Culture Shock
Main The Essays The Writers Foreword
 

E
S
S
A
Y
S

A Clamor for Women

by Sarah Gonzalez

A guy once told me that being female was very encouraging because I had something to look forward to every month—my period. Well, what he doesn't know is that this God-given blessing has become a curse to all men because they have to deal with a woman's every qualm. But since men are so clever and inventive they found a way to prevent pregnancy by controlling menstruation and therefore indirectly controlling women.

Once a girl has her first menstrual cycle, she not only has to deal with PMS (premenstrual syndrome) which includes bloating, swelling of extremities, sensitive breasts, depression, social withdrawal, mood swings, irritability, anxiety, and confusion, but she also has to encounter non-sympathetic guys who just make her feel worse. And most importantly, she has to face the fact that she can become pregnant. But don't lose hope yet, girls, the men are going to save you from your naturally-occurring misery. They are going to invent a drug that will set you free of all the hassles of womanhood—the Pill!

Carl Djerassi invented the modern birth control pill, which was originally advocated as a step toward freedom for women. With the introduction of the pill, women had the choice as to whether a pregnancy was desirable at the time. They could finally pursue careers and “plan” a family accordingly. However, the pill's original purpose has been skewed.

Doctors are now urging younger and younger girls to use the pill but not for the purpose of birth control, even though that is always an underlying reason, but as a means of controlling PMS, blood flow, or acne. PMS is natural and healthy. It can be minimized, once recognized, through a healthy diet and exercise without the hormone-tampering caused by birth control pills. Nonetheless, more women are turning towards this man-made device to control the “hormonal” woman inside them.

But did you ever stop to think why all these problems are solved by the pill? Or why the problems are “problems” in the first place? Men. They found women to be trying around that “time of the month” and they also wanted sex without the fear of another mouth to feed. So they solved their problem with the pill and tried to convince women that it was really her problem. Kottak, the author of Researching American Culture, writes, “The fact that the development of birth control pills and other contraceptive methods has been largely aimed at women is the result of a number of assumptions made by the largely male research establishment” (219). Ask yourself why acne is so unappealing, why we should minimize our periods to two days instead of seven but bleed in between as a side effect, and why we can't just scream one moment and sing the next? Men have convinced women that being natural with a real menstrual cycle is undesirable and unattractive. And pregnancy, well, tha! t is a problem women can deal with on their own, right? Its their fault for not taking the pill. Kottak writes, “Not only do they [men] believe that conception control is the responsibility of women, they fear the untoward effects of interfering with the male sex drive. Having a healthy supply of sperm is more important to men than ovulation is to women...” (219). Well, what if you don't want to take the pill because you're a smoker and don't want to heighten your risk of blood clots, heart attacks, and strokes exponentially, or maybe you just don't want to pay the $15 to $25 per month? Is it still her responsibility to take the pill? Nope, there are many options for birth control since guys are all about choices, such as regular or lite beer for them and pill or patch for their female counterpart?

The “made and promoted by man” birth control selection includes hormone interference via pill, patch, or shot and uncomfortable and painful contraptions that she can insert herself. Ortho evra is the first birth control patch to be used once a week. Its method of prevention is similar to that of the pill because it changes hormone levels. It seems convenient and safe. However, it can cost anywhere from $55-$98. Depo Provera shots work in the same manner. They are given once every 12 weeks. However, the shots may cause lighter periods or remove them completely, while the pill may lighten periods and cause bleeding between periods. The shot, excluding doctor examinations, costs around $50 each time.

Another form of contraception is like an internal ceiling that blocks the passage of semen into the uterus. According to Altcontraceptives.com the diaphragm is a “mechanical intra-vaginal barrier” that contains either a coil, flat, or arching spring. (More choices. Aren't men wonderful?) Diaphragms must be fitted for each person and is recommended to use in conjunction with spermicide. If you want to remove it, you must wait at least 6 hours after intercourse to do so. It has to be inserted deep into the vagina, can irritate the vaginal lining, and can cause bladder infections. It can also become dislodged during intercourse. The cap is similar to a diaphragm. As its name suggests, it is just a cap that fits over the cervix and is also for use with spermicides. Both methods can be left in for up to two days but before repeated intercourse more spermicide should be inserted into the vagina. The average cost is about $13 to $25 plus the cost of spermicide. There! are also other options such as the Intrauterine Device (IUD) which is a T-shaped plastic with an attached string that utilizes copper and a hormone to prevent fertilization. It must be inserted by a clinician and replaced every year, which costs anywhere from $175 to $450. However, it tends to cause more severe menstrual cramps and heavier bleeding, which no woman wants.

The last type of prevention is the worst form of birth control—a female condom. It works and looks just like a male condom. However, it is inserted into the vagina. It can move around, slip out, and cause discomfort. It is exactly like a condom except the male doesn't have to worry about putting it on because she does it beforehand with the aid of a lubricant. This wonderful invention, like most types of birth control, was created by a man. I guess the complaint that a male condom doesn't allow a man to peak doesn't hold anymore because now we can wear the condom for him. Only a man would come up with the idea to take away the only kind of reversible male contraception available to him. He is really looking to benefit women. I mean a male condom can be put on without any pain or chance of a man damaging himself and could cost him anywhere from nothing to $2.50 for a fancy glow-in-the-dark one. (Remember girls, guys want choices too when it comes to birth control! . Well, only in the size, color, and taste of the condom.) Yet a female condom is painful and a hassle to insert and costs a minimum of $2.50.

But there is still hope for women. There are more forms of male contraception than you thought. There are thermal and hormonal methods, as well as vas devices being researched at this very instant! Thermal methods include underwear patented to hold the testes closer to the body, thus keeping them at a higher temperature that would cause the suppression of spermatogenesis, the production of sperm. This method has only a one time investment in a pair of briefs. However when the briefs are first worn, the spermatogenesis does not stop instantly but gradually dies away. Along this same vein is simple heating, which consists of taking hot showers or baths a few times. As long as the water is around 115 degrees Fahrenheit, the method can be 100% efficient. Both thermal methods have no side effects, do not become effective right away, can last for several months, are more than reasonably safe and are fully reversible.

Hormonal treatments administer androgen which stops spermatogenesis. However, scientists have found it difficult to administer a steady level of androgen so that the product would be most effective. Different types of hormonal treatment include the pill which is taken 3 times a day, an implant which requires surgery but is the most effective, patches that can cause irritation, creams that can rub off, and injections into the muscle tissue every 10 days to 3 months. All of these techniques are only fully effective after about 2.5 months, are completely reversible, and may cause an increase in acne and altered moods.

Boy, what a price men might have to pay just to play a part in birth control! But does it really compare with all that a woman has to go through to prevent pregnancy? What if all her hard work fails, and she still becomes pregnant? Does a pill 3 times a day for a man really compare to hours of agony in childbirth?

The final option for male contraception is vas devices. The slug is a rubber plug that can be inserted into the vas deferens without surgery to hinder the escape of sperm into the ejaculatory fluid. However, I have many questions as to how this might work considering the “what if”s: where does the sperm go if it can't get out, where does the ejaculatory fluid come from if not from the vas deferens and the gland connected to it, etc? Another vas devices is called RISUG (Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance). It involves injecting the vas deferens with SMA (styrene mali anhydride), which coats the walls and sets within 72 hours. According to malecontraceptives.org, the solution has a “positive and negative charge mosaic...[causing] the membranes of passing sperm to rupture, rendering them incapable of fertilizing an egg.” There are no side effects, only 60 mg can last up to 10 years, and it is completely reversible with an injection of DMSO or a sodium bica! rbonate solution. This is the only method that has made an appearance in the birth control market, but only in India where most of the research is based. Nevertheless, this solution seems the best fit for men. I mean there are no side effects, no hormonal imbalances, no pain, no changes in mood, and no chance of becoming ineffective. It seems like the perfect solution! Why does everything always work out so perfectly for men in their man-made world?

Women are naturally designed to have a penis enter their vagina, but more and more foreign objects have found their way into our bodies only to cause us more pain and suffering. All these birth control methods just cause irritation and the potential for more pain. And well, the one thing we do want to allow into our protected castle owner doesn't have the stamina or the balls to even wear a condom that can do no harm to him. What is the world coming to? Ladies, have we let ourselves become blinded by the male ego that says we alone influence our ability to become pregnant? Are we forgetting that the man has thousands and thousands of reasons to be held responsible for prevention every day while we only have one once a month? Why have we let men tell us what to do about our womanhood when they can't even understand the true value of chocolate?

FAQS Archives MIT Home Contact Us!