Monday, December 7, 2009

Building up barriers

Just finished reading this brilliant article on the Reproductive Health Reality Check website, Love The Glove: Ten Great Reasons To Use Condoms You Might Not Have Heard Of Yet. It begins by saying that amongst the many reasons teenagers don't use condoms one is that they start on hormonal methods and forget about STIs. The writer, Heather Corinna, goes on to refute the often used argument that condoms lessen sensation with this brilliant answer:

"Gander, meet goose. If we're going to talk about condoms changing how sex feels, we need to remember that something like the pill does too, and, unlike condoms, it changes how a woman feels all the time, both during and outside of sex. And as someone who has had a barrier over a much more sensitive part than a penis (the clitoris) and has also used hormonal medication can tell you (and that's on top of knowing the data I do as a sex educator) a latex barrier, when used properly doesn't change sensations more than most methods do for women. Other methods of contraception can cause pain and cramping, unpredictable bleeding, urinary tract infections, depression and a whole host of unpleasant side effects. Condoms are the LEAST intrusive and demanding of all methods of contraception, even though some guys talk about them -- without considering this perspective -- like they're the most. If guys could feel what life can be like on the pill, use a cervical barrier or get a Depo shot, they'd easily see condoms for the cakewalk they are."

I was reading in Barbara Ehrenreich's Remaking Love: The Feminisation of Sex the other day that although we have come to see the pill as synonymous with women's sexual liberation and the catalyst for the freedom of the 1960s, before its release women were carrying diaphragms around in their purses. The pill, she argues, only legitimised a social shift already underway.

Just as we have become so casual about the pill that many women do not consider it a drug, we have become very flip about condoms and accepting of all the myths surrounding them. As is mentioned in the above article there are ways and means of using condoms that would make them more attractive to those who insist they dislike the 'intrusion' of this method in comparison to the invisibility of the pill. If we were to have more of these conversations then we might find ourselves in more communicative relationships having much more satisfying sex as a result.

I am in the middle of reading Charlotte Roche's Wetlands - a novel from the point of view of an eighteen year old woman who is utterly fascinated by bodily functions in defiance of the sanitised image of femininity. I think the style is called gurlesque - a blend of grotesque and burlesque. I started out flinching, but it didn't take long to get used to. She details everything, her secretions, her toilet habits, her sex acts - you're better off reading it than working out from my prudish descriptions what it's like.

I also received my kit for the fertility awareness method in the post, complete with workbook and thermometer and so am reading through that at the same time. They compliment each other very well, meeting in the middle with talk of mucus textures. Reading about the fictional Helen making tampons out of toilet paper is making me a whole lot more open to charting my monthly cycle. Coming into my third month off the pill now and despite all my testosterone putting its efforts into making my skin and hair horrid, and avoiding its other duties, I am feeling relaxed and balanced. Also no more of the massive tension headaches I have had every week for the last couple of years. All these signs of nervous anxiety are slowly slipping away.

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