Being bi and poly, I always have an interesting time at the sexual health clinic.
The health practitioners who conduct the interviews have always been accepting and sympathetic when I have to reel off a list of partners that were a mixture of new and long term (or all long term) and (mostly) bisexual men and I had sex with them on the same day or at the same time and there’s not enough room on the form to go back six months (both myself and the health person seem to tacitly agree to stop at three people). And despite all this information they are forced to conclude that I’m actually leading a relatively safer sex life.
Anyhoo, I recently had cause to visit the clinic for the emergency contraceptive pill. The person doing the interviewing was friendly as always however something too subtle to put on a complaints form happened to me with the nurse who was dishing out the pill.
She gave me the pill and the associated leaflet, then said “and if your period is more than five days late then you should take a pregnancy test” and smiled a tight smile. I said, smiling, “oh dear, don’t say that” and she continued to stare at me with a tight smile. Uncomfortable, I made a joke about how annoying it is when condoms break, and in the same tight fashion she said “or get other contraception”. I explained that I dislike hormonal contraception and she finally gave me a leaflet about the coil.
I can’t be certain that what I felt with the nurse was something that was actually being transmitted, but I felt I had been negatively judged for not doing enough to prevent myself from getting pregnant. I felt as though there was an ultimatum: if you’re going to have so much sex, you should be pumping yourself full of hormones or unnatural objects so as to not get pregnant.
I’ve thought about having a coil fitted and as a menstrual activist I have read some reports on their functionality, as well as having first hand accounts from friends. I have made an informed decision not to get a coil because I feel it will interfere with my menstrual cycle as well as being painful to have fitted/removed. I also secretly suspect my womb will be one of those that likes to force it back out again. Since I have to use condoms with every single partner anyway, so as not to get sexually transmitted diseases, I feel using “just condoms” (and female condoms!) every single time to be an appropriate choice.
This, though, is not the point.
It is the second occasion in my life that a condom has broken and I have taken lengthy and costly steps to get hold of a method of contraception available to me as fast as humanly possible in order to prevent pregnancy and this is the second time the nurse has made me feel guilty while I was doing so. This also seems to be a frequent experience reported by my female friends.
This is a tiny, minor, trivial story in the context of what is happening with reproductive rights worldwide but this is one more example of someone making (and expressing) a negative judgement about someone else’s reproductive choices even though the person was in fact ensuring an unwanted pregnancy was being prevented and even though the person expressing the opinion was a medical practitioner in the business of helping people be informed and confident enough to make appropriate choices for themselves. These attitudes are not helping.
Also, women hating on women really bugs me and it needs to fuck off.
Reproductive rights 101: give people access to every birth control technology and every STI prevention technology that exists, for free, for ever. Help individuals make their own informed decisions and do not behave as if one choice is better than another. Do not believe that your opinion has greater value than a person’s own opinion and do not interfere with an individual’s bodily sovereignty, even when they are pregnant.
These are the starting baseline assumptions. We can talk about exceptions but they are exactly that: exceptions and there have to be good very reasons to make them. Looking down on someone when they take the morning after pill is not one of them.