an open letter to people who are freaked out by women who use birth control

Dear You Guys,

Hey. How are things? Boy, you sure do have people talking a lot about birth control and sex and reproduction these days. Does that gross you out a little? All this talk about sex lives and choices? I’m sorry if it does, because I understand that it’s uncomfortable to be grossed out, but, you know, you started it.

There are a lot of people talking about this issue from a lot of different angles, and personally, I think it’s great. I’m really interested in the current public discourse, because I like talking about things that matter. And you know what? This ongoing conversation about women’s lives and choices? It’s really important, because women matter. We do.

Oh my god, this issue? It’s so big. I couldn’t possibly address all the points of it. Right now, people are really upset with Rush Limbaugh because he called a woman who testified about the importance of having birth control covered by health insurance a slut. He called her a slut. And a prostitute. And a feminazi. I would like to write about this, because it’s one of my favorite subjects, language used by those in power to oppress those who aren’t. I have studied this subject for years and years, and you know something? Men have been calling women horrible things for HUNDREDS of years, pretty much just like Limbaugh did. Oh, the actual vocabulary may differ, but the end goal is always the same: it’s to shame women into silence. It’s unfortunately a very effective tool. Rush Limbaugh himself has been using it for DECADES. (It’s been interesting to watch the flurry of activity surrounding Limbaugh’s comments, by the way — the internet has really changed the way people talk about things.) But I’m not going to focus on this particular facet of the ongoing conversation, because there’s something else that’s really been bugging me for awhile, and so I feel I should focus instead on that.

The argument is this: allowing access to birth control allows people to make immoral decisions, therefore, we must limit or entirely eliminate access.

It’s a really old argument. Why, in my younger years, I remember an episode (maybe it was even a very special episode) of 90210 in which those plucky youngsters had to argue before the school board that having condoms available in schools is a move toward the health and safety of our nation’s youth and not a means of condoning sex all the time, probably even on the desks in math class. The debate is probably even older than that, but I point out this memory as a means of showing that I’ve been aware of it for most of my life.

The argument gets dressed up as concern, or trying to prevent other people’s bad decisions by making it harder to choose sex outside of certain parameters. Those parameters, of course, are fairly narrow: sex is only to be shared between an adult man and an adult woman who are legally married to each other. Some define it more narrowly, in that the purpose of sex between these two married adults is solely for the purposes of procreation. So you’re defining the parameters in which (morally okay) sex is allowed to happen, and in some cases, also stating what the intent must be in order for two married people to choose to get naked together.

The thing is, people choose sex outside of these parameters all the time. I’d argue that this is because sex is a natural thing to do, but I don’t think I even need to argue it, since it’s a natural thing to do. In my churchgoing days, I endured many a sermon on marriage (MANY. A. SERMON.) in which the sex topic came up and was always discussed as a natural, healthy part of a loving marriage. It’s even described as a need. You need to have sex with your spouse if you’re going to have a normal, healthy marriage as God intended marriage to be. And if you’re single, I don’t know. Nobody ever talks about what single people are supposed to do, because they’re marriage sermons. But I guess if you’re single, you’re supposed to shut down your need for sex (struggle against those desires of the flesh, as it were), because sex is only something you need to be healthy if you’ve participated in a legally-binding ceremony so that when you do your taxes each year it’s as Married, Filing Jointly. If you file your taxes as Single, then having sex is a filthy sin. And you know what happens when you commit filthy sins: you burn in hell for eternity.

Just saying. You have to keep it in your pants as a means of fire insurance.

Of course, to those who are married (and let’s just pretend for the sake of argument that all married people remain strictly monogamous), your need for sex with your partner is an expression of sex’s purpose, which is to, you know, be fruitful and multiply. I’ll be honest and admit that I don’t entirely understand this argument, because what if you’re past childbearing years or infertile for some other reason? Are you then obligated to keep your hands to yourself? (But not literally because going solo is probably also wrong?) Are you only supposed to have sex when the woman is at her peak fertility for the month? I don’t know. What I do know is that for some, even if, say, a woman has had all the children she wants to have, or if she shouldn’t risk pregnancy due to health concerns (for either herself or her potential offspring), or if she needs help regulating her periods, or she doesn’t want to have children at all, she should not use any method of birth control, because life is a gift, and if God gives you that gift, then you’d better like it, regardless of the risks or your personal desires.

That kind of sums it up, yeah?

And for anybody else, well, you shouldn’t be having sex anyway. And if you’re a woman who chooses to use birth control, it’s because you’re having lots of sex, probably with any man who gives you a second glance, or hey, why do you even need a second glance? One glance is enough, isn’t it? You wouldn’t have all this sex if you couldn’t take The Pill, because then you’d wind up with 100 babies and the only way you’d be able to support yourself is by getting a reality TV show by going on welfare and bleeding the rest of us good, moral, taxpayers dry. Probably. Ignoring the fact that there’s a wide spectrum of women making an even wider spectrum of choices, I just want to focus on this one argument, since this is the one that seems to have people in a tizzy. (I guess I’m not ignoring Rush Limbaugh after all.)

Here’s my question: so?

If a woman is unmarried for whatever reason, but she happens to like sex (it is a good time, after all, at least usually), and she’s in a committed, monogamous relationship, say, and chooses to have sex with her boyfriend, so? Or if she’s not in a committed, monogamous relationship and she chooses to have sex with multiple partners because she wants to have sex with them, so? And if she believes that having children isn’t a good choice for her right now, so? I mean, really, so what? Do you need to protect her from herself? Is that it? Because if she can’t choose birth control, she’ll stop making bad decisions? (If, in fact, having sex is a bad decision.) She doesn’t want to be a slut, right? And there’s something wrong with women who choose sex because they like it. They’re dirty. Because sin makes a person dirty, and there’s no hotter, filthier sin than sex. Outside of marriage. For reasons other than procreation.

Okay. After all of that, I finally want to point out the gaping hole in your argument that birth control facilitates bad decisions and therefore nobody should have access to it. The argument is based on a position of moral superiority, and for the sake of argument, regardless of what I may or may not personally believe, let’s say that this morally-superior position is correct. You’re right, and everybody else is wrong. (You already know this.) Sex is only for heterosexual married couples, and anybody who falls outside of that and has sex is wrong. Sex outside of those parameters is ALWAYS a bad decision. Because the Bible tells you so. And birth control facilitates bad decisions. It facilitates going against God’s plan. And you are morally opposed to going against God’s plan. Okay? And you’re right about everything.

Let’s just say that.

Here’s the thing. Since the dawn of time, which was, you know, about 6,000 years ago, God has allowed his creation to make bad decisions. There’s a concept within Christianity, and it’s very big within the evangelical sector, and that concept is called free will. What free will means — and I’m sure you know this, Christians — is that we are fallen creatures, born flawed thanks to the sin that happened way back 6,000 or so years ago in the Garden of Eden, when Eve took the apple from the talking snake, and all humanity since that time has been born with a sinful nature, and then Jesus came and died on the cross to redeem us from sin, but we must CHOOSE to accept the gift of salvation and turn away from our sinful natures, and we must make that choice to try to walk in righteousness, and we have to make that choice every single day. That is free will. Humans are allowed, by God, mind you, to choose to live morally bankrupt lives. Those who have chosen righteousness are allowed, at any time, to choose to walk away from right living and make bad decisions. The best anybody who is redeemed can do is struggle every single day to continue to walk in righteousness, struggle against our sinful desires to do all sorts of things we know to be incorrect, from thinking hateful thoughts, to having lots and lots of sex with strangers without wanting to procreate a single time. And those who are redeemed can only pray for the strength to make good choices, and pray for those who have chosen something else, that our fallen brothers and sisters may see how good it is to choose a life with Jesus. But we cannot force that choice. And God does not force that choice, because otherwise, it’s not a choice. Even God respects a person’s right to choose.

That’s how it works. I know, because I went to church for most of my life. I don’t go to church anymore because I have several deep philosophical disagreements with things I see happening within modern Christianity, and I can’t sit in a pew and pretend I believe something I don’t. I’m morally opposed to that. But unlike a lot of people who have turned away from the Church, I don’t begrudge anybody’s right to believe what they believe, and I don’t feel superior to anybody else just because I wound up in a different philosophical space.

My point is this: if, according to your own theology, we are all given the right to choose to make good or bad decisions, given that right by God himself, then how did we humans wind up in a place where we feel that we must make a world where others do not have the room to choose bad decisions? Those of you who don’t believe in a woman’s right to have access to birth control — are you smarter than God?

If God doesn’t legislate our morality, why should you?

Just thought I’d throw that out there.

Sincerely,
Jamelah

p.s. I know it’s not really about living according to God’s will, and instead it’s about exercising control over things you don’t like or understand. I just want you to know that I see through the veneer of piousness, and I do not respect you using God in a way that, according to your own belief system, God does not even use himself.

14 thoughts on “an open letter to people who are freaked out by women who use birth control

  1. A woman is a “Slut” and “prostitute” every time she has sex using birth control, so it would follow that every time a man masturbates to ejaculation, thousands of potential babies die, right? Legislate that, congressional sluts.

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  2. This was interesting to read, but as someone who runs in conservative Christian circles, I don’t think it addresses the real issue. The “controlling morality” idea is a straw man and is not a reason I have ever heard used for not using or allowing birth control. Perhaps it is used by people with no knowledge of biology, but whoever thinks the entire birth control argument should be about how it makes it easy to sin sexually is missing the point.

    This is about murder. This is about defining when a life begins. If life begins at conception, at the formation of the embryo, then it would be murder to end a life even at such an early stage. Birth control that puts an end to an embryo should be the issue here. But our nation thinks it’s okay to put an end to life at various stages of development, even to fetuses that are nearly ready to be born. This is the foundation for all arguments I’ve heard about birth control. If all people believed that life began at conception, then, like you said, there would be repercussions. Maybe people would feel like they couldn’t sleep around whenever they wanted because the risk of conception would be unacceptably high to them. But I don’t see that controlling other’s choices is the purpose of disallowing birth control.

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      1. Who’s talking about sluts? Even married people could use forms of birth control that destroy embryos. Condoms don’t kill babies.

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      2. Mr. Limbaugh recently introduced the notion of an adult seeking to purchase and utilize birth control as a “slut” therefore a man would share the title equally, one presumes. Goose, gander, etc. Condoms are birth control, so it follows that a man’s access to birth control should also be regulated and controlled by the government the conservative agenda would espouse.

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    1. I understand that the question of when life begins is an issue for those that would disallow birth control, but I believe you’re talking about something different than what I’m talking about. You seem to be discussing something of a retroactive nature, to quote, “Birth control that puts an end to an embryo should be the issue here.” Okay. But that’s not what I’m discussing here. What I’m talking about is forms of preventive birth control, either in hormonal form (such as birth control pills) that either stop ovulation or thicken cervical mucus to form a type of barrier, or both, thereby preventing conception from taking place at all, or other barrier methods, such as condoms or diaphragms. With these types of methods, when used as intended, most of the time, conception doesn’t happen, therefore no embryos are formed to be killed.

      If you have not heard the argument that birth control should be disallowed due to it making it easier for women to make morally questionable decisions regarding sex, then of course there’s Rush Limbaugh’s famous statements from a few days ago in which he called Sandra Fluke a slut for stating that birth control should be covered by health insurance. She’s a slut because she wants birth control, and the only reason why she wants birth control is so she can have lots of irresponsible sex. That’s his argument.

      And then there’s Rick Santorum, who is apparently currently a viable possibility for nabbing the Republican presidential nomination. He says, in regards to birth control, “It’s not OK, because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They’re supposed to be within marriage, for purposes that are, yes, conjugal… but also procreative.”

      And of course within the Catholic church, using birth control is considered a sin, because one is not to prevent oneself from getting pregnant.

      So, I’m not talking about abortion, and the belief that birth control provides license for immoral behavior is not a straw man. It’s a real opinion being endorsed by those within the conservative realm right now.

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    2. Also, birth control and abortion are not the same thing, though I find it interesting that you’ve lumped it all together into one category. Undergoing a medical procedure to terminate an established pregnancy (abortion) is not the same thing as using a type of hormonal medication (pills, patches, the ring, IUD, implant) or a barrier method (condoms, diaphragm) to prevent a pregnancy from taking place. It’s just not. And discussing whether or not abortion should be legal is beside the point as outlined in my original post.

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    3. Well, no, it’s not about murder. The moment when life begins isn’t a matter of biology; it’s an issue of religion. Different religions have different notions of when life begins. And, as far as that goes, there are often differences of opinion within religions. Early Christians believed life began when a fetus became ‘animated,’ which Thomas Aquinus and St. Augustine (and they knew something about Christianity) believed to be somewhere around the 40th day after conception. A lot of modern Christians believe life begins at the moment of conception. Some very orthodox modern day Christians believe life beings at the moment of ‘ensoulment,’ which is detailed in Genesis (“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”).

      The problem is divorcing religion from policy. My religion shouldn’t control what you’re allowed to do; your religion shouldn’t control what I’m allowed to do. Your definition of the moment when life begins should not be the basis for law and governance any more than mine should.

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    4. If you are on birth control you aren’t ovulating so you aren’t murdering anyone. If you are using a condom at the time that a woman is ovulating then you might be able to argue that you are preventing some number of lives from being created. Point being, they aren’t created. No matter when you believe creation begins it most certainly doesn’t begin BEFORE the sperm fertilizes the egg. You don’t have anyone to murder until AFTER the sperm meets the egg. Prior to that moment you are PREVENTING conception of a life but you most certainly aren’t murdering a life that is already in existence. Without entering an egg a sperm is just a sperm. I’m going to go ahead and assume that you aren’t using any method of birth control OR NATURAL FAMILY PLANNING, because you know, isn’t DELIBERATELY NOT HAVING SEX when you are ovulating getting in the way of creating life? Cause surely you understand that the rest of the time when you are having sex you aren’t in any “danger” of accidently having kid number 42, or whatever that you are on, that makes you think that maybe you really just can’t handle another one (because without a reality TV show or being married, to say Donald Trump, there is really no way you can afford 42 kids without being a burden on the state (i.e. tax payers). Or maybe you are ONLY having sex a couple of days a month during your most fertile period and the rest of the time you never ever remotely even consider engaging in intercourse because since there is no more possibility of the sperms reaching an egg then (since there isn’t an egg other than when you are ovulating a whole 48 hours or so a month) than there is when you are using birth control. Anytime you fail to have sex when you are ovulating, whether intentionally or unintentionally, you are preventing an EGG from getting a SPERM and being a LIFE. So how many times in the last year (say) have you prevented a life from being created by not deliberately having sex when you are ovulating? And how many times have you lost control and accidentally had sex when you aren’t ovulating wasting all those millions of sperms that could have fertilized an egg?

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