Sexuality, Birth Control and Hobby Lobby

By Corinne Schwarz, Government Relations Intern

After the Supreme Court decision affirming Hobby Lobby’s ability to withhold certain forms of birth control from their employees, I decided to check out Facebook to see how my friends and family felt about this decision. While plenty of my online nearest and dearest were just as outraged as I was, a certain kind of anti-sex positivity fueled many of the most heated posts I discovered. Behind every “Why should your boss pay for your birth control?” question, there was an implicit “Why are you even bringing up your sexuality right now? Put that away!” The Victorian-era sex norms we’ve explored in an earlier blog post were out again, turning women into sex-crazed animals pounding on Hobby Lobby’s door for their IUDs and emergency contraception or demure employees who would never, ever ask their employers to accommodate such a vulgar contraceptive mandate.Birth Control Methods

In response to some of the more vitriolic posts, many of my Facebook friends attempted to put a face to the issue, sharing their own stories of why they chose to use contraceptives. “Well, I’m on the pill because I have endometriosis. That’s a health issue! Of course I should be able to use that!” “I’ve already had three kids and I don’t want any more right now, so of course I’ve got an IUD. That’s being responsible!” There was, however, one argument that remained missing from the rebuttals—”Guess what? I’m sexually active and I’m using birth control because that’s part of my healthy sex life, which I have every right to have.” The very fear of admitting contraceptive use for explicitly sexual reasons—not for health benefits, not for family planning—had become clear through these Facebook statuses. These women felt like they had to qualify why they used contraceptives within a very narrow framework: It’s ok to use birth control if it’s for your health or if you’re using it within a monogamous, legally recognizable partnership, but it’s not ok if you’re using it for your own sexual autonomy.

With 99% of U.S. women who have had sexual intercourse using contraceptives at some point in their lives, the current debate does not reflect the lived experiences of most women. According to a 2011 Guttmacher Institute study, 86 percent of women use oral contraceptives (like the pill) to prevent pregnancy, while 58 percent also name health benefits. Hormonal contraceptive methods are routinely used to treat excessive menstruation bleeding and pain, acne, endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome. About 1.5 million women actually use oral contraceptives exclusively for health purposes. This is fantastic—women should be able to readily access treatments for reproductive health concerns! But women should also be able to readily access contraceptives without feeling like they need to make a “valid” reason. Safe, pleasurable, autonomous sexual experiences can and should be just as acceptable as getting a hormonal IUD to help with bad cramps or prevent pregnancies for five years.

So how do we combat these taboos around sex and sexuality? How do we explain our choices outside of this limiting framework? I think the first step is simply talking about sexual health beyond the mechanics. We’ve all heard about getting tested and scheduling pap smears, but why aren’t we thinking about the pleasurable, emotional side of things too? As women, we’re socialized never to be selfish and never to put ourselves first, even when it comes to our desires. Changing the conversation to acknowledge that hey, women like to have sex too, becomes a way to resist the repressive, sex-negativity left over from our Victorian ancestors. So instead of silently observing my friends on Facebook attempt to qualify their experiences, maybe I should have put my own contraceptive choices out there—choices that aren’t primarily fueled by health concerns. All women should be able to access contraceptives for any reason, without clarification and without conforming to the “valid” reasons for birth control usage. Sexual pleasure is a huge, often forgotten, part of sexual health—let’s not cave to birth control opponents by leaving it out of the conversation entirely.

7 Responses to “Sexuality, Birth Control and Hobby Lobby”

  1. Tawni Caldwell

    This us absolutely THE ISSUE needing exposure. We EXPRCT boys in our society to have sex, hopefully use condoms, live their lives otherwise unrestricted, but girls and women are to live as breeders having sex only once committed publicly to a man, one man and making that sex legally verified, otherwise not to have sex. It goes beyond Victorian attitudes and into issues of chattel and men’s overriding rights to claim heirs. And, sadly many many women adhere to this archaic female behavioral POLICY.

    Reply
  2. Marianna Tavarez

    Women have every right to the same sexual freedom that men enjoy. If men are not manwhores, then women are Not sluts. Our bodies are autonomous, and we don’t need their approval. We must take it out of our mind sets.

    Reply
  3. Patti Kemper

    I read your article. and you are Right. YES I took Birth Control for medical reasons later in life. But you know what? I took it for my sex life when I was younger. I left home at 16, I was on my own. supported myself, finished school on my own, and Yes I had sex. I was smart enough to go on the pill. I knew that I was in no way able to care for a child. I remained on the pill until I was 32 years old, when I was finally ready to have children. It was a Very intelligent decision on my part. The same people who are so anti-Birth Control, are the same ones who are so Anti-Abortion. Had I NOT been on Birth Control, I would have gotten Pregnant.. no question about that.. and my only decision would have been to Abort that Child, or go on Welfare..By using Birth Control I did not have to make either of those decisions. I was able to raise my 2 children, support them, educate them, and raise them to productive, responsible Adults, who also know about Birth Control and its benefits to Society. Birth Control is not new.. Ancient People used Lemons, Queen Ann’s Lace, Silphium (worked so well that it went into extinction) even condoms. Why we are still having this discussion when it was all settled in 1965.. is beyond me..

    Reply
    • Ryan

      I am taking no side with this issue, but please do not omit adoption as an option. There are lines of families to adopt newborns in this country. I personally do not care why a woman wants contraceptives, but to claim the only two options are abortion or welfare is simply false

      Reply
  4. Barbara Allen

    I would like to hear men justify their use of Cialis and Viagra THEN they can give women a hard time about their use of birth control. The world is full of men who want to keep women barefoot, pregnant, and walking six feet behind. Thank God we don’t live in a country where they stone women for imaginary misdeeds. However, in American, women are still treated inequitably. There are glass ceilings for women everywhere–business/jobs, health care benefits, and sexual autonomy. I am really tired of listening to hypocrites who want to tell others how to run their lives but then claim it is “personal” or a “family affair” when they don’t want to follow the same advice. Most of all, we need to vote for pro-women, pro-choice government officials. If you think you are too busy or not interested, you will find yourself with fewer reproductive choices than you have now!

    Reply
  5. Damal Pugar

    I don’t think birth control of any sort should be paid for by the government or any other sexually related drugs such as viagra, cialis, condoms, or what have you. If in your personal life you chose to have sex, you should have the right and responsibility to select, purchase and use any of these items as you wish. If you don’t want the government telling you what birth control you can and can’t use, don’t expect the government to pay for it.

    This is a personal matter that the government has not business dealing with whether it is for or against birth control. You want sex, you pay for it, not someone like me who is not interested in your sex life or should have any business in your sex life. MAN OR WOMAN

    Reply
  6. ygp

    I read your article. and you are Right. YES I took Birth Control for medical reasons later in life. But you know what? I took it for my sex life when I was younger. I left home at 16, I was on my own. supported myself, finished school on my own, and Yes I had sex. I was smart enough to go on the pill. I knew that I was in no way able to care for a child. I remained on the pill until I was 32 years old, when I was finally ready to have children. It was a Very intelligent decision on my part. The same people who are so anti-Birth Control, are the same ones who are so Anti-Abortion. Had I NOT been on Birth Control, I would have gotten Pregnant.. no question about that.. and my only decision would have been to Abort that Child, or go on Welfare..By using Birth Control I did not have to make either of those decisions. I was able to raise my 2 children, support them, educate them, and raise them to productive, responsible Adults, who also know about Birth Control and its benefits to Society. Birth Control is not new.. Ancient People used Lemons, Queen Ann's Lace, Silphium (worked so well that it went into extinction) even condoms. Why we are still having this discussion when it was all settled in 1965.. is beyond me…

    Reply

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