[Mentions sexual assault.]
This post is part of Back Up Your Birth Control’s Blog for EC Day of Action.
The theme of this year’s Day of Action is EC=BC, and it’s aimed at combating misinformation about emergency contraceptives.
First, I need to get this out of the way. The “big deal” misinformation is that emergency contraceptive pills act as abortifacients. This is factually wrong, and I have no tolerance for bullshit today.
The EC misinfo I actually encounter most frequently is some variant of, “But it’s irresponsible! It will make them sluts!”
It takes a few forms, some of which are actually grounded in fact. However, that fact is generally misapplied.
1 — “Emergency contraception doesn’t protect against sexually transmitted infections.” Quite true. Neither do standard oral contraceptive pills. Neither do IUDs, Depo Provera, the Catholic Church’s beloved Natural Family Planning, or anything else that isn’t condoms. While this is an excellent reason why we need more education about sexually transmitted infections as well as reduced stigma and increased access to STI testing, it is not a reason why we don’t need EC. For people inclined to whine and wail about everyone who’s now having “slutty” condomless sex because they just figure they’ll rely on a morning after pill, the numbers do not support this happening in quantity. In fact, negative stigma toward EC may already be preventing some people (adolescents, in this study) from using it.
2 — “Emergency contraception is less effective than other forms of birth control.” Again, true and why we still need access to and knowledge about other forms of contraception. However, it’s not a reason to demonize and dismiss post-coital contraception which is, sort of by definition, the only kind that can be used after the sex has taken place. In a perfect world, of course, one would always be able to see a contraceptive failure coming and just avoid having sex then. But back here in reality, sometimes the sex happens first; the missed pills or broken condom happens second. And when the contraceptive failure has already happened, there is no time when primary BC failure plus EC is less effective than primary BC failure alone.
3 — “But women who are having sex should be using some kind of birth control already.” Just like if I budget my money very carefully, I “should” be able to put some into savings each month. In both cases, shit happens. My car won’t start. I get pneumonia and need to go to the emergency room. Condoms break. Pharmacies mess up prescription refills. IUDs expel.
Among some people, there is a desire to portray people who use emergency contraception as irresponsible and promiscuous (as well as to create a connection between the two descriptors, which there isn’t inherently). Never mind that the data do not support the idea that EC access increases promiscuity.
I’ve taken emergency contraception twice in my life. Both times I was already using another form of birth control. Most recently (a couple of years ago), my diaphragm slipped, and my partner ejaculated inside me. A decade earlier, I was practicing abstinence; the person who raped me wasn’t.
Want to know how Not Interested I am in people who are not me dictating what I “should” be doing with respect to my sexual health?
4 — “Well, some people just make stupid choices; they should know better.” I… guess? I mean, it’s true that some people do choose to have sex impulsively or based on inaccurate information about the risks, benefits, or premises of that sex (e.g., believing having sex would earn them more affection or commitment from that person). Some people choose to have sex based on any number of factors that I would not choose for myself (case in point: some people have sex to make babies). And some people do come to regret those choices in the hours or days after making them.
I’m not there myself — but only because all of my impulsive choices that went against norms of what women “should” do turned out to be awesome and empowering for me. I’m well aware things could have turned out differently; that doesn’t make those decisions “stupid.”
Besides, even if every person who took EC should “know better” beforehand, what good does it do to tell them so after the fucking has already happened? In what sphere of reality does that work? And by what logic does stigmatizing people who rely on emergency contraception, possibly risking keeping the person at a higher risk of unintended pregnancy, do anything besides hurt?
Shame is a bad motivator, and reveling in someone else’s “irresponsibility” — whether via outright self-righteousness or concern trolling — is cruel.