Denying Access to Contraception: What If Interfering With Women’s Lives Is The Point?

The Guttmacher Institute has a new study out confirming what, until recently, I think many of us thought was an obvious point everyone understands: Women use contraception to manage their lives, achieve their life goals, and manage their economic realities. On this week’s podcast, I interview the study’s author Laura Lindberg, about their methodologies and the results, and I highly recommend checking that out. Considering the way that many right-wing pundits, from Rush Limbaugh to Bill O’Reilly, carry on about contraception like it’s only the province of out-of-control hedonists who wouldn’t know responsibility if it came in a neatly-labeled package, the interview is a breath of fresh air and common sense.

Of course, that means that in no way, shape, or form should we expect this important information to do anything to stop said right-wing pundits from raving like lunatics. For one thing, common sense and reason haven’t punctured their bubbles before, so there’s no real reason to think they’ll start listening to it now. The other reason is that even if they concede that women are using contraception so they can get an education and have a stable life before they have children (as well as control their family size after they have children), they’ll eventually come back around to what is really the issue here: Women are using contraception primarily to have sex.

Contraception is there so you can have sex while achieving your life goals, controlling your economic future, and maintaining your health. You can compare it to the process of taking a shower. If you were to ask me why I take showers, I’d probably look at you like you’re daft and say, “Well, to get clean.” I’d assume that it’s obvious why someone should want to be clean.

But if you kept pushing and asked me why I needed to be clean, I could probably come up with a bunch of good reasons for it: So that I can leave the house without offending people. So that I can hold down a job. For health reasons, because being grimy and dirty really isn’t good for you. So I can feel good about myself.

Now imagine if we lived in a society where a number of large and powerful religious groups believed that women’s nakedness was a sin, and therefore women should never disrobe, even for showers. On top of that, such a society would also have a group of men who aren’t particularly religious and who like to make dirty jokes about naked women, but who are easily whipped up into a frenzy of anger at the thought of all the women out there taking showers that they don’t get to see. And in this society, those men join up with the religious fanatics and demand that women be banned from using any showers that draw water from shared sources, such as any municipality.

Obviously, feminists would be outraged. But these religious groups and angry conservative pundits would insist they’re not banning showers. They just don’t see why they have to pay for a public service that serves women who do something they disagree with. Feminists would point out that the women who shower also pay their water bill, so they should get the same service as everyone else, but these folks would insist that since the water itself is drawn from a common pool, there’s no separation between the water they paid for and the water women are showering with, and they don’t want to have to violate their religious/cultural beliefs by paying for water that might touch naked lady skin. They would argue that women are free to dig their own wells and pull all the water they want out of the ground themselves, if they want, but they just don’t want to be part of all this sinful showering.

Feminists would then publish a bunch of studies showing that women need showers for things like holding jobs, running errands, and being pleasant around the house. These studies would have a lot of important functions. They would be wielded by politicians supporting “fair access” laws to showers. They would be used in court to protect against lawsuits from religious organizations demanding the right to kick women out of the water system. But most importantly, they would help demonstrate to the public at large how disingenuous these anti-shower people really are.

After all, the argument from the religious groups and conservative pundits would be, “We don’t hate women! We want women to be equal. We don’t mind if they hold down jobs and leave the house. If our religious beliefs somehow get in the way of that, it’s totally a coincidence and not our intention at all!”

Armed with these studies, however, we could point out how ridiculous they’re being. We’d be able to start getting the people who buy the claim that it’s just a religious rule guarding women’s chastity and instead get them to think about how the negative social effects may, in fact, be what they wanted all along. That perhaps keeping women dirty and ashamed and not able to leave the house is the point. That maybe they don’t want women to get jobs and get educated and be equal with men. That perhaps the anti-nudity weirdness and claims about their “right” not to share water with women who use it to shower is all a grand cover story for what is actually a larger-scale attack on women’s basic rights.

Which is all something to think about when anti-choicers invariably bring the conversation back to the claim that contraception is about “lifestyle choices” or “your sex life,” implying that this is simply about the sex part of the equation, and they have no intention of trying to muck things up for women outside of the bedroom. Is it really possible that they somehow believe that contraception is wrong without also supporting the negative side effects of depriving women of contraception? Or is keeping women from finishing their educations, holding down jobs, and living as equal to men the entire point? 

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  • blissed

     a group of men … who are easily whipped up into a frenzy of anger at the thought of all the women out there taking showers that they don’t get to see.”

    Does that imply some small set of men do “get to see” and the men who do the “seeing” never get whipped up into a frenzy of anger?

    living as equal to men”

    Does that include sexually pleasing men via the non-effort required to hooker-up with them?  If so, perhaps “these” men are equals.  What of the majority of men –  the ones who will only be considered when these women decide to “settle down?”  Are they also “equals” despite their vastly different sexual “experiences?”

  • auguste

    Are they also “equals” despite their vastly different sexual “experiences?”


    And once again we see that to MRAs, “sexual selectivity” = “discrimination.”

  • kiweagle

    If conservatives and their political commentators have taught us anything, it’s the value of sex education that needs to be taught to children – the sooner the better. Studies have proven that there is an inversely proportional relationship between teenage pregnancy and the level of access to sex education in schools by State.

    Todd Akin’s insane claim that women have a biological defense against pregnancy from rape was bad enough, but Rush Limbaugh’s rant against the excellent Sandra Fluke that was based on the idea that women only take EACH pill (including the sugar pills, apparently) of the month in order to have sex that day/ night completely blew my mind.  Never mind that some women are on the pill for reasons that don’t involve sex at all.

    As a man, I have always been hugely appreciative of the benefits the pill has provided for myself and the woman I love, but am also terrified of the health risks (have you ever actually read the folded one-page double-sided guide of micro-fine print?  You’re left with a pounding headache and bleeding eyes).

  • blissed

    “sexual selectivity”


    Both defined solely by men when applied to women

  • crowepps

    Actually, you’re reversing the numbers — the majority of men have lost their virginity by the time they graduate high school, and by age 25, over 97% of men have had sex.  Now the remaining 3%, although a small percentage, represents a huge actual number, 1.1 million American men are still virgins at 25, as are  800,000 women, and I’m sure those men may feel cheated, however by age 40 over half of them will also have had a relationship, and only 1.2% will remain virgins.  The majority of men are perfectly acceptable to some woman or other, and it’s only a tiny minority who are left unmatched.  Perhaps the problem is the unreasonable expectation that they can insist on a virgin bride?

  • blissed

    Virginity has nothing to do with this.   Women can get sex MUCH easier then men on average and therefore do.   Women are smart.  They are going to bed the best men possible who they think will satisfy them most.  Therefore, many women are being passed around by a much smaller group of men.   Outside this defacto harem, the other men aka the majority do manage to get sex, here and there, now and then but rarely at the snap of a finger like women can and do.

  • kiweagle

    Great comment from Blissed about the small group of men and their many women, though I would argue that the inverse is also true.  The real shame of it lies in the fact that most of the people in those small ‘elite’ groups of men and women wouldn’t know a monogamous relationship if it bit them (probably the wrong expression to use), let alone be faithful within one.

    As for those stats on virginity, I have a bridge I’d like to sell to all those people who actually believe that respondents to those kinds of polls are being honest, particularly where the boys/ men are concerned.

  • crowepps

    (Sarcasm)  Oh, sure, women can get all the sex they want, and so they are all wildly promiscuous — (End sarcasm)

    Unless of course they’re overweight, or homely, or flat-chested, or too tall.

    You sure have some bizarre ideas about how dating and hooking up and sex work — it’s pretty obvious your ideas come from porn and not real life experience.

  • give-em-hell-mary

    “Unless of course they’re overweight, or homely, or flat-chested, or too tall.”

    Exactly, and I’ll bet Blissed turned down scads of women based on their looks, and is fuming because a couple supermodels turned him down.  Most of the women I know get continually passed over by average men and downright losers because of the women’s imperfect looks.  The few aging male virgins that I’ve come across were either disabled, closet gays, my bullied-moma’s-boys brothers, infantile priests or looksist tyrants.

  • give-em-hell-mary

    “based on the idea that women only take EACH pill (including the sugar pills, apparently) of the month in order to have sex that day/ night”

    Thank you!  If that idiocy were true, then BC pills for acne would only be needed like aspirin for occasional headaches.  BC pills for acne, contraception or imbalances only work when taken every day, hence the expense.  Spoiled dishonest misognists think BC pills work like Viagra!

  • amanda-marcotte

    I do love how someone came along to prove the point that some of the anger over contraception stems from men who want to punish all of womankind because they don’t get to have all the sex they want. But really, who does?

  • blissed

    they don’t get to have all the sex they want. But really, who does?”

    When comparing the average looking man to the average looking woman, the woman is far more able to snap her finger for sex with anyone for any reason she chooses.  Men notoriously are always willing to screw women below their own level of attactiveness and that is why American woman have such high numbers.   Tired of that theme?  Too bad.  Thats how it is.  Why the vehement denial?  Its fun to get validation from men who will screw but never commit to you, no?  Are you fun negative?  tsk tsk shame on you  Be fun positive.   Love that….

  • give-em-hell-mary

    No woman wants pity sex from men who despise her.   Such nasty creeps are the worst nightmare for leftovers like me.  While women aren’t surprised that such men overpopulate bars, they are especially stunned and peeved that so many church-going men are just as vicious.  For women, there is no point for engaging in such insulting sex.  You’re confusing low-income men who pay for sex with unattractive bargain hookers who both get what they expect.  You completely misread women’s motives.

  • ljean8080

    have normal sex lives.

  • give-em-hell-mary

    Most women with disabilities spend enormous chunks of their lives as involuntarily single and dateless.  I’m a perfect example.  A study of people diagnosed with MS showed over time that 80% of afflicted women got dumped by their husbands, while only 20% of afflicted men got dumped.  A male friend of my late friend suffering lethal face cancer (triggered by female fetuses) was born with Crouzons Syndrome, and he had an awful, awful time finding women to date.  My late girlfriend got dumped by her last husband when the last pregnancy he bullied her into ate away more of her face.  Take off your rose-tinted glasses.

  • ljean8080

    how you get cancer is lacking.

  • ljean8080

    have been pregnant all the b-mother has an eating disorder 58 years after my i to  blame?

  • ljean8080

    in the basement.she had choices.

  • give-em-hell-mary

    I never said pregnancy is the “sole cause” of cancer in women, but her particular skin cancer became weaponized after her two daughters.  If she obeyed her doctors instead of her abusive new husband, she might still be alive with most of her face in tact.

  • give-em-hell-mary

    Bullying husbands and anti-choicers chain us women with legal threats, guilt trips, scary harassment, disinfo, isolation, insults, planned poverty, you name it.  The Stockholm Syndrome is very real and more effective than any metal chains.

  • give-em-hell-mary

    Your knowledge of cancer risks from pregnancies is seriously lacking.  My friend was warned by her oncologistscell  to avoid additional pregnancies since her facial basal cell carcinoma was fueled by estrogen.  She ignored them because of her new husband.

  • arekushieru

    We wonder why…. Perhaps because men are not sexually selective and they discriminate against women quite regularly, via the patriarchy.


  • elburto

    They’re nothing if not predictable.

    If I took a firearm and fired into my metatarsals repeatedly, I still couldn’t manage to shoot myself in the foot as often as they manage to.

    Simple-minded, idiotic manchildren who think that women are pussy-dispensers, and that all they need to do is put the right amount of “coins” in to get some.

    Rejection by one woman becomes hatred of us all. “Sluts” are women who dare to have sex with who they want, “bitches” are the women who had the temerity to turn down these exceptional specimens of manhood. Pathetic.

    Poor little Nice Guys, my heart bleeds for them.

  • elburto

    They don’t want sex with these entitlement-minded, mentally stunted creeps, and they certainly don’t want to run the risk of being impregnated by one!

  • elburto

    You’re a truly disgusting individual. Victims of domestic violence and rape, people with abusive spouses, do you know what the most common trigger is for their murder?

    Attempting to leave.

    So shove that into your victim-blaming face-hole.

    Oh, and as you keep talking about cancer, perhaps you can tell me Doctor Jean, what does cause cancer?

    Because here’s the thing, there’s no such disease as “cancer”.

    There are hundreds of different types of malignant cell change. Some indolent, some aggressive. Some are treatable, some aren’t. Some are more likely to metastasise, others remain as discrete growths.

    Some are genetic, some triggered by infection, some are worsened by endogenous hormones, others are slowed down by them.

    There are one-off cancers, cancers that keep on recurring. There are some cured by surgery alone, others require chemotherapy, or radiotherapy, or laser treatment, or bone marrow transplant.

    Do you see? Saying “X. does not cause cancer” is as stupidly naive as saying “Viruses don’t cause a rash” because you’ve only ever experienced norovirus or cervical HPV.

  • purplemistydez

    For MRAs it’s either women are nuns or whores.  Thanks to a ever growing progressive society, women get chose who they have sex with and that does not include MRAs or other assholes of the same ilk.  Some of us prefer our own gender as sexual partners also and that really hits at their so called manhood.  Most men are comfortable with the fact women have had sexual partners before.  Apparently treating women with the same sexual past as a man is too much to ask from them.