Guys like Alice’s boyfriend hide birth control pills or flush them down the toilet; they sweet-talk, threaten, even rape. Why? Not because they’re dreaming of booties, blankets, and Daddy-baby yoga. ‘It’s about one person controlling another,’ says Leslie Walker, M.D., chief of adolescent medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital. (Talk about control: experts say some men force their girlfriends to get pregnant—and to have abortions.) It’s the ultimate form of control: of your body itself and—if you have a baby, or get an STI, some of which cause infertility—of the rest of your life.
Lynn Harris, from “15 Warning Signs He Doesn’t Support Your Contraceptive Choices.”
Sexual Assault Awareness Month is coming to an end, but birth control sabotage continues to be a very scary, very real form of abuse. This post by Lynn Harris was first published way back in 2011, but the tips on recognizing reproductive coercion and taking action to protect yourself are as relevant as ever.
Standing Up to Idiots: Responses and Reflections
Originally published on May 15, 2010 on SexReally.com.
Ever since I came out with my story about Mr. Idiot thinking he had the right to take off his condom and pull out my NuvaRing without consulting me, I have received numerous responses, all expressing varying degrees of disgust and disbelief that this kind of stuff does actually happen. The most interesting thing, however, is who I have been receiving responses from. A number of men have written me apologizing for their gender, asking me if I’m okay, and if there is anything they can do for me.
A few examples of responses I have gotten from men:
Good for you for writing about it and sharing it. A lot of women will learn something about those idiots out there and maybe find a way to protect themselves from it. Yes, I know the law doesn’t make this a crime, but in my mind you are right to see this as a form of assault. —John
OMFG! I cannot believe this happened to you (or to anybody)! As a male, this is embarrassing and disgusting. I know I can’t apologize for my gender and/or stop my fellow men from doing terrible things, but, wow. What an outrage. In my book, this is absolutely a form of rape. I’m so sorry this happened to you, Anya. I absolutely support you and commend you speaking out about it. —-Paul
Unacceptable behavior. In my mind, removing protection without consent is a horrible invasion of privacy, as bad as rape. There need to be laws to protect both men and women who are taken advantage of like this. — Drew
These impassioned responses from men lead me to believe that men can help make a change concerning this issue. If men continue to stand up against such repulsive behavior and vocalize their opinions on birth control sabotage, awareness of this issue will increase significantly. After all, this issue doesn’t just affect women, it affects men as well. Men need to hold themselves and other men accountable for their actions towards women. One of the best ways we can ensure a decrease in sexual assault is to make it known within male culture that a majority of men do not condone or accept it.
Of course men can also be victims of birth control sabotage. Women have been known to lie about birth control in order to get pregnant without their partner’s consent. And what about gay men whose partners slip off the condom, increasing the chances of passing a sexually transmitted infection (STI)?
But where do we go from here? What steps do we take to ensure that we’re all protected from Idiots such as this one?
First, we need to understand and truly believe that birth control sabotage is a form of assault.
Second, in order for change to happen, there needs to be a united front. While the response from women to my facebook post has been minimal, I truly believe that women would support a law that would protect them from this sort of abuse if given the choice. I also believe women would not be afraid to vocalize their opinions if they knew a majority of men do not condone this type of repulsive behavior.
I had someone write to me and ask why it is that strong, independent women allow men to continuously abuse them. He was referring to a friend of his whose ex-boyfriend always slipped off his condom during sex without asking. She, a local community leader, a business owner, and an educated woman, never said anything to get him to stop. I believe that while women are strong and independent in many ways, we are still taught to be feeble and are often reminded to act “like a lady.” The message constantly espoused is for women to keep silent and women are shamed into believing that the reason why they are getting abused is because they made bad choices and didn’t have more discernment when it came to men. They shouldn’t have slept with that guy or they should have seen the signs. But how often do we find that people are not what they seemed after we get to know them? Isn’t it a bit ridiculous to assume that a woman will know immediately if a guy is a jerk?
On a related note, I also believe many women don’t have high enough standards for themselves. We’ve made behavior acceptable in our minds because we are afraid to expect something more from someone, afraid to ask too much. So we keep finding ourselves in abusive relationships.
I encourage women (and men) who have similar occurrences—whether it was a hole poked in the condom or removed without you knowing, or sabotage of another birth control method—to speak up and tell your story. You have a right to your body and when someone takes it in their own hands to endanger your sexual health, you have the right to be protected by law. The more we make it known that we expect to have complete control over our sexual health, the less likely it is that others will try to tamper with it.
If we decide to become sexually active we must clearly communicate our needs when it comes to contraception use, what we expect from our partners, and how we want to be treated in any type of sexual relationship. It’s our responsibility to take a proactive role in our own well-being.
To personalize this story more and to help you understand why I feel so strongly about this issue, when I was 16 I was raped. I never pressed charges because I was afraid of what my rapist might do to my family and to me. To this day I regret not taking action and wonder whether he has done this to other women or if he will. I made a promise to myself never again to sit back and allow someone to get away with putting my sexual health in danger. That is why I feel passionately about this and I hope people will support me and other women and men who have experienced birth control sabotage.
Anya Alvarez, from Gallup, NM, is studying political science and history at the University of Washington. She plays on the university’s golf team and hopes to one day (soon!) combine her interests in public policy and writing.