Stay On The Pill And Make Love, Not Porn


The hosts of the "Today Show" embarrass themselves, more on why women don’t use contraception consistently, and Make Love, Not Porn.

 

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Colbert mocks "Gathering Storm"

NPR on inconsistent contraception use

Sarah Palin speaks to anti-choice group

 

On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be interviewing Cindy Gallop about her website Make Love, Not Porn.  Also, NPR delves into why women don’t use contraception as consistently as they should, and the hosts of the "Today Show" embarrass themselves when talking about vaginas.

Gotta love the "Colbert Report" for the pitch perfect satire of conservatism in America.  I was particularly pleased with the fake ad they did mocking the anti-gay "Gathering Storm" ad that was all over the internet.

  • Colbert *

Many say the round of mockery that greeted the original Gathering Storm ad shows that the anti-gay movement has shifted into the losing side.  Let’s hope they’re right.
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Is it just me, or is NPR doing a lot more stories lately about sexual and reproductive health?  I don’t think I’m wrong on this, since I do try to monitor their coverage and I find myself compelled to quote them more often than I used to.  And generally speaking, their coverage is among the most responsible stuff I take in, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a lot to add.  For obvious reasons, they tend to be very Reproductive Health 101, and on Reality Cast, we’re more advanced.  

A recent story on why women don’t use contraception as consistently as they should impressed me.  Granted, it was problem-oriented.  I wish for once you heard a story about women who successfully avoid unintended pregnancy and what their secrets are.  But problems sell better than solutions, so within that framework, I appreciated that they told this story in real terms, and not just through statistics.  

  • unintended 1 *

One of the few solid messages I absorbed as a young woman was that it was important to be consistent in your contraception use.  I think I probably got that from Sassy magazine, which shows why young women need Sassy as much now as we did then.  Wherever I got it, I knew that you should just stay on the pill all the time, and not always be going on and off it and going through that process for no reason.  But I was surprised, when I grew up, to find that most female friends of mine didn’t see it that way.  NPR interviews Joy Migala, who expresses a typical pattern I’ve noticed.

  • unintended 2 *

This is exactly what I found in my young adulthood with a lot of women I knew.  And frankly, the reason was that everyone is afraid of being a bad girl who is ready to have sex outside of the context of having a steady boyfriend.  Having the pill and not having a boyfriend was considered the mark of a big slut for a lot of women, and they were willing to put their bodies through all these hormonal ups and downs to make sure that they weren’t acting in a way they thought was slutty.

The problem with that is that many young women who think this way go ahead and have sex outside of the context of a steady relationship.  Which shouldn’t be a big deal if you’re using condoms, right?  Sadly, condoms are even easier to be inconsistent with, especially if you already have the sort of hang-ups that make taking the pill consistently hard for you.

  • unintended 3 *

Part of the problem is that young people aren’t really well-educated on how likely pregnancy is.  A combination of wishful thinking, anti-sex attitudes, and cultural messages that imply that getting pregnant is work lead young people to do things like make guesses like Migala did here.   Add to it a strong cultural bias against women who plan to have sex, especially outside of the context of a relationship, and you’re going to have a situation where women make excuses for not using contraception reliably, because they need to believe that they don’t have to choose between being a slut or being pregnant.

Obviously, consistent contraception use is about more than access.  A lot of it is getting around some of these messages.  One thing that would be helpful is treating contraception as ordinary pregnancy prevention that should be no more scandalous than taking vitamins.  As long as the pill is a marker of your moral worth, we’re going to see these problems.  The other thing that would help is more sex positivity for women.  If women saw sex as something they do for their own reasons, and not a grand statement about their entire being, it would be easier for them to feel good about staying on the pill just in case, and it would help them also remember to have a box of condoms on hand, even if they’re single.  

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  • insert interview *

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If you want to know the true meaning of terror, I recommend watching the hosts on the "Today Show" do a segment where they specifically use the term "down there" while giving out vagina-specific health tips.  Well, I took on that burden for you, and I’m here to report that the results were unpleasant, even if the woman they had on was giving good advice.  Leslie Goldman of iVillage was on to report on a piece she did on the basic care of your lady junk.  The hosts didn’t even try to be cool.

  • down there 1 *

It seems rather cruel to make them do segments like this, because you can tell that they’re thinking that they can’t do segments like this, because then everyone will know that they have vaginas.  You don’t even have to guess, because they come right out and say it.

  • down there 2 *

This is such a tough thing to deal with, because when you’re trying to educate people about sexual health, it’s probably best to do so with a great deal of humor, because sex is funny, and people who don’t think sex is funny won’t get heard and respected.  But falling all over yourself laughing and insisting that you wouldn’t even dare talk about these things if your producers weren’t making you isn’t the way to go about being funny about this.  

My preferred method is to say things bluntly, and in comical terms that reflect how people actually think about these things to themselves, even if they’d never admit it in public.  Luckily, Leslie Goldman get some good cracks in that drive home the message without dwelling in shame or being stupid.

  • down there 3 *

Okay, I’ll give her a plus for the cookie joke and a plus for the joke about how men aren’t held to these same standards.  She’s got a leg up on the hosts of the "Today Show" when it comes to responsible but engaging sex education.  But there’s a giant minus.  

She never told us exactly what she’s talking about.  

This is no small thing.  If you didn’t realize she was talking about douches and feminine sprays, then you’d imagine what they’re saying is that women are expected to naturally smell like flowers and cookies.  Which doesn’t make much sense.  The ugly truth is that you have to fill in the important details when it comes to sex ed and avoid trying to imply things.  The reason is that most of the time, most people imply things, so people who actually need this information quite likely don’t know what you’re trying to imply.

And then something disturbing happened, after Goldman said that it was a myth that your vulva has to be subject to plastic surgery so you look like a Playboy model.  Warning: Kathie Lee Gifford is going to hold forth on the subject of vaginas.

  • down there 4 *

Woof.  It’s a peculiar kind of sexism that creates a culture where medical intervention is preferred to plain old exercise, especially when it comes to vaginas.  The notion that childbirth permanently blows out your vagina doesn’t make sense, or women couldn’t use tampons after the fact.  Not that women don’t have the problems that Gifford is alluding to, but the recommended course of action is to exercise your muscles before and after childbirth.  Luckily, Goldman gets her off that, but what a disaster.

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And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, the Palin circus continues edition.  Sarah Palin talks about how she considered and rejected abortion in front of the Indiana Right To Lifers.  

  • palin *

A lot of fuss has been made over the fact that she acknowledged that she had a choice.  It’s true that anti-choicers will lose their ability to be self-righteous and judgmental if they choice disappears, which they’d miss more than they’d think.  But having heard many of these stories, I have to say the moral is pretty clear. She’s saying she didn’t need the right to abortion, and so neither do you.  

Interestingly, she goes on at length during another part of the speech about how adoption is just such a great choice for unmarried, pregnant women, just like having a baby at 44 was for her.  Makes me think if the anti-choice movement takes away your right to have an abortion, they’re attacking your right to keep the kids you do have next.  

 

Follow Amanda Marcotte on twitter: @amandamarcotte