Jan 03 2006

Kill Pill

A while back, among a few facetious yet poetical lines written on the perils of chick-Viagra, I noted that women who are disinclined to submit to dudely impalement every 2 hours hardly suffer from a disease that warrants pharmaceutical intervention, and that any pill devised to make girls horny is obviously just a designer roofie and a sick ploy of the patriarchy to keep the sex class in thrall.

It was not long before I received an exasperated email from blogger Elisabeth Riba, Shakespeare enthusiast and feminist champion of sexual dysfunction awareness. She gave me the business.

“It’s hard enough to get the medical establishment to take this seriously and develop comparable treatments to what’s available for men,” she wrote. “I really get annoyed when other women throw rhetorical obstacles in the way.”

Fortunately for Riba, any sway my rhetoric holds over the medical establishment is negligible, beginning and ending with my ability to cajole copious supplies of delicious Ativan out of my oncologist.

One of the points Riba makes in her comprehensive body of blog posts on female sexual dysfunction is that the Pill can kill your libido, perhaps permanently. She believes that this is what happened to her. And now new, though limited, research is backing up her claim (small world! The lead researcher turns out to be Riba’s FSD doc).

It is the duty of the patriarchy-blamer–particularly one who supports zero-population growth– to cast a jaundiced eye on any research that impugns contraception, but you know what? Fuck the Pill. As liberating as it has been for straight women, it is not without its vile misogynist elements. While it leaves men footloose and fancy-free to roam the earth pronging at will, it consigns women to shoulder the entire burden of contraception, and it does this while making us fat and giving us heart attacks, strokes, and, depending on who you talk to, breast cancer. It would be quite the hilarious and ironical comedy joke on us if it also sucked out a girl’s sex drive, since, you know, screwing men is the whole reason to take the damn thing.

I reveal no secrets when I say that screwing men is pretty low on my to-do list, so perhaps I lack the empathy needed to properly address this issue, but I am sorely unimpressed by the primitive nature of current birth control methods. After 40 years, the Pill is still at best a stopgap measure. Interested parties must demand a less physiologically violent method of stemming the spermy tide.


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  1. Alex

    I think a lot of folks- particularly men- have a hard time with the notion that women don’t actually require dick to get off, and thus aren’t always interested in penetration. As a matter of fact, I’m convinced the “g-spot” is a myth. Dicks don’t stimulate the clitoris, ergo no real orgasm with penetration. This is too much for a lot of folks to cope with, though, so they slap the label “sexually dysfunctional” onto women who don’t engage in penetrative sex whenever men want. Fuck that.

    And yes, fuck the pill. I used it for a year, and while the side effects seemed minimal at the time, the sense of relief that overwhelmed me once I stopped taking them was unmistakable.

  2. Alex

    PS- That picture is odious and terrifying. It’s perfect!

  3. wheelomatic

    I took the pill for a couple years about 20 years ago and I was convinced that the main way it prevented conception was by making me completely uninterested in sex. And I have never lost the weight I gained while on it.

    I guess now the doses are lower and what ever but still, yuck for me and I would not recommend to any one futzing around with one’s endocrine system. (IE women who take the pill solely to not have to deal with the “hassle” of a having a period.) It it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But that is just my opinion. Your results may vary and that is swell with me.

  4. Steph

    If the pill is the best the medical establishment can do, then I don’t really want them researching sexual dysfunction in women. I’m thinking their answer is not going to be all that satisfying.

    And while some people may have biological reasons for lower sex drive, I think there are a whole lot of social factors that are completely neglected. Starting with the idea that women should want to do it as much as the characters in American Pie for starters.

  5. Sola

    I’ve never understood American doctors’ neglect of the cervical cap, which back when I needed such things was by far my favorite method of keeping pesky sperm out of me. No side effects, no chemicals (skip the spermicide), nada. My only guess is that doctors assume that women wouldn’t want to use it because it requires you to actually insert your fingers, and we all know that we are disgusting Down There.

  6. sarah

    I personally found that the Pill improved my sex drive, though I realise the opposite is the case for many other women. Also, without wanting to get into a debate on the menstrual management issue, I started on the pill mostly to treat my period problems, and it has greatly improved my quality of life in that respect, enough that I feel it’s worth the fairly small risks involved.

    I completely agree with you otherwise though. There are few good options for women who need birth control but can’t tolerate or don’t wish to use hormonal methods. It’s also about time some of the responsibilities and risks were shouldered by men, they have been women’s burden for too long. Penetration is over-rated anyway. It can be nice sometimes, sure, but it doesn’t have to be with a penis, and also, the whole “sex == penetration” thing is very irritating.

  7. curiousgyrl

    I have high blood pressure thanks to the pill. But I’m still on it–I fear pregnancy from condoms alone, cervical cap etc.

    i would get my tubes tied, since I know I dont want kids, but if you try getting a doc to go for it as a never-been-pregnant 24yr old. Hah.

    Apparently you can be too young to decide not to have kids, but never to young to pop ’em out!

  8. Marianna Trench

    I took the pill for ten years, and although it didn’t do anything to my libido, I gained thirty pounds, got depressed, and stopped having my period. My male doctor said that was fine–at every appointment, he rhapsodized about how women should be on low-dose birth control into their sixties because it cured everything that ailed us, took out the garbage, and folded the laundry too. I don’t plan to have children, so fertility was not an issue for me, but I have to wonder, both about that and about whether buildup of the uterine wall due to lack of menstruation would cause endometriosis and possibly cancer.

    About four years ago I stopped and informed my husband that he’d have to take care of the birth control from now on. Since he hates condoms, he agreed to a vasectomy, which would be a harsh choice for all but the most diehard childfree and those who know they’ll never again reproduce. I’m beginning to wonder whether a Lysistrata approach would work–either make them wear a raincoat in the shower, get a snip, or become primary caregivers for the children that result from their recalcitrance. I think given that third choice, 1 and 2 might not seem so bad.

    I was going to lament the absence of a male pill, but if they monkey around with male hormones, who’s to say they won’t screw up the male libido? That wouldn’t be much better, particularly since some of us do enjoy intercourse.

  9. Sophie

    Concerning the pill*s*, I think that there are as many cases as there are women.
    There are different kind of pills and different ways to prescribe them, changing as life goes on, and there are many other choices than the pill available for contraception in socially developped countries, as Sola points out.
    Any broad phrase like “the pill absolutely sucks” is bullshit to me.

    Effects on libido I have never seen on myself, but I know from websites I visit about contraception they do happen and can vary immensely.
    The fact that I do not writhe in pain every other month is quite valuable to me, but might be considered “playing with ones hormones” by others. The fact that I have never gained weight might be a miracle, or just luck, or quite normal, or mean that I should be hated by others who did.
    Regarding cancers apparently use of the pill decreases some risks (ovarian, uterus), increases others (breast), but have you ever seen a study about how pcbs or house-cleaning products components affect breast cancer occurence ? I have trouble finding these, maybe the patriarchy wants us to keep on burning our rubbish and scrubbing our beloved dwellings remorselessly, but we might ask ourselves questions about *the pill* because it wants our babies.

  10. mythago

    As a matter of fact, I’m convinced the “g-spot” is a myth

    Just because it might tangentially involve the penis for stimulation at some point is no reason to declare it a “myth”. It’s really just part of the clitoral structure. Geezum.

  11. Ms Kate

    Funny, when I wasn’t on the pill my libido sank to record lows.

    Then again, with two kids in diapers and one still nursing, fear of pregnancy was a big party pooper.

    I achieved a complete cure of this condition. How? Vasectomy!

  12. Ms Kate

    Regarding cancers apparently use of the pill decreases some risks (ovarian, uterus), increases others (breast), but have you ever seen a study about how pcbs or house-cleaning products components affect breast cancer occurence ? I have trouble finding these, maybe the patriarchy wants us to keep on burning our rubbish and scrubbing our beloved dwellings remorselessly, but we might ask ourselves questions about *the pill* because it wants our babies.


    Funny how the precautionary principle only applies to the personal actions of pregnant women and takes on extreme puritanical tones, but when we ask about fertility, reproductive outcomes, etc. and environmental toxins all we get is a patronizing “don’t worry your little head little lady – just ask yourself with each bite of food if you are doing the best for your baby (but don’t ask about the chemical contamination of that food …)”.

    http://www.healthytomorrow.org/chemicals.htm has some links and info, mostly from my department.

  13. curiousgyrl

    getting a vasectomy for a young man is even more difficult. How could he not want to spread his seed?!?! probably pussywhipped or sowmthing.

  14. Lake Desire

    Check out child-free communities. I’ve heard they can help you find doctors in your area who’ll perform tubal litigation.

  15. Marianna Trench

    Maybe what we need is perfected techniques for easily-reversible vasectomies? Or some sort of temporary “stopper” put in the vas deferens to prevent the seed from getting into the juice? (As I understand it, the sperm are simply absorbed back into the body.)

    Oh, but that wouldnt work. If you think they are attached to their sperm, consider their attachment to their balls. It is a simple, 99.99999% foolproof procedure, done in a morning (and afterward, with the female partner generally willing to wait hand and foot on the patient while he sits on the couch with a package of frozen peas on his privates and watches science fiction DVDs for three days straight), but a great many men are still terrified of “getting cut.”

    But, yeah, the younger the man, and the less childed–or permanently coupled–his condition, the more grief he gets. My husband was 35 and had me out in the waiting room ready to vouch for him.

  16. Rebekah

    Unfortunately, I am not at all surprised by this finding that some effects of the pill may be long-lasting and may not reverse when women stop taking it. This correlates well with my experience. I took the pill for a couple of years and quit when it reduced my libido to nothing. The libido came back, fortunately, but the pill also altered my patterns of menstruation, and this effect lasted more than 5 years after stopping the pill. Other less than desirable side effects also seemed to persist and, IMO, have still not completely resolved themselves. When I mentioned this to my doctor, she didn’t believe me! She said, “all the effects of the pill should stop when the drug leaves your system.” But in my head I was thinking, “Hey, have you forgotten what hormones are? They freakin’ alter gene transcription!” I thought she was wrong.

    Some time after quitting the pill, I was fortunate to hear a talk by a scientist who studies sex hormones. I forget her name now. She also expressed reservations about whether it was good for women to be on the pill long-term, for the very reason that once gene transcription is altered, it doesn’t always go back.

    We need a better solution than the pill. Or, at the very least, we need to understand everything that the pill does. Also, as a side note, WTF is up with the birth control patch thing? How did the drug company just now find out that women are getting higher than expected doses of hormones? Why didn’t they find this out during the clinical trials? Fuck patriarchal medicine!

  17. wheelomatic

    I went to a teaching hospital and had my tubes tied at 25 (no kids either). They gave me a desultory grilling: “Are you really-really sure?” Me: “Yes” “Ok, how’s next Tuesday?”

    I think they just wanted to have the case for students to see.

    I had to endure having about 12 med students the same age as me looking at my chooch, but since I knew I would never see them again, who cared? I got what I wanted at a reasonable price (I had no insurance, paid cash.) and I was free.

  18. antelope

    I’m pretty sure the pill gave me gallstones, which is actually listed as one of the potential side effects if you read the small print. Fortunately I knew some people who could refer me to a good 2-day cleanse that helped me poop the gallstones out. As far as the medical establishment is concerned, gallstones are not a big deal & they simply remove your gall bladder. I have heard the biggest benefit of this is that gall bladders are fairly easy to remove so it makes a good “practice operation” for doctors in training. The result for the patient is that they will never digest fat particularly well again – greatly reducing taco enjoyment.

    The other thing I’ve noticed about the pill in several experiments w/ pills, patches, rings, etc. is that while I don’t really notice a libido reduction while I’m on it, I do notice a SHARP uptick in libido for 2 to 3 months after going off it – kind’a like the one I get when I’m ovulating, but moreso. This would be ironic & irritating if I dealt with it by seeking out men, but since I usually deal with it in a unisexual fashion it’s actually kind’a great.

    Not reason enough to try any pill variations again, though. I am done with that.

  19. wordgirl

    The pill is a tool of the devil. I had my man neutered. It works great for us and he stays around the house more often.

  20. Liz

    Oh but you know how some men lie and swear up and down that they’ve had vasectomies when they really haven’t. Maybe the medbags need to develop some kind of special prescription-only indelible forehead brand, to be used along with a bar-code dick tattoo, or a clearly visible testicle notch, or something, that would serve as an irreversible, instantly recognizable, legally required, and absolutely non-fakeable proof of purchase for the genuinely vasectomized.

  21. sunny in texas

    what galled me was that the first time i tried the pill i had what could have been life threatening side effects and was told to just “keep on taking them”. side effects: seeing black spots, incredible visual distortion, nausea, high blood pressure. the effects did not completely go away with lowdose varieties, either.
    in the end i got my tubes tied, but even going through that was hell.

  22. Hattie

    I think the Pill is terrible. I’m glad I never took it. Nor have I taken “replacement hormones.” I endured a lot of bullying from doctors and friends about how I needed to take these things. Alas, it is not as comforting as I had hoped to say “I told you so.”

  23. Marianna Trench

    I know! You could put in a microchip, like the ones my cats got at the vet…a girl with a scanner can instantly tell if the guy is shooting blanks or not, and where he had it done, and when, and by whom.

    Seriously, while I know this happens, I just don’t understand it. It’s not in a man’s best interest to lie about having had a vasectomy. Then again, it’s not in his best interest to insist on sex without a condom, either. Can we say paternity suit?

  24. sunny in texas

    shit! that explains why the new guy is so great!!!

  25. Fran

    Perhaps it’s because they know that men don’t just want penetration,no,no,no they want to ‘bottom out’ because this proves their pecker is a formidable weapon. Ya know, if they could split us in two like a piece of firewood they’d be pretty damned proud of it.

  26. Fran

    I had a lover that stimulated me with just the top half of the index finger with no clitoral involvement, Waahooo! Lovely soul. I guess it was the G thingy, but I hate labels because the whole experience was more than physical.

    I’d also like to give a shout out to smaller dicks and the men that know how to use ’em!

    As far as the pill, my female gyno (who I thought was awesome because she was strictly GYN without the OB.) cut me off at age 30 because I’m a smoker, even though the scientific data says age 35.
    I give her goddamned patriarchal efforts to cover her ass some of the blame for my abortion less than a year later. I’ve since been told that when you stop the pill your ovaries go into overdrive, like Fertile Myrtle. I should have made her pay the co-pay.

  27. CafeSiren

    I took the pill in my early teen years, but gave it up during a prolonged dry spell, when it seemed to be throwing money down the drain. Now, condoms are the way to go for me. The advantages over the pill, as I see it: 1) Offers good protection against STDs; 2) Requires male responsibility (though I stock my own, too); 3) No hormonal side effects, either short- or long-term.

    So far, no potential partner of mine has tried the “but I can’t feel as much” whine. If one were ever to do so, I’d simply point out that he’ll be feeling a lot less standing three feet away from me, which is about as close as he’s getting without taking some responsibility.

    I have, however, considered temporarily going on the pill to rein in my increasingly prolonged periods. I know, I know, its patriarchal-medical fuckwittage, but if *your* period were 13 days long, what would *you* do? (Seriously, all suggestions are welcome.)

  28. morgan

    the pill really helped me but I have horrible periods that make me stay in bed all the time , which isn’t something I can afford to do, the pill is the only thing that helps since it stops my period completely or makes it so tiny it doesn’t matter…if there was another alternative I would use it, but pain pills are sometimes just as bad and can cause liver problems. I was taking celebrex for it for a while, it helped with the headaches and pukey feeling, but well that’s out now. I haven’t noticed any side effects, it improved my skin a great deal, but all women are different and respond differently. I wish the medical people would find out why we respond the way we do, but I’m not holding my breath.

  29. Alex

    I experience stimulation with just penetration, but IMO the “orgasm” isn’t nearly as nice or intense as with clitoral. I’m not saying it isn’t pleasurable; I’m just saying it isn’t a necessity, and if women don’t want penetration all the time it isn’t evidence of some illness.

    I’ve read that the pill increases the possibility for cancer if you’re a smoker, but that should be your decision, not someone else’s. Ridiculous.

  30. Ms Kate

    Let’s name the real demon here: no real and honest effort to develop more reasonable birth control paradigms for eons.

    The pill is great for some, but I’m sure at this point it will take years of health and life from my mother, she of the many mini strokes due to OCs in the 70s. It gets us nowhere to discuss the relative merits of a mature technology which affects different women in different ways. We need to move this debate from pill good/pill bad to WHERE ARE THE FREAKING NEW BIRTH CONTROL METHODS FOR SHIT’S SAKE!

  31. Alex

    Penetration feels nice, but I don’t consider it orgasmic like I do clitoral stimulation.

  32. Sola

    Actually, men get all the “bottoming out” they want with the cervical cap. It just covers your cervix and doesn’t interfere with any impaling.

  33. bitchphd

    G spot: SO NOT MYTH. Trust me.

    I like the pill okay, but I hate taking pills. I loved Norplant, b/c it was the don’t-think-about-it birth control (plus, no estrogen), but alas, hard to get and often not covered by insurance anymore, due to (bogus, from what I understand) class-action lawsuit. I have to say that, although estrogen gives me migranes, I’m not so convinced that hormonal birth control = tool of patriarchy: there’s quite a bit of research that points out that “naturally” (and I’m as suspicious of that as you are, Twisty), women wouldn’t menstruate *nearly* as often as we do nowadays, because we’d mostly be pregnant and/or lactating. So, the argument goes, using the pill to suppress menstruation (which you can do by skipping the placebo pills) may be healthier for your reproductive system. In fact, the only reason the pill has placebo pills is b/c when it was developed the docs wanted the Catholic church to approve it, and it was believed that by making it seem more “natural” (i.e., not suppressing menstruation), it would gain approval.

    Of course, like pregnancy itself (since the pill basically mimics pregnancy hormones), it has “side effects” that vary from woman to woman. I agree, of course, that it sucks ass that birth control is necessarily the responsibility of straight women, and that it’s appalling that they haven’t developed methods for men (beyond condoms) and more options for women. But really, given that fucking straight-style leads to babies sooner or later, the ability to separate sex from reproduction, imho, is on balance a feminist achievement.

  34. Twisty

    Re: separation of sex from reproduction-as-feminist-achievement, my unarticulated thoght was that this goes without saying, but you are right to give props. One of my many flaws is that I am so enamoured of the the blaming I often forget to, as the song goes, accentuate the positive.

    In other news, I, too, can attest to the Gspot’s ability to reveal a higher truth.

  35. Caja

    The only “better” solution than the pill that I know of (for women) is an IUD, since you at least have the option of a non-hormonal, reversible method of birth control with one of the options available in the US; the other option uses hormones, and in a significant number of women, it greatly reduces menstruation, too. Neither is without its side effects, of course.

    I would much rather see good, long-lasting, reversible options for men, though. I’ve seen a couple articles on various studies being done, one of which (in India, I think) did involve inserting something into the vas deferens that would render sperm defunct as they passed through, but I don’t think it’s anywhere near being ready for market. A pity, because it sounded like a really good method – didn’t require tinkering with hormones, easy procedure, supposed to last for years, reversible, etc.

  36. SneakySnu

    Have you considered taking Vitex? It’s an herbal remedy that helps to balance hormones. It might shorten your cycle a bit, though I’m not sure what effect it might have on bleeding. Also, red raspberry leaf is a uterine tonic.

  37. Tony Patti

    I’m going to talk to my wife about a vasectomy tonight. I’m not sure how she feels about giving up the pill, though. I seem to remember her preferring it for some reason or the other.

    I was interested to note how often in these comments the simple vasectomy was overlooked, even by a presumably feminist bunch. But then, I have always been of the opinion that having viable sperm is nothing but a burden unless you are actively engaged in reproducing the species.

    The so-called horror of reducing the sex drive of the male deserves further comment, too. There’s a world of patriarchal assumption in the idea that the hornier we are, the better we are. Now that pharmacy has replaced desire as a suitable buttress for successful sexual performance with an erection (versus successful performance with the hands and mouth), why should a man bemoan the loss of a desire that can drive him to acts of unspeakable vileness and delusion?

  38. yankee transplant

    Dropped by to say I hope you’re feeling ok. Do you need cookies?

  39. Twisty

    red raspberry leaf is a uterine tonic

    It’s the little, unexpected things you learn from blogging that make it so worthwhile. And weird.

  40. Twisty

    Well, yum, if you’re bakin’em, I’m eatin’em. Did I tell you they were an especially huge hit with my father, who’s got pancreatic cancer and suffers some of the same chemo/digestif problems I do.

  41. The Happy Feminist

    There was a fascinating article in the New Yorker a few years ago about the invention of the pill. If I remember correctly, the inventor deliberately designed it so that women would continue to get periods every month because he felt that women would be more comfortable with menstruating regularly so that we would remember we are women or some malarkey like that. He did this even though he was aware that he could design the pill to reduce the number of monthly cycles. According to the article, menstruating less frequently is actually better for you, in that you are less likely to develop ovarian cancer.

  42. piny

    One of the scary things about reproductive cancer in a sexist society is that not caring about causing it supports and normalizes a really extreme cure: hysterectomy, which is performed more than 600,000 times each year. Better than a third of American women have undergone hystos by age 60, and in some places the number is much higher. Health-care providers are more likely to recommend them to lesbians, because hey: what do they need reproductive organs for, anyway? (Not to court derail, but ftms deal with a similar problem for similar reasons, with some care providers advocating hysterectomy because ftms tend not to get regular gyn checkups. Why? Well, gynecologists don’t treat us well. “We’ll amputate ’em for ya because we don’t want to deal with ’em,” seems to be a pretty common medical strategy.)

  43. antelope

    Maybe the G spot is yet another one of those things where there is a natural (there’s that word again) range of human expression, but somehow we get caught up in arguing about whether it’s true or untrue, and which side has some sort of delusion that is causing or preventing that sensation, when what’s really going on is that everyone is in fact accurately describing where they do or don’t have a really sensitive nerve cluster, or how close to the surface it is, or something. I get a little something in that neighborhood, but it is so not worth writing home about.

  44. zuzu

    I’ve been having penetrative sex for years and thought the g-spot was perhaps a myth. But no, my guy finally located mine with his fingers. It’s not something that can be reached by a penis (at least in me) without some gymnastics.

  45. Lis Riba

    I remember that article; it was by Malcolm Gladwell (now better known for his book “The Tipping Point”). The monthly cycles was partly an attempt to gain approval by the Catholic Church.

    The article is also available online if you wish to (re)read it: http://www.gladwell.com/2000/2000_03_10_a_rock.htm

  46. zuzu

    It was not long before I received an exasperated email from blogger Elisabeth Riba, Shakespeare enthusiast and feminist champion of sexual dysfunction awareness. She gave me the business.

    She jumped on me for a comment I made at Pandagon about a show I’d seen on TLC called “Electric Orgasm.” It was not about vibrating toys but about a spinal implant for anorgasmic women that would attach electrodes to their (apparently not very well mapped, because insertion was hit or miss) spinal nerves to stimulate orgasm. The part I had a problem with — and for which I was told I was being insensitive — was that the women profiled in the show seemed to have a problem with husbands who were unwilling to go down on them (or they themselves were unwilling to accept) that needed to be addressed before anyone went poking around in their spines.

  47. Violet Socks

    Dicks don’t stimulate the clitoris, ergo no real orgasm with penetration.

    They do mine! I’ve always had orgasms with penetration sans any extra clitoral stimulation (which I actually dislike). Feels wonderful and immensely gratifying. Depends on the woman, I think. (And the dick, and the position.)

  48. kabbage

    I worked with a (female) chiropractor to do some hormone-balancing work. I think she said most women tend to be estrogen dominant, and that is what causes much of the menstrual distress. She had me use a natural progesterone called Progon B for a while (probably close to a year) along with some other supplements. Really reduced my premenstrual symptoms and smoothed out my periods. Search on “estrogen dominance” and/or “progon b” to see if anything jumps out at you.

  49. Burrow

    I hate the pill. Getting prodded by men is also very low on my list of things to do so I don’t think about it often, but why the hell does the burden of bc fall on me (btw I’m getting my tubes tied and the wonderful State of Washington is paying for it)

  50. Emma Goldman

    First, I’d find out whether I had fibroids–I had them, and they caused heinous bleeding, weight gain, and distention that made me look 4 mos. pregnant. If you do have them, there are several options OTHER THAN hysterctomy: uterine artery embolization is the procedure I ended up with (and was very happy w/ the results). There’s also a new technique that involves MRI in combo w/ ultrasound. I accompanied the UAE w/ acupuncture and Chinese herbs, and I’d recommend the latter two as possible routes for you even if you don’t have fibroids. I was really surprised at how much it helped. Email me if you want more info on any of these.

  51. Buffalo Gal

    Sticking my two cents in – the pill was a good thing when I was young, horny, and screwing anything male that moved. I had to stop taking it for medical reasons, and that made me slow down a bit. (sigh) Instead of making a black/white divide, can’t we accept that at present it is a good thing for some, and causes problems for others? Yes, there should be more research on other methods for both men and women, but you live in the time you do. By the time the perfect BC comes along a lot of us won’t need it anyway. I think it’s more of a patriarchal-blame problem if a woman has problems with hormonal contraception and her doctor implies it’s in her head and that she should just put up and shut up, rather than say, “well, here are other options.” Any man who won’t deal with the other methods is not worth screwing.

  52. Ms Kate

    So … that’s how you get to the Planet Obstreperon? :-)

  53. Emma Goldman

    Hmmm. I was on a low-dose pill for about a year–30 years ago. then I figured that was stupid–to fuck with my hormones full-time when I wasn’t actually (a) fucking or (b) impregnable full-time. I had an IUD for five years and really, really liked it (it was a loop and therefore had no progesterone in it, unlike many on the market today), except that (a) it eventually irritated my cervix and (b) the first two periods after insertion were really horrible. Then I went with a diaphragm, during which time I was living in a gay community and therefore knew about HIV early on, so I added condoms to the repertoire. I used that combo for a long time, and I liked it. I liked the way it worked contraceptionally, and I liked that it still required male partners to take responsibility. I don’t use much of anything now, and, since we got tested, my current partner (husband, really) doesn’t either. I suppose there’s some chance of conception, but, thanks to relatively intact hormonal cycles, I can usually tell when I’m ovulating, so . . .

    But w/r/t patriarchy-relatedness, the cervical cap recommender above got it just right: devices like diaphragms and caps are less popular, I think, because of non-sexbot-activity-related squickiness about Down There. Which is too bad, because they enable the user to contracept at will, rather than 24/7.

  54. JenM

    I was on the Pill for contraception, my PMS, and so I’d stop breaking out so much. After many years noticed that I was developing really dark stained patches on my face. Its called melasma and according to the doctor if I ever got pregnant the same thing would happen – side effect of estrogen I think? So then I had to stop taking the Pill and was amazed to find out I was much much less irritable. My periods went back to being a nice day and a half or 2 days top, used total of maybe 4 tampons, 2 pads. On the Pill they were light, but longer – like a spot for seven days. I did enjoy being able to manipulate my period and not have it at all though. Some friends said they’d be uneasy with that but like I said – I barely have a period as it is when I’m not on anything. But then my skin freaked out again. So I’m now on prescription acne medicine and thinking I need to try that low hormone ring – supposed to be less of the side effects.

  55. Donna

    I give her goddamned patriarchal efforts to cover her ass some of the blame for my abortion less than a year later. I’ve since been told that when you stop the pill your ovaries go into overdrive, like Fertile Myrtle. I should have made her pay the co-pay.

    Ohmigod the patriarchal ass-covering of the medical industry deserves a category unto itself. It’s the reason you get a goddamn pregnancy test and weighed (“We have to know your exact weight to the pound so we can scold..uh..I mean because it could affect prescription dosages..) for any type of appointment.

    My horror story involves an abortion whilst on the pill when I was in the Navy. Something told me the dose wasn’t strong enough. After paying 2 grand for it in Japan because the sodding fundie blowers of the U.S. Military refuse to perform abortions, even on servicemembers I asked my doc to give me something else. Maybe a diaphragm. I was told, get this, that because I was single (and probably because I’d had one abortion) I wasn’t deemed responsible to use a barrier device. Those were for married women. Why? Well natch, because proper, connubially yoked ladies could “handle” an unwanted pregnancy. WTF?!? So back on the same “safe” low dose pill again and Ray Charles can see what’s coming here….A second Japanese abortion less than 2 years later. At least I didn’t have to contend with a throng of sign waving fetus worshippers in front of the clinic there. 4 grand total. I put in on my running patriarchy invoice, which is getting mighty exorbitant at this point.

    Oh, and any trolls who have a problem with me having 2 abortions can go drink some fucking bleach.

    Sorry for the rant. Carry on, patriarchy blamers.

  56. morgan

    Omg, that sounds so awful. That’s just barbaric what they put you through. My dad’s was in the military and now my brother, and I’m well aware of some of the stupid shit they put you through, but what happened to you really takes the cake. Shit.

  57. Denise

    I was happy to use condoms for contraception, and would be today if there were more than 2 non-latex, non-animal gut ones and I weren’t on the pill with a monogamous partner. Hell, even with the 2 non-latex options, I was happy for some time. My reasons for being on the pill, and what I encourage others to consider for themselves, have to do with one’s overall health as it relates to her reproductive system. I don’t take pills or treatments I don’t need, and I see no reason to fiddle with one’s biochemistry if the only problem is the potential for pregnancy and a twinge or three during menstruation.

    In my case there were very serious problems. As a woman who was having horrific periods that kept me in bed for 2-3 days even with high-dose naproxen, my choices for continued functioning 3 years ago were basically hormonal birth control or a hysterectomy. I had already tried a pill that made me sick as a dog and did not alleviate the pain, so I was reluctant to try the ring, but 3 years in I’m still functioning “normally” rather than in constant worsening pain. I consider thinking about it twice a month and contraception a pleasant side effect. I am unsure if my low libido is a function of the hormones or grad school or just how I was wired at birth, but I mostly blame option #2. While I am a success story, if hormones hadn’t worked (and for about 10% with my type of pain it doesn’t), the next step was exploratory surgery to actually diagnose endometriosis and ultimately uterine removal.

    Several things have continually struck me through my ordeals with hormones and GYN doctors:
    1) The number of women who experience severe menstrual pain. I have only known a couple of women who were pain-free, and some are sick 3 out of 4 weeks of their cycles.
    2) Menstrual pain was not mentioned at all in any of my “health” or human biology courses in high school, nor in the “mothers and daughters” presentation on menstruation I attended when I was about 10 (in a different school system). Pain-free menstruation was presented as the “normal” case. I consider this a huge oversight in the curricula.
    3) The lack of knowledge among doctors and the lack of research into sources of menstrual pain, and how to manage it other than throwing a random assortment of pain meds, hormones, and surgeries. Included in this is the biochemistry of women’s hormones – so little appears to be actually understood that other than looking for specific abnormalities (i.e. Pap test, whole malfunctioning organs) the Establishment’s approach to women’s health is like a crap-shoot, and They don’t care if they’re rolling 7’s most of the time. It doesn’t seem to matter how often women lose.
    4) The number of women who suck it up and deal, who just accept that this is the way it is. These women are so used to being stepped on by doctors, told it’s hysteria, or told that nothing can be done, that they just take it rather than investigating medical literature, other doctors, or just telling the doctor a “sorry! can’t do anything!” is unacceptable.

    I have wandered off the topic of the pill and female sexuality, but I think this just underscores the point that there is little vision in the medical establishment of women’s biology as significantly different from male biology. There are some clinics and some researchers who are working to change this or which are devoted to specific problems of the reproductive system (other than infertility – plenty of people want to help women with money to burn make babies), but far too few.

  58. Denise

    I love my NuvaRing. It’s supposed to be the lowest dosage on the market, and anecdotally far fewer people get negative side effects (I forget if there are studies, but probably). Somehow I managed to get all the good ones (including clearer face) with no negatives. It’s like I won the birth control lottery! (There seriously is one, and that sucks.) I haven’t noticed much change in how long my period is after 3 years on the ring, the major difference being that it’s lighter and I feel like a human being now instead of a slug rolled in salt.

  59. Donna

    what happened to you really takes the cake. Shit.

    Sure does. I’d also like to mention, because several posters have mentioned condoms, that I am a huge proponent of them and of women realizing they are absolutely entitled to refuse sex with any man who won’t wear one. I’m 37 now. At the time of my abortions, I was age 22 and 24. Not a teenager but still young enough to think I had to pretend the patriarchal shit my face was being mashed in smelled like honeysuckle. So I allowed some of my partners (yes misogynistic lurker assholes that’s partners, as in multiple, as in more than one, as in with an S) to have sex with me without them. Had I been using them in addition to, or maybe even in the absence of, the marginally effective Pill I was taking I probably would have been spared what I went through. I realize that now. I didn’t then. It was more important to be a dick-appeaser at the time. And I blame the patriarchy for that.

  60. Twisty

    The reason there is a “lottery”–and that’s an excellent way of putting it–is that the medical establishment has failed women. We are treated as a single variant of normal, and few women are lucky enough to fit the mould.

  61. tigtog

    CafeSiren: I have, however, considered temporarily going on the pill to rein in my increasingly prolonged periods. I know, I know, its patriarchal-medical fuckwittage, but if *your* period were 13 days long, what would *you* do? (Seriously, all suggestions are welcome.)

    I was prescribed sodium valproate to help with my mood disorder. One of the unexpected side-effects was that it vastly lessened by PMT moodswings and also my period cramps – it’s an anticoagulant so that might well be affecting the cramps/flow.

    It’s a bit of a weird drug, originally developed as an anti-epileptic and continuing to come up with lots of different alternate usages. Ask your doc whether it might be worth a try. I find just one tab a day in the morning is enough to de-amplify my moodswings and help the PMT/cramps.

  62. Teenagecatgirl

    What has struck me about these comments is the sheer number of women who have problematic menstrual cycles, and far from some kind of happy pill designed to make wives nice and compliant and not have so many ‘headaches’, what’s needed is some investigation into why. Surely nature can’t have designed females to be totally out of action for half a month or so. So whether it’s food additives, or hormones in water or whatever else, something is going wrong.
    Personally, I find Mefenamic acid is fucking brilliant. No pain, little period.

  63. tigtog

    Sodium valproate. I was put on it to help with my mood disorder, and I kinda epected it to maybe help with my PMT, but was pleasantly surprised to find it also alleviated my cramps/clots/flow.

    It was originally developed as an anti-epileptic, found to have some mood-levelling effects, and is also an anti-coagulant. If your doc doesn’t feel the Valpro is the best bet, maybe another mild coagulant (like the half-tab of aspirin daily recommended for folks with mild heart disease).

  64. sarah

    Continuous use of the pill doesn’t cause any “build-up” and the evidence suggests it actually reduces the probability of uterine or ovarian cancers, far from causing them. Of course there’s an increase in breast cancer rates and risk of vascular problems, so there are risks either way.

    That doctor sounds like an idiot though – depression is absolutely not “fine” and it’s ridiculous of him to suggest that the pill is a magic cure for all women. We’re not all identical!

  65. ginmar

    Zuzu, I had a run in with Elizabeth Riba starting a flame war on my blog about ‘her’ FSD. She likes jumping on feminists and then giggling that she’s a ‘bad feminist’ because she shaves her legs, that kind of thing. Somehow she claims she’s a feminist, but if so, it’s only so she can declare that she’s better than those hairy-legged strawfeminists out there. Her recent assertion that the pill caused her FSD is news to me; during the whole brouhaha where she loudly proclaimed herself the victim she never once mentioned it.

    She uses feminists only to bounce off of and then declare herself the winner; she likes to tilt at strawfeminists. I had to threaten legal action to get her to not steal an entire post of mine and to stop twisting it.

  66. Twisty

    Great Scott! She’s even loonier than I thought. What she needs is a good lay!

  67. Jess

    I took the pill for a couple years about 20 years ago and I was convinced that the main way it prevented conception was by making me completely uninterested in sex.

    Absolutely. I couldn’t have said it better myself. And incidentally – the study referred to in the blog post is actually only saying that the pill can have long term impact on your sex drive, not any impact on your sex drive. That is a well-established side effect. Although, sadly, not one my doctor chose to share with me when I went on the pill aged 17! I’m sure other people have had the same experience…

    It took me more than 6 months to ‘recover’ from going on the pill. So, yes, I agree – for all it’s much vaunted emancipation benefits, it truely sucks!

  68. ginmar

    Her hubbie was talking about her vagainal lubrication on my blog, for fuck’s sake. Dude, if my hubbie did that—assuming I ever lose enough brain cells to consider matrimony—-I wouldn’t be romantically inclined either.

  69. ginmar

    A year ago some drug company came up with something called Intrinsa, which was supposed to increase the female libido. Its ‘success’ rates were barely higher than that of the placebo given to the control group and even then the research was sloppy. The medical profession just assumes that women should have sex. With men, of course.

  70. Tony Patti

    Wah ha ha ha!

  71. Lake Desire

    Ligation, rather. Damn inside jokes don’t belong in blog comments, Lake!

  72. Marianna Trench


    If he’s not interested, I’m not getting any, that’s why. Or else it’s not any good.

  73. Marianna Trench

    Oh, but I should add: good on you for considering a vasectomy.

  74. Marianna Trench

    I need to clarify here: I was always irregular to begin with, but after stopping the Pill entirely, after my periods stopped entirely, they only happen once or twice a year now, instead of every six months–and they’re amazingly heavy. I have no idea whether the Pill was responsible for this, whether it was ultimately responsible for my increased irregularity, or whether I’m just in some kind of premature menopause. My doctor doesn’t seem to be able to give me a straight answer.

  75. alphabitch

    I have an IUD nowadays and quite like it. Insertion was not entirely pain-free, but it lasts for five years, is highly effective, and is covered (for now anyway) by most health insurance. It’s not for everybody, but it’s a damn sight better than anything else I’ve used. And even if you have to pay for it yourself, it’s way fucking cheaper than an abortion.

  76. Ms Kate

    Anybody else every see Cafe Flesh? I think this Riba chick must be one of the spectators.

  77. Ms Kate

    Nature designed us to be perpetually pregnant or non-periodically nursing if we have sufficient food resources, and anorexically amenhorrific if we don’t. That’s what.

  78. BitingBeaver

    Well, since we’re talking about the horrors of birth control and how it relates to rampant sexism, I’ll give my own story (in short, the full extent of it is posted Here

    Anyway, I was on the depo shot (the pill was my last choice for contraception since, years before, I had gone through Rx after Rx while bleeding terribly and experiencing cramping that was awful. Finally we had to ‘fix’ it by taking me off the pill entirely) and had been experiencing pain, bleeding and increasing dizziness for about 6 weeks.

    I wound up in the emergency room and, after 4 hours of basically sitting in a gown before being given a test for STD’s I was told I was ‘hormonal’ and sent home.

    I immediately did some research and found out that the Depo Shot had the exact same symptoms as the ones I presented with. I went off the shot and, voila, I’ve been fine ever since.

    A month or so later we found ourselves in the very same ER, only this time with my partner who was presenting with a swollen penis. (turns out it was poison ivy) the resulting episode gave me a hell of a Patriarchy compare and contrast moment that I will not soon forget. (If you’re interested you can check the link because I simply do not feel like typing all of it out this morning *grin*)

    Much kudos to you Twisty, oh weaver of patriarchy blaming tales who has no equal!

  79. bitchphd

    I’m so on board with blaming the insurance industry, which only started covering b.c. reliably after the state of Washington (under their great insurance commissioner, Deborah Senn) insisted on medical parity for women. Alas, my current insurance *only* covers the pill, and the only pill I can take is the progestin-only one, which has to be taken at more or less the same time every day, which I am not so good at. I tried to get an IUD, but couldn’t lay out the $400 out of pocket. Insurance would cover an abortion, though.


  80. Teenagecatgirl

    Oh well then, lets not even bother considering it.
    I actually was referring to problems that still would be problems even if periods were, at best, sporadic. But nevermind.

  81. Charlie

    Amen, sister.

  82. lee

    Well, mine got shorter when I got into my thirties so maybe time will help. My periods used to be eight to 11 days long not as long as yours, but not the 5 days a month that Growin Up and Liking it lead me to believe I would have. I had one child and they are shorter now, under a week most months.

    I never did any thing about them even though they are extremely heavy and long because I know many women have it worse, and many find treatment make it worse. I have a cramping and lower back pain the first couple of days, but it is only debilitating once a decade or so. With that level of pain, I decided that I can live with clots the size of hen’s eggs in the toilet several times a day for a week a month and having to wear two overnight pads at once during the day.

  83. On my part, I suffered from major episodes of debilitating pain once a month from the day I got my period at age 12. This runs in my family on my mom’s side, so it’s not enviropoisoning of any sort. I had to deal with three days off school or work per month, hours of excruciating pain where it was like having a small baby every four weeks, my arms and legs going numb, deleium and sweating, throwing up and shitting at the same time, screaming and beating the wall to distract from the pain for 8 hours at a time. My mom is a nurse, so I got stuffed with enough pills to kill anyone else via overdose, and still it didn’t help. Once I got carried into the emergency room and pumped full of Demerol because of my mom’s connections. They had thought I was going to pass out from the pain.

    Our doctor, being male, lazy, and completely uninformed, didn’t have any recommendations about how to help this. When I turned 18 and started having sex, I went on the Pill. It made me irritable, depressed, sore, restless, emotional, and in addition to a 40-pound weight gain, I lost my sex drive. I went off it at 22 even though it did make my cramps better for a bit (for a lousy 6 months). When I went off the Pill, it was odd how I was back in pain every month but felt like myself again. I vowed never to go on hormones again. Three abortions, two cervical caps, who knows how many boxes of condomns and 5 years later, I got a non-hormonal IUD. I heard too many horror stories about Depo-Provera and drugs of its ilke to even go near the stuff. I was on my last legs, and the literature said that an IUD tended to make periods heavier, and cramps worse. I did it anyway.

    Suddenly it has been like having a new life. I barely get cramps. I can go running the first day of my period, something that was previously unthinkable. I don’t know if I’m an anomaly, or if the doctors just have it all wrong and lie to us to keep us on the Pill. Despite the news that this IUD is the best thing that ever happened to me, my own doctor still insists that I should be on a Pill and shakes his head as to why I didn’t like it. So far I have resisted the urge to smack him. I feel like myself, I have a sex drive, I don’t have to worry about getting pregnant for 5 years. I don’t know if this would work for anyone else, but I just thought I’d share my own story of Pill-inundation. I find it odd that when so many women have problems with the Pill, and lousy periods, that more research isn’t done on this. I am all for the male BC where they put a pinch on the sperm valves. Or perhaps bringing back the honour and glory of castrati. In the meantime, I don’t have sex with anyone these days but enjoy a cramp-free existence.

  1. Shades Of Grey

    With apologies to Twisty, I blame the patriarchy

    My reaction was negative and immediate. That’s bullshit, I thought to myself. Twisty just doesn’t understand. But as I planned a blog post in response, a funny thing happened.

    You see, my initial reaction was emphatic because of personal experienc…

  2. Property of a Lady » The Perils of Heterosexuality

    […] Over at I Blame the Patriarchy, Twisty is twisting over The Pill. In part, she says It is the duty of the patriarchy-blamer–particularly one who supports zero-population growth– to cast a jaundiced eye on any research that impugns contraception, but you know what? Fuck the Pill. As liberating as it has been for straight women, it is not without its vile misogynist elements. While it leaves men footloose and fancy-free to roam the earth pronging at will, it consigns women to shoulder the entire burden of contraception, and it does this while making us fat and giving us heart attacks, strokes, and, depending on who you talk to, breast cancer. […]

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