Ode to Birth Control

Okay, so this won’t really be an ode. Nor will it be a description of all the raunchy things one can do when on the pill. (There are plenty of sites to visit for that.)

Instead, I want to point out what weird and wacky stuff it is. About 40% of American women are currently taking hormonal contraception, including nearly every woman I’ve met between the ages of 22 and 30. Okay, that may be an overstatement, but not by much. Even those who aren’t currently sexually-active often take it to reduce cramping or regulate their cycles.

Sometimes I wonder what our society would be like without it. Today, academia is filled with female rising stars. There are more women than men in my fiance’s (and most other) med school classes. So get used to female doctors! This explosion of women with careers could never have happened without convenient and effective contraception. Ladies, you are where you are thanks to ethinylestradiol. Period. (Yeah, I know, that wasn’t funny.)

But even more than being a cultural force, the pill is a personal part of women’s lives. As fundamentally weird as the concept of the menstrual cycle is, the concept of halting it is even stranger. Don’t be fooled! The period women get when they’re on the pill is a fraud. That’s why women can go for months without one on the newer, hipper brands. I think sometimes about my sad little eggs and how long they’ve been waiting to travel, to see the world. As my fiance teases me, four or five of them shrivel up every month I’m on the pill. It’s both sad and cool. We exert an amazing power over our bodies. Doctors (did I mention they’ll all be women?) can stick electrodes into our hearts and brains, give us someone else’s kidney, even swap out our corneas. But this feels like the ultimate power. Life evolved to procreate, but we don’t have to obey. We’re not necessarily telling it never, but we have the power to tell it not right now.

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