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I Have To Worldbuild The Past: On Birth Control - The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal
July 17th, 2013
09:43 am

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I Have To Worldbuild The Past: On Birth Control

One of my favorite authors, Daniel Abraham, said this yesterday:

"I keep thinking that, since it happened before I was born, I've failed to grok how much reliable birth control changed things. Thousands of generations with one risk/reward set for sex, and two with the new rules. I expect the species to still be freaked out."

Thing is, he's right.  I was thinking what the world must have been like in the days when women could just get pregnant for having sex, and there was no consistent control over it, and I found myself slipping into my "science fiction worldbuilder" mode: what would be the ramifications of that decision?  How would that affect society? Because it was such an alien concept to me that I had to back into it.

Which was bizarre, because for me, sex has never been linked to procreation, except accidentally or when specifically desired.  Don't want a kid?  You've got your IUD, your pill, your shot, and arguably condoms... the female body has ways of shutting that stuff down, and they're all called science.  Sex is for pleasure - and if you approach it carefully, usually without too much danger of pregnancy happening.  I'm usually far more worried about my friends catching STDs than having unwanted children.

But yeah, when I go back a century or two, sex and procreation were pretty much inseparable, a sloppy entangled risk you could reduce only unreliably.  Maybe you could turn that 1-in-20 shot of getting pregnant into 1-in-100 if you pulled out and were careful, but... it still happened.  A lot.

And pregnancy was a sentence, in those days.  Dying during childbirth was a serious possibility, so getting pregnant was a potential death sentence even if you felt comfortable giving away the child.  And if you didn't want to give birth?  Abortion, back in the days before we understood sanitation and proper surgery, was equally dangerous, if not more so.  You could take abortaficients, but those were like chemotherapy - a semi-controlled poison that may or may not work, and may actually kill you.

Sex was, in many very real ways, a direct link to death, and certainly to a different kind of life.  Back in the days when people literally starved to death for lack of government assistance, an extra mouth to feed could be a strain you couldn't afford.  Especially if you were a single mother who would have to work, without the assistance of a full-time partner, without the concept of "days off" or "restricted workdays," as even the comparatively genteel work of being a maid was literally a seventeen-hour day job, six days a week.

Which, as a guy who thinks of sex as more porn than babymaking, is deeply unsettling to contemplate.  That concept that all of this hideous slut-shaming I fight against has a kernel of old truth buried inside it - sleeping around could literally kill you as a woman, and on some level the mothers who were telling women to not give it up were speaking from some aspect of knowledge that hey, if he knocks you up, maybe you bleed out from this unwanted child.

There's a bit of male privilege contemplating this alternate world, of course, but I also think it's something that a lot of women who dismiss feminism also don't ponder too heavily.  The concept that women can control their bodies is as natural to recent generations as the concept that we can have drinking water without cholera - which is to say, such an assumed thing that we forget all of the titanic societal changes that emerged to make that seemingly trivial feature happen.

So of course we're still having battles over abortion, and birth control, and female reproductive rights.  It'd be eerie if we didn't.  We're dealing with the legacy of a whole culture based at least in part of thinking that sex had consequences, and we removed that like a magician whisking a cloth out from under some wine glasses, and now we have this vestigial set of terrors and ingrained shame fighting against a newer world where in fact we don't have to worry about that.  I'm not saying the fine conservative legislators of Texas are fighting for the right cause - but it'd be like if we suddenly removed the need to eat, and then expected that nobody would fight to protect the legacy of eating animals as a noble and protective cause instead of the gratuitous and then-inexcusable barbarism it would suddenly become.

(Some would argue that it is already.  Mayhap they're right, which only proves my point.)

But sometime just before I was born, women got handed a fantastic new power, one that shifted the very rules of biology.  We're still working that out.  And I forget, in my assumption of these scientific miracles, just how fantastic and world-changing that shift continues to be.

(Cross-posted from my real blog.)

(149 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

Comments
 
[User Picture]
From:aiela
Date:July 17th, 2013 01:58 pm (UTC)
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When we rewatched "The Girl in the Fireplace" recently, Dave started doing some research on her real-life persona, and one of the things that came up was that she had stopped having sex with her prince (king? Can't remember. Late night last night. :P) because she'd had some difficult pregnancies/miscarriages. So basically, that was your option if you didn't want to risk another pregnancy.

I remember being 12 or 13 and asking my mother WHY she'd had 4 babies in 3.5 years (set of twins in there) in the early 60's, and she was like "Well, there wasn't safe, reliable birth control back then." and it was a totally foreign concept to me. By the time she married my dad in '67, there was (I didn't come along until seven years into their marriage, probably because they had FOUR KIDS UNDER SEVEN. I'd wait, too.)
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From:mariadkins
Date:July 17th, 2013 05:13 pm (UTC)
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my grandmother had a daughter every even year of the 50s -- from 52 forward. then her son came along in 61. then my mom had me in '69.
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From:tapati
Date:July 17th, 2013 02:13 pm (UTC)

Born in '58 and I also can't easily imagine

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Thinking of those years before reliable birth control, it makes a little more sense that there's this notion of sex as something women have that we will or won't grant to men, something we don't want for our own sake or enjoy, because it was so fraught with (extra) consequence for us. It does explain some of the network of social conventions that existed to limit the possibility that young women would take these risks. It also (uncomfortably) explains the strategy of getting women drunk in order to persuade them to forget about caution and take the chance--or be so drunk as to be unable to resist.

Women do still die in childbirth but of course it's much less common. But even now, if you don't happen to be a woman that feels abortion is for you, if your birth control method fails you face months of varying levels of discomfort and potential health consequences. I had two and a half months of the severe nausea caused by hyperemesis gravidarum, for instance, where I actually lost weight in the first trimester. Then there were the months of back pain followed by a long, complicated labor. That was just the first of two children.

Pregnancy is still an enormous undertaking even when it goes smoothly and raising a child is a huge job. I'm still not satisfied we have achieved the level of birth control we'd all like. Hormonal birth control still has some serious side effects that some women are unable to tolerate. I hope for further advances in the field.
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From:sesmo
Date:July 18th, 2013 12:27 am (UTC)
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Luckily the reproductive urge is pretty high. We are in no danger of dying out before we manage to kill the planet.
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From:elenbarathi
Date:July 17th, 2013 02:47 pm (UTC)
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"Don't want a kid? You've got your IUD, your pill, your shot, and arguably condoms... the female body has ways of shutting that stuff down, and they're all called science."

Except that they still do not work reliably, and they all have severe drawbacks, that may not be instantly obvious to someone who's never had to use them. Yeah, science: do some research; check out the side-effects list. Women who have migraine with aura are at severe risk of a stroke from estrogen drugs - something I was NOT told when I went on the Pill in 1974; fortunately my daughter was told. Have you any idea how many women have died from those hormonal drugs in the two generations they've been around? Oh yes, the Pill, the shot; so easy, so convenient - except they may give you cancer, stop your heart or cripple your brain. Or they may just make you crazy and obese. Isn't Science great?

By the way, let's just mention the fact that the Morning-After Pill is also a roll of the dice for having a stroke. As a man, what would it take to induce you to run that risk? You've already had one heart attack; how would you like to take a drug that could give you another?

Let's talk about the IUD. Let's start off by talking about Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, because every woman I personally know who had an IUD got PID from it. "Oh but the new ones are so much better!" Yeah, that remains to be seen, doesn't it? My daughter wants one - since she can't use any hormonal drugs ever - despite the fact that her periods are already miserable and an IUD will very likely make them worse. She doesn't have one yet because - despite living in a major city and having good health insurance - she hasn't been able to find a place that'll give her one.

Why? Because putting them in is not like putting in a diaphragm or something. It's basically a surgical procedure; nurse-practicioners are not trained to do it, and it is not recommended for women who have not had a baby. Again, read up on the side-effects - yes, it's a highly effective method of birth control, since women who have heavy cramping and bleeding for three weeks out of the month don't have a lot of sex.

Barrier methods are a joke. When they work, they mostly work by making oral sex the preferable option. "Arguably", condoms are better than using nothing, and so is the basal-temp method, but there's no way they can be considered 'reliable'.

"And pregnancy was a sentence, in those days. Dying during childbirth was a serious possibility, so getting pregnant was a potential death sentence even if you felt comfortable giving away the child."

Clue stick: dying during childbirth is still a serious possibility:

"The United States spends $98 billion annually on hospitalization for pregnancy and childbirth, but the US maternal mortality rate has doubled in the past 25 years. The U.S. ranks 50th in the world for maternal mortality, meaning 49 countries were better at keeping new mothers alive.
~~ Huff Post


"now we have this vestigial set of terrors and ingrained shame fighting against a newer world where in fact we don't have to worry about that.

How lovely it must be for you in your "newer world". But then, you're a man, so it's not really a newer one at all, is it?


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From:theferrett
Date:July 17th, 2013 02:58 pm (UTC)
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Clue stick: dying during childbirth is still a serious possibility:

No, not really. While the US rate is sad, this dismal mortality rate for childbirth is still 12.7 deaths per 100,000 live births - or, 0.01%. That's literally down a factor of a hundred from the "natural" maternal death risk of around 1%.

Admittedly, a 1 in 10,000 chance of death is *a* risk, certainly - but your odds of dying in a car accident during the course of a year are far higher, and people don't generally view that as a "serious" possibility.

So, no. Cluestick parried.

How lovely it must be for you in your "newer world". But then, you're a man, so it's not really a newer one at all, is it?

Yes, absolutely, it wouldn't be new at all. The concept that women would be able to have sex with me at will, without terror or fear or the potential of an unwanted child, doesn't at all completely change the way I would approach and enjoy sex.

Really. Just because I'm a man doesn't mean women's reproductive abilities don't affect me, and it's the most sexist of assumptions to assume that it wouldn't.

Edited at 2013-07-17 03:02 pm (UTC)
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From:bart_calendar
Date:July 17th, 2013 03:04 pm (UTC)
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Don't even need to go back 100 years in many places. In Ireland until about 1980 all contraceptives where banned and until the mid-80s you had to get a prescription for condoms.
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From:theferrett
Date:July 17th, 2013 03:12 pm (UTC)
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True. I'm thinking of my environs of America, but there are other cultures that aren't affected.
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From:caudelac
Date:July 17th, 2013 04:24 pm (UTC)
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So funny, being pregnant right now has made me even more completely for abortion for those who feel it's what they need/want to do than I was before. Because seriously, if you don't want what's on the other side of this, you should _really_ not have to go through this. Some women might have easy, glowy pregnancies? Not this Rabbit. And apparently, the sicker I am, the healthier the docs tell me the baby is. I can't drive to work some days because nausea and dizziness make me unsafe to drive, much as if I'd been drinking, and there's also the fact that spending half your work day in the bathroom throwing up is not really ideal. Hopefully, this part will pass in a month or so, but in the meantime? It's a really good thing I want kids-- desperately want them-- because this is already a major life change in ways I could not have possibly anticipated before it happened, and you're right-- having even _some_ ability to decide whether or not to go through with it, without having to choose between sex and not sex (mostly) is a huge deal and a game changer, and something I am hugely grateful for.

That said, I am still amazingly excited about baby!!
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From:tapati
Date:July 17th, 2013 04:34 pm (UTC)
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Hyperemesis? UGH. My mom had it, I had it with both pregnancies and my daughter had it with all three of hers. There's a reason we don't have lots of kids in our family. I wanted one of each and then I was done but if I'd had two boys I'd have quit anyway. It's quite something to LOSE weight while you're pregnant because you can't keep food down for MONTHS.
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From:mariadkins
Date:July 17th, 2013 04:49 pm (UTC)
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Dying during childbirth was a serious possibility

Still is.
From:anonymousalex
Date:July 17th, 2013 05:19 pm (UTC)
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I have noted in the past that there is a strong thread, particularly amongst the anti-abortion crowd, that sex ought to have "consequences." It seems odd, in retrospect, that it never really struck me until just now that until quite recently it simply did.

Whether it's a good thing (for any of the parties) that a woman ought to have to bear and raise a "consequence" never seems to occur to the people I'm thinking of.

-Alex


Edited at 2013-07-17 06:37 pm (UTC)
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From:tylik
Date:July 17th, 2013 07:47 pm (UTC)
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A whole structure of society was in part predicated on sex being this scary thing that needed to be controlled. And as much as I'm unfond of some of the ways in which it was controlled... there's an argument there.

But if you want women to know their place (and men to know their places too, but then their places are a lot larger and more varied than women's) it does help keep them there.
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From:snippy
Date:July 17th, 2013 06:56 pm (UTC)
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The problem is that we're really lousy at predicting which woman are going to die in childbirth, because it can happy to literally anyone. The sister of a co-worker died in childbirth-she had a heart attack and they couldn't save her or the baby. She was healthy and had no predictive indicators, and it wasn't her first pregnancy (she had two children already).

Women used to make their wills while pregnant, write loving letters to friends and relatives, because it was likely they wouldn't make it.

I don't think the world has changed as much as we think it has.
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From:mariadkins
Date:July 17th, 2013 07:41 pm (UTC)
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thanks snippy. that's kinda what i was going for above and was having trouble with.
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From:funwithrage
Date:July 17th, 2013 07:35 pm (UTC)
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I agree so much.

I've been watching Call The Midwife, which is set in the 1950s, and both the lack of birth control and the danger of childbirth have a major impact on pretty much every woman out there. It's one of those things that--like Dirty Dancing and the Cider House Rules--I think everyone against legalized abortion/BC/etc should have to sit down and watch. (Also everyone against nationalized health care, actually.) Because: damn.
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From:caudelac
Date:July 17th, 2013 09:06 pm (UTC)
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/APPLAUSE.
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From:tylik
Date:July 17th, 2013 07:38 pm (UTC)
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This is pretty much why I'm a dyed in the wool abortion rights advocate. And before that, access to family planning and sex ed advocate. (For a bit there, I thought we'd kind of nailed down that birth control bit. Silly me.) For me, it's all about having the wherewithal to make choices about my own life - and as far as I can tell lack of control over our own fertility has been the biggest and hardest to shift barrier to female equality, pretty much forever.

I know so many women, closer to my mother's age than mine, who basically gave up all their life plans because oops, pregnant, guess I have to get married and settle down now. (I'm not saying this situation is ideal for men, either, but if you look at the impact on people's lives, I think the effects are pretty clearly asymmetric.)
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From:mariadkins
Date:July 17th, 2013 07:42 pm (UTC)
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i think we had kinda nailed down the birth control thing for a while - then "abstinence only" education became The Cause and "normal". so that's where we are now.
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From:anda
Date:July 17th, 2013 08:24 pm (UTC)
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Another of the social/economic consequences: for some/many chunks of history, for unmarried women who were working, it was pretty much a given that you would get fired immediately upon it being discovered that you were pregnant, and being a single mother (unless widowed, maybe) pretty much meant you couldn't get hired, either. Because it wasn't acceptable to have employees/servants who were "shamed"/"sluts"/etc.

As some others have said, pregnancy still isn't a walk in the park. In the last nine months (today is my due date), I can't count the number of times I have said to myself "I have no idea how I'd manage if I had to work at a labor intensive job". Between the headaches and nausea of the first three months (and tylenol doesn't work for me, so ...), the inability to sleep enough the last three months, and so on, even a desk job would have been hard sometimes.
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From:naamah_darling
Date:July 18th, 2013 04:16 am (UTC)
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Mums are still treated abominably at jobs. It's disgraceful.

And congratulations in advance, person I do not know. I hope it goes very well, and I wish you and your family luck and peace and strength, and unbelievable amounts of happiness! <3
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From:fallconsmate
Date:July 17th, 2013 08:30 pm (UTC)
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my very own, very personal history is that if i had been laboring at home to have my son, with no doctor within fetching distance? i would have died, with my son in me. he was an ounce shy of 10 pounds, unplanned c-section. i recovered, he thrived...

but how many women labored till their lives ran out? or as you said, bled to death after giving birth? (which is what happened to my great grandmother in the early 1900's, 1911 if i remember right. she died giving birth to my grandfather. his father remarried 2 weeks after she died, because he had a toddler and an infant and needed someone to care for them.)

birth control saves lives. SAFE abortions save MORE lives. we're supposed to be moving FORWARD and not BACKWARD in civilization.
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From:aiela
Date:July 18th, 2013 09:23 pm (UTC)
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My grandmother died in 1948, when her kids were six months, four years and six years old.

She died of kidney failure, so it was not quick. My grandfather already had his next wife picked out, because otherwise, he would have lost his children. It was scandalous at the time (and I believe they were already having a relationship while my grandmother died, so I can understand why people were unhappy) but the after-the-fact consensus was "What else was he supposed to do? They wouldn't have let a single man keep three small children, including two girls."
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From:lunabird
Date:July 17th, 2013 08:51 pm (UTC)
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Gonna quietly point out that condoms of one sort or another have been around since the 1600s...

That historians speculate that the seeds of the silphium plant were used as a birth control method for centuries - and were so high in demand that the plant was driven to extinction...

That women -- particularly wealthy women -- in ancient rome would often have sex with male slaves that had been castrated after the onset of puberty, giving them the ability to obtain an erection...

That vasectomies have been available for over a century...

That homosexual sex has been going on since, well, forever, and has been actively encouraged in some societies...

That anal sex has a reduced risk of pregnancy...

That ORAL sex even when practiced between heterosexual couples has an EXTREMELY low risk of pregnancy...

It's true our hormonal methods are EXTRAORDINARILY effective, but, I'm not gonna sit and pretend the past was this bleak dark time where no one had any means of birth control ever until the last 50 years. That's absurd. And certainly not all sex -- since homosexual sex is sex -- has been inexorably linked with The Risk Of Babies.

And I get that the past was a bleak dark time for OTHER reasons. But, there were ways and ways of having sex without risking pregnancy in particular.

(Also, some abortifacients/things-you-can-consume-that-can-lead-to-miscarriage are essentially harmless -- their primary "negative" effect is that they cause one to miscarry. The big issue with them is they aren't reliable and they can screw up a pregnancy badly if they don't work as intended. But they aren't OH NO poison. That's why certain foods that are a-ok to eat while not pregnant are on the no-no list if you are. Like, for instance, caffeine. It doubles the risk of miscarrying I believe, but, outside of a pregnancy it's safe enough to consume. This is also the case for certain kinds of bacteria (like, that found in certain cheeses) which is harmless to a non-pregnant person but can terminate a pregnancy.)
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From:caudelac
Date:July 17th, 2013 09:07 pm (UTC)
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Or, funny! Sage.
From:noumignon
Date:July 17th, 2013 08:59 pm (UTC)
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It's a testament to the power of natural selection that even when childbirth was potentially lethal, we still evolved norms and desires leading to more children. It's still a terrible deal today, but it seems that most people are hardwired not to realize that.
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From:mariadkins
Date:July 17th, 2013 09:01 pm (UTC)
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or don't want to realize that.
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From:fabrisse
Date:July 17th, 2013 09:13 pm (UTC)
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Casanova apparently used half a lemon as a cervical cap for his partners. The higher acidity as well as the physical barrier means it was probably relatively effective. I think I'd prefer a smaller citrus fruit for the experiment, myself.
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From:ccr1138
Date:July 17th, 2013 09:39 pm (UTC)
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That ... sounds like it would burn.
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From:ccr1138
Date:July 17th, 2013 09:32 pm (UTC)
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Especially if you were a single mother who would have to work,

Even within my lifetime, single women who got pregnant COULD NOT get work. They were pariahs. Getting pregnant out of wedlock was an enormity, a huge shameful tragedy that could ruin a woman's reputation forever. Most of the time, they were sent to workhouses or hidden with relatives until the birth, so that nobody would know what happened. Of course, everyone could guess. Whispers and rumors often ruined people's reputations anyway, without actual facts.

It wasn't until around 1980 that attitudes began to change, at least where I'm from. We had a couple of girls in my high-school class that got pregnant in 10th or 11th grade, and while it was a scandal, they did manage to stay in school and keep their heads high. A couple of years later, the teachers tell me they had girls who seemed almost *proud* and excited to be pregnant. They were fools, IMO, but at least they weren't being shuffled off into the shadows.
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From:aiela
Date:July 18th, 2013 09:26 pm (UTC)
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A friend's second grade teacher (so, 1981, if my math is correct) was fired from a public school for becoming pregnant out of wedlock.
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From:chess
Date:July 17th, 2013 10:52 pm (UTC)
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I'm slightly irritated by all the people bashing the terrible side effects of the hormonal pill because I use that shit to control my terrible PMT and without it I get suicidally depressed for about a week every month then have the period from hell where I'm basically incapacitated in pain for a couple of days. It took a while to find the right one (including an exciting episode replacing 'suicidally depressed' with 'homicidally angry'), but now I just get a bit down and moody for a couple of days and have a fairly normal livable set of period cramps.
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From:naamah_darling
Date:July 18th, 2013 04:13 am (UTC)
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I needed it to control bleeding that was killing me. It was hideous to me, made me spotty and batshit crazy (worse than I am anyway) and sick all the time and was just generally awful. And you know what? I AM SO FUCKING GLAD IT EXISTS. Because for every method of birth control that I wish I could kick in the nuts, there is a lovely person like you who NEEDS IT and for whom it works like it's supposed to and saves them suffering and suckitude.

*wags* I'm glad you found something that worked for you, and that it's one of the more reliable, safe, and easily available methods out there. That is no-joke fucking awesome, that is how it SHOULD BE, and I fucking love that science and medical technology has made stuff like this available, even if the people in the industry can be a bunch of flapping asshats sometimes.
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From:naamah_darling
Date:July 18th, 2013 04:08 am (UTC)
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I've never wanted kids. Been afraid of doctors since a thing that happened when I was 17, and am probably phobic of pregnancy, too. I spent . . . Christ . . . I was 14 when I started fucking, I was 29 or so when my husband was snipped, so . . . 15 years of having literal panic attacks whenever something went wrong or I was late or I had to have a yearly exam because of all the shit I had to go through to stay safe.

Being coerced into exams I found traumatic by condescending cock-biting shitfucks withholding my pills, when I was still trying to take those.

Being told I was too young to decide to not have kids, when I have known this since I was FIVE.

Being told I was making up side effects.

Being too poor to go anywhere but the same low-cost clinic that LIED TO ME AND TOLD ME I HAD CANCER AND WAS GOING TO DIE (no I am not kidding or exaggerating, I have a witness) and then admitted that they had deliberately lied to make me have another test, and so, sobbing my heart out when I had to go back there and LET THOSE HORSEFUCKERS TOUCH ME AGAIN whenever I had twat problems.

While trying to get sterilized, I learned I have a condition that will likely result in ectopic pregnancies or spontaneous miscarriage, and an ectopic pregnancy might kill me, so I have to be extra careful not to get knocked up. And even knowing this, I had a doctor deny me an IUD because it was "too permanent." A REMOVABLE PIECE OF PLASTIC.

My husband? One twenty-minute appointment and he walked out of the exam room and made an appointment to get his wires cut. One month later, it was done. Compare this to 15 years of me trying to get it addressed. Yeah.

This is still a HUGE issue. The way people with uteruses are treated -- especially disabled or mentally ill people, POC, people who have too few or too many kids, or fat people, or transmen who still need care for their reproductive parts -- by the medical profession is part of the problem, as is the social climate that punishes us for trying to choose responsibly, and seeks to limit our options at every turn.

Maybe-baby-having-people have the potential to control our reproductive capacity much more than we do, if we were just given some motherfucking RESPECT. Freedom from the prospect of pregnancy hanging over me like a giant pink and blue grim reaper trimmed out in a smile and rubber ducky diapers . . . that is something that I have only known for a few short years. There's a LOT of male privilege (sorry, Ferrett, I love you, truly I really do and I think that like 9/10 of this is brilliant) in being able to look at this as a thought exercise, as a fear you've never known and that (I am assuming) the women in your life have under control in a way that works for them. For me, it's a lurking horror I have to work like hell to keep at bay, and that has been a maddening struggle that at times made me very close to suicidal -- I would have killed myself that one time I really thought I was pregnant. Not kidding.

I'll point out that even if the risks of a thing are very low, like the risk of dying in childbirth, those risks look HUGE to someone reluctant or flat-out unwilling to brave them. Until you're part of the group that has to look at that statistic as a thing that could happen to them, its impact cannot be underestimated. The fear may seem out of proportion to the risk, but . . . it's a risk of DEATH. And that's sort of permanent. Talking about how low the risks are to reassure a frightened person basically willing to go through with a thing is fine. Doing it as a way of saying "HAHA, come on, it's not THAT bad" to a person who is not willing to do that thing is not. (And I do think you realize that. I'm just putting that out there as a general observation.)

I will give you a nice and supportive comment in a minute.
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From:naamah_darling
Date:July 18th, 2013 07:36 am (UTC)
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Husband and I were discussing this the other day. He asked me what I thought the most game-changing invention in the last couple hundred years was, and I said, without even mulling it over, "BIIIIIRTH CONTROOOOOOL."

Now, if someone disagrees, I won't argue, because I'm not even sure I believe it, but it's already had HUGE effects on us, and we have not even begun to see the effects it will have, long term, on our culture. I think an argument could be made that as a SOCIAL advance and not a technological one, it is the most important development in human history.

So of course we're still having battles over abortion, and birth control, and female reproductive rights. It'd be eerie if we didn't. We're dealing with the legacy of a whole culture based at least in part of thinking that sex had consequences, and we removed that like a magician whisking a cloth out from under some wine glasses, and now we have this vestigial set of terrors and ingrained shame fighting against a newer world where in fact we don't have to worry about that.

Exactly. Assuming United States-ian, we still live in a culture where many of the people making rules and enforcing them grew up in times and places where this social advance did not exist, and they have no framework for it. But even if, as you theorize, it arose as a safety issue, they aren't aware of it as a safety issue; it became a MORAL issue, which is harder to eradicate because it has no rational basis. They no longer think of it rationally: "The more people you fuck, the more at risk you are for things like STIs and babies. Therefore, restricting your fucking to a few select partners is safest." It's become so entrenched they think of it as EVIL: "If you fuck too much, you are a DIRTY WHORE." It goes from "Sex HAS consequences that you have to avoid, avert, or endure!" to "Sex SHOULD HAVE consequences, and you bitches had BETTER ENDURE THEM!" And it IS women's behavior they chiefly care about. Men who fuck around are considered awesome and studly. We get to be damaged or devalued goods. Chewed bubble gum, an apple with too many bites out of it, a cow giving out free milk, a loaf of bread missing slices, whatever offensive animal/object analogy you want to use.

To be clear, even if the stigma against promiscuous sex came about because of fears of disease and pregnancy, that was still the wrong fucking response to that problem. I think a lot of the screaming and thrashing and tantrumming and restrictive law-passing and general upfuckery of recent years is due to these people basically FREAKING THE FUCK OUT because to them, this is a social fucking meltdown. The order of things is changing, and they don't know what to do. Women are suddenly just . . . doing what they want to do. And this scares the piss out of them. It's tied deeply into the idea of women as property that men should control, which is also an idea that's dying out, but still taking women with it as it goes, because assholes try to use this stuff as a lever against our behavior.

I saw one of these douchebags sum it up perfectly when he said "You women just want to fuck all the time, without ANY CONSEQUENCES."

Well, yeah, you hit the nail on the head, there, buddy. That's exactly what I want. And I utterly fail to see why that is a problem, or why you have to try to take away my ability to prevent or end a pregnancy to keep me, a person you've never met, from fucking people you have never met.

That shit's creepy and gross.
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From:anda
Date:July 18th, 2013 02:25 pm (UTC)
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+1 Internets to this comment.

I think the response to that douchebag is "You mean, just like men want?" HRMPFT.

(Yes, I am entirely aware that there are still potential consequences for men, but as a comeback it's reasonably parallel and snappy, so ...)
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From:domiobrien
Date:July 18th, 2013 12:21 pm (UTC)

timeline

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I was in college when the Supreme Court ruled it was legal for married couples to use birth control (Griswold vs. Conn, 1965). I was finishing my Master's degree when they ruled that single people could use birth control (Eisenstadt vs. Baird, 1972). The world I grew up in-- the one where teen pregnancy was rampant, most people didn't graduate from high school, and my grandmother died at 44 after 16 pregnancies (7 of those children made it to reproductive age)-- turned upside down. Much of the world still doesn't have birth control, and the number-one cause of death for women of reproductive age in the third world continues to be pregnancy and childbirth.
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From:starsong24
Date:July 18th, 2013 04:32 pm (UTC)
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It's interesting to note that cultures which don't make the connection between sex and pregnancy -- largely due to their main food supply being somewhat contraceptive -- have very different attitudes towards female sexuality.
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From:dancinglights
Date:July 18th, 2013 10:26 pm (UTC)
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I'm the sole surviving, sickly female child (born in 1980) of an original hippie woman's libber who nearly died in her wanted high-risk pregnancy with me, who was in turn the sole surviving child of a woman who died far too young related to the complications of her high-risk pregnancies. I've spent my life more directly aware than most that without the proper application of caution and science sex is a death sentence and wow isn't it fantastic that we developed this still-imperfect but lifesaving technology and beat back an oppressive culture so that people like me could have relationships and *not probably die*.

I am kind of a frothing lunatic at cultural and legal forces that want to take that away from me. I am often confused at my own generation for blithely taking it all for granted. Thanks for bringing this all up from a very interesting point of view.
From:chianazhaan
Date:January 5th, 2014 11:19 pm (UTC)
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An enlightening post. Especially by referencing world-building. Because while the information is not new, it was basically an informed attribute: infant mortality rate was higher, dying during childbirth was a distinct possibility...just the facts. Whereas the truth is that this change is still a work in progress in many parts of the world. And even where the change has happened for the most part, it's still continuing to influence other aspects of society and discovering new problems that weren't obvious before.

But reading the comments, there does seem to be a huge difference between the statistics and how individual women experience it. In other words, it matters how close---and on which side---an individual woman is to the statistical average. Still, the trend-line is clear: more women are benefiting from it and will.

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