"I want to live and I want to love. I want to catch something that I might be ashamed of."
--The Smiths, 'Frankly, Mr. Shankly"
--The Smiths, 'Frankly, Mr. Shankly"
I suppose it's as it should be: Even though I’ve never had sex, I seem to have a good handle on healthy sexual practices. When I heard that the third date is, supposedly, a common juncture to have sex for the first time with someone, all I could think was: “But aren’t you supposed to talk about testing for STDs, birth control and stuff before having sex? And isn’t the third date a little early for that?” I knew that people had sex without talking about these things, but my response was the old chestnut: “If you’re not comfortable talking about sex, are you really ready to be having it?” Maybe you are, but I maintain that it’s a good thing to talk about.
And at the risk of sounding like your high school gym teacher, that’s what we’ll be talking about today: Birth control and STD prevention. Yeah, I feel a little awkward writing about this, but, as someone with no emotional attachment to sex, I actually think I’m a good candidate to talk about how our culture views these things. It’s odd that while we see commercials for birth control every 15 minutes on TV, the condoms are locked up at Safeway, presumably because people keep stealing them, so embarrassed are we to admit we might be having sex.
Related to that, it REALLY bothers me when characters in movies and TV are constantly getting it on with no discussion or representation of safe sex. I know that these depictions aren’t supposed to be realistic, but people complain when someone smokes in a movie and it’s portrayed as “cool”…and isn’t having unsafe sex, especially with someone you haven’t had that “have you been tested?” talk with, pretty dangerous to your health? Hello, HIV, duh! Is it really going to derail the plot for a character to break out a condom? I think not. Maybe having sex without thinking of consequences is the sort of wish-fulfillment that we find in movies. I guess I come from this old “theatre should entertain and educate” school. But a lot of people don’t seem to be figuring out this whole safe-sex thing—it’s something we need to start seeing as integral to sexual activity. However, as any fan of This Film is Not Yet Rated might tell you, it might be the censors' apparent love of disembodied, "artistic" sex scenes that is partially to blame.
In her blog Ace of Hearts, the Impossible K recently asked, “I’m kinda surprised this issue [of birth control] hasn’t been discussed more amongst asexuals. Is it because it’s really such a non-issue for us?” And then, “I’m curious though - how do other asexuals view birth control, especially on a personal level? Would it be safe to assume we all favor the most effective method - not doing “it” - or are there valid reasons why other options need to be considered?” As someone with self-imposed blog productivity demands, I’ll bite on this—and pretty much any topic, to be honest. Sure, I could just comment, but expounding’s more my style.
I’m trying to think of my attitudes towards birth control as a teen, and I’m having a hard time recalling them. I was pretty sure, though, that everyone (female) started on the pill when they got older and inevitably started to have sex. I wasn’t crazy about messing with my body’s hormones (which, as far as I know, are completely normal). For me, something like sex wasn’t a big enough draw to make me want to go through even the slightest inconvenience. For me, birth control has always been a “let’s cross this river when we come to it” sort of thing. However, it’s always bothered me how the onus is completely on the woman. Sure, we’re the ones that actually give birth, but usually there is another person involved in the process. Apparently, hormonal birth control is possible for men, but it’s not marketable. So it’s cool for women to mess with their hormone levels, but men just won’t go there? I’m not down with that double-standard. However, even if there was hormonal birth control available for men, I wouldn’t want to convince men to take it when I would be resistant to taking it myself. Let’s not even get into the issue of health-related products not being available for anyone to use just because they’re not marketable to a large population. I get why they’re not, but it seems like a shame anyway.
So that’s pills. The only other form of birth control that’s commonly discussed seems to be condoms. In health class, we were taught about all these exotic methods (I remember female condoms, which sort of looked like those plastic showers you use when camping). However, in general talk (if there is any), these two kinds are pretty much all that’s discussed. It’s funny because even in terms of condoms, obtaining them is still seen as the woman’s responsibility. It’s also our responsibility to talk resistant male partners into using condoms. But really, think about it: If a dude refuses to buy condoms, and you have to use various strategies to get him to use one, is this really someone you want to have sex with? When you read literature about sex education, especially for young people, there’s all this advice on how to make condom usage sexy and romantic. Even I can see that this seems like way too much work; no wonder so many women go with the pill. Somehow, I doubt people are really as resistant to condoms as we’ve been led to believe. They are 99% effective after all, but only when used properly. And I’m guessing that a lot of the time, that doesn’t happen, considering that I also happen to be well-versed in all the things that can go wrong on that front.
I’ve never really understood the concept of abstinence as a form of birth control. “Don’t have sex and you won’t get pregnant” is logical, but as someone who is technically “abstinent”, it’s not a concept that resonates with me personally at all. If you’re not having sex because you have no desire to do so, does that make your abstention birth control? I don’t think it does. It seems like not having sex is always tied into fear of risk, when that may or may not really be the case. For some of us, the risk may be a mental one—but that’s an entirely different animal.