but there’s evidence of it in every aspect of modern society. Sex has essentially become the currency and women the desirable product or service. Not an especially attractive scenario, from a feminist perspective. Which is why I would advocate that authentic feminism must embrace the whole person rather than reducing her to parts or performance ability.
Being a woman, having the capacity to conceive and nurture new human life, is not a design flaw. It doesn’t need to be sutured, suppressed or tied off in order to ‘protect’ men from the consequences of intimacy with us.
Similarly, we needn’t defend ourselves against the scourge of male fertility by means of barriers or chemical repellants. We are not at war with one another.
But we are making war on our own bodies, and on the environment in which we live.
As human beings we are entrusted with an awesome responsibility to till and keep the garden of the natural world. We are to be stewards and guardians, not polluters and consumers. Not of the environment, and not of each other.
So the next time somebody engages you on the topic of responsible environmental stewardship, ask them what they’ve done for the planet lately, and maybe think twice before popping your morning Pill.
Because you never know who’s downstream.