When Sandra Fluke spoke on the floor of Congress about the values of birth control in 2012, I noticed she left a valuable talking point out. And with the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby, I’ve noticed the same omission.
Why is it, when defending access to birth control, the primary reason that many women (99% to be exact) use (to prevent pregnancy) is avoided? In Fluke’s testimony to Congress, the crux of her argument was that birth control can be used to treat many health risks to women:
One woman told us doctors believe she has endometriosis, but it can’t be proven without surgery, so the insurance hasn’t been willing to cover her medication. Recently, another friend of mine told me that she also has polycystic ovarian syndrome. She’s struggling to pay for her medication and is terrified to not have access to it. Due to the barriers erected by Georgetown’s policy, she hasn’t been reimbursed for her medication since last August. I sincerely pray that we don’t have to wait until she loses an ovary or is diagnosed with cancer before her needs and the needs of all of these women are taken seriously.
Why is preventing pregnancy not as important as preventing cysts, ovarian cancer or endometriosis? If you are a normal, human woman like me (who wants to have sex with my boyfriend whenever I want) having stress-free, no-risk sex is a damn important priority. And for a majority of women, being able to receive the same sexual privileges that men have, is one step closer to equality.
When it comes down to the nuts and bolts of it, as Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), pointed out, the primary reason for Republican and religious objection to birth control is because many women use it to protect themselves from the consequences of their “recreational behavior,” aka getting pregnant from all the mind-blowing sex they are having.
And mind-blowing, stress-free, orgasm-filled sex is a damn good reason to have birth control. After all, many young men are being prescribed Viagra for recreational use, which is covered by health insurance plans, why is recreational sex for women still something that has to be kept hushed up? Why is a woman’s right to have sex whenever she wants, with whomever she want, not worth loudly, unconditionally defending?
A men’s right to have cost-free sex is normal business practice while a woman’s right to have cost-free, pregnancy-free sex is transgressive.
In a world where a woman’s virginity is something that is still prized in some cultures, where women feared being called a slut, and where a woman is blamed for when she is assaulted and raped, female sexual desire is still seen as abnormal. On the view of the right, such desires (unlike male desire) has to come with a price, either a pregnancy or a co-pay.
When it comes down to the birth control argument and whether or not a woman’s insurance company should cover it without a co-pay, the arguments are as such: One side will be opposed to women having recreational sex without a penalty. The other side supports women having healthy, cyst-free ovaries, but declines to address the large important of a woman having a healthy sex life. Or as Amanda Morcotte of Slate puts it:
From the ostensible left, you have Grigg-Spall lamenting hormonal birth control for making women more “sexually available” to men, even though there’s no reason to think women don’t want sex to be available, too. From the right, of course, you have a full meltdown at the mere idea that women might have hassle-free sex,with conservatives using memorable language like “slut” and “prostitute” or warning women that no one is going to marry them if they stick with this plan of ovulating only when they want to. There’s so much social anxiety around the idea of women enjoying sex that even condom companies shy away from talking about it. As long as that anxiety exists, reasonable discussion about the actual risks versus rewards of contraception use will remain elusive.
As long as feminists, pro-choice proponents and supporters of birth control continue to skirt over the main reason that women choose to take a pill everyday or to have an IUD placed in them (sex sex sex), aka sexual pleasure, then women will still be considered second class citizens, trapped between being a virgin or a whore, having to defend our rights to have sex.