“Raging Feminist”

The other day I was out getting food with friends, and we were talking about sex. One of the guys in the group, a diehard romantic, used the phrase “sex as an expression of love,” and without missing a beat, I responded, “What’s that?” I said I was joking, but over the past week I’ve chipped away at that jocular veneer and revealed a thick slab of my own rotten truth: I’ve never had sex with someone and felt it was any kind of expression of their love for me. I thought about this revelation quite a bit today, as I had an appointment with a new OBGYN to get a copper IUD inserted. While it felt like someone was boring a hole in my most protected, intimate space, I examined my decision to have the procedure done in the first place. So, as I sit with residual cramps from the unsuccessful procedure, sipping peppermint tea because that’s always what people in the movies seem to offer women who are hurting, let me tell you where I’m at.

In my life I’ve been on five different types of birth control pills, and each sent my body into some kind of tizzy, baffling my doctors and prompting them to prescribe something different each year during my annual exam. Not only does my body not react well to the pills, but the anxiety I struggle with is largely health related—hypochondria at its worst. The horror stories I’d heard and read about blood clots in young, healthy women—no matter the odds—plagued me. I didn’t want that shit in my body.

The copper IUD is the only female form of birth control as effective as the pill that relies on the body’s natural chemistry to prevent pregnancy, or at least that’s what I’ve read. I’ve heard horror stories about these too, though—tearing and internal bleeding and accidental pregnancies that put both the woman and fetus in danger because of the presence of the IUD amongst all the uterine chaos. But the copper seemed to be my best option, as there is no risk for heart disease or blood clots, so I made an appointment.

The procedure was the most painful I’ve ever experienced. The doctor opened me up, dilated my cervix, and measured the length of my uterus to make sure it was long enough for the metallic T. She told me I wasn’t the length she felt comfortable with, but I did meet the minimum requirement set by the manufacturer. Would you like to continue? she asked. When I requested her professional opinion, she said she had seen it go either way; some women my size have nonstop cramping for weeks and come back pleading for her to remove it, while others do just fine. She said she couldn’t help me make the decision; it was my choice.

But you know what? It didn’t feel like my choice, not fully, because the first thing I thought of was the look of disappointment on the face of my next sexual partner—the disingenuous pitch in his voice; the outright protest; the begging—when he realizes I want him to wear a condom. Ultimately, when she attempted to insert the device it caused such excruciating pain before she could even get it situated that she said there was no way I’d be able to live with it inside me. I left with a doggie bag of sample, chemical options—back to square one.

So this is what I have to say. To every man who has ever complained about how much less satisfying sex is with a condom; to every man who has ever said he doesn’t have a condom and then miraculously remembers where one is when the woman wants to slow things down; to every man who has ever said, I know my limits or Just the tip or We can be smart about it; to every man who has ever said he can’t feel close to a woman, can’t experience real intimacy with her, with something synthetic between them; to every man who has suggested a woman go on birth control and then followed up with, Unless the pill makes you crazy; to every man who has made a case for pulling out by telling the woman if she got pregnant he’d help pay for an abortion, that she “wouldn’t have to go through it alone”; to each I say, FUCK YOU. 

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I’ve experienced each of these scenarios, and I can’t imagine how long the list would be if I got some friends in on it. Why, for near a decade now, have I been putting my body through hell, forcing on it something it’s clearly rejecting, ignoring its signals, all in an attempt to satisfy men from whom I am not receiving proper care or consideration or patience while my own pleasure, my mental and physical health, fall by the wayside? The reason is because I was raised in a religion (as many women are) and a society (as all women are) that put men’s sexual “needs” above women’s; it’s as simple as that. I’m here to say shame on me. Shame on me as a 24-year-old, proud, educated, feminist woman in 2016 for putting a man’s satisfaction above my own wellbeing, for not standing up for myself. Because the thing is, when we stand up for ourselves, we are, in turn, standing up for each other. I already said my fuck you to the patriarchy, so this is a kind of confession to my queens and priestesses: Mea culpa. No more.

9 thoughts on ““Raging Feminist”

  1. Brenna, I have been following your Instagram and blog for a few weeks now. And all I can say is thank you. Thank you for talking about and saying so articulately what I and I’m sure so many others have felt and thought. From depression, to moving to a new place, to anxiety, creativity, feminism and birth control you have an eloquent, heartfelt and honest quality to your writing. Your posts have been some light for me, in the midst of big changes for my own MFA program, relationship struggles and the painful personal growth, healing and process of being a 20-something woman in this weird world.

    Particularly this post though. Keep it up. The knowledge that someone out there has gone through and felt things similar things albeit, not the same to your own is one of the most powerful things. Xo babe.

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  2. Maybe this makes me an Old Person (30), but I always have them use a condom even though I’m on the pill, unless it’s a long term thing where there’s actual trust. By which I mean, anyone pulling these kinds of lies and excuses is not someone I really trust yet. But I’m lucky that I’ve never been given a hard time about insisting. I wonder if this is at all related to more religious or conversative, and more socially liberal areas in the country? It would be an interesting study sociologically.

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    • Me too, I would ask for condoms, and I must admit I kind of like this “separation” the condom brings sometimes, I guess!
      We also live in this era of STDs-on top of undesired pregnancies, and I’m quite surprised that men you encountered Brenna did not seem to take that into account… Maybe there’s a sociological/educational difference, as unacuriosita said, as I’m European.
      I really appreciate your post, especially the end. I’ve realized during sex we’re often asked to make some efforts, but they seem to forget that they get their pleasure every time-since it ends with that usually-something to adress too!, contrary to us (or I’m just very unlucky-but I dont think-right?). Quite an unbalanced situation to even ask for more.
      Also about contraception, I hope you’ll find the best option for you. I, like you, struggled with pills but finally found one that doesnt mess up my mental health or adds weird other symptoms. We’re so ill-informed on the subject it’s crazy. Nobody is, really. I share this blog because it is the best source of information I encountered. Sadly it is in French but hopefully google translate can help? http://www.martinwinckler.com/spip.php?rubrique8

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  3. Well said, Brenna. I’ve been following you on instagram for a few months and always enjoy your posts. Its nice to see you’ve started a blog. I’m always looking for new things to read written by smart women.

    I have never been on any type of birth control myself. The only long term relationship I’ve had is with my current boyfriend and we use condoms, and have for the entire 6 years of our relationship. Fortunately, I’m lucky enough to be with someone who understands the risks of birth control for women and doesn’t want me to put unnatural chemicals in my body for the sake of “better sex”.

    I do recall a brief romantic entanglement I was in with a guy right before I met my boyfriend. The first time we were going to have sex and I told him I wasn’t on birth control, he was flabbergasted. The look on his face was of pure shock and I’m not exaggerating one bit. He couldn’t believe that a women in her 20s, in this day and age, wouldn’t be on birth control. Needless to say that relationship was short lived.

    Now, I’ve always been pretty independent and not one to let men make me feel bad or shamed about things. His reaction didn’t make me feel that way but I also didn’t find it unreasonable or inappropriate, which I definitely would now. Woman grow up in a world where we feel the responsibility is inherently with us, and we don’t question it because we’ve never seen any examples of it being any other way. To judge when something sexist is going on I’ll quote Caitlin Moran, “are men doing it? Are the men worrying about this as well? … Almost always the answer is no. The boys are not being told they have to be a certain way, they are just getting on with stuff.”

    When I see a blog post by a man struggling with the difficulties of working out the best way to protect himself and his partner from pregnancy during sex, that’ll be the day.

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  4. Your raging is justified. Like men, we have many privileges, if you add whiteness, is worse for else. What I´m saying is a hard work even to men with a little bit of conscience of civil rights for everyone, or who have a struggle against our educational bases. However the machismo, flag of Patriarchy, is in the core of society. Florence Thomas said that is imposible for a man to be feminist, she said we aspire to be a “supportive men” only. I´m not agree with her.
    In the machismo, sexuality is the center of phallocentric battle, the “possession”, the exercise of power, I think sexuality can be a powerful and intimate act of fragility, strength and beauty. “En la desnudez no hay clases sociales”, Mario Benedetti wrote. Sexuality is beautiful when two humans are free and generous. Yes, Brenna, fuck the Patriarchy and the whole its varieties. I, for my part, learn to be a feminist man, whatever it means.

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  5. Brenna,
    You go girl. There are also ways to track your fertility with the three combined methods of charting, checking your cervical fluid, and taking your temperature. You probably already knew that but I just wanted to make sure you had an idea about that! Then that way you can be double safe- making your partner wear a condom and knowing where your body is in your cycle 🙂 You can look it up online. I watch a girl on YouTube with the username FemmeHead and she makes tons of videos about it.

    You rock!

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  6. Wow. Wow. Wow. I know I’ve said this before but I appreciate your writing so very much. I’m currently right smack dab in the middle of a break up. A non break up break up. I’ve been in a relationship with my best friend for a year and a half and we’ve known each other longer. This man(MP), I believe, truly cares about my cramping, my rules when it comes to sexual safety, my well being no matter what our outcome. For that I am so thankful and that is why he remains my best friend and why this ending to a relationship has been so long and drawn out. My mother always told me that you’ll find out who a person truly is in the end. She meant the END. The end of whatever you were giving them. My ex boyfriend(HH), the “love of my life” is very popular back in Missouri, and on Instagram as a whole. I think I found out who HH was in the end. IT HURTS! So bad. To this day I still sneak a peek at his Instagram and wonder if anything could ever come of us. Which is why Memory Foam struck me so hard. It’s weird to me, how I can be with someone right now(MP) who genuinely cares about all of my needs and still long for some guy who left our love behind to go be a “homeless photographer.” I still find myself wanting to put whatever HH could possibly want from me above mine and anyone else’s happiness. What is that?! The point to my ramble is, when I’m trying to figure my heart out, I always know I can turn to your reading for a little light. Thank you.

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  7. Thank you for sharing. I found this both heart-breaking and convicting – an essential combination for those of us seeking to rid ourselves of the societal distortions within our working definitions of men, women, sex, and relationships. These learned definitions imply ideas so ingrained that I find myself needing reminders of the importance of this effort on a daily basis. To provoke and encourage lasting change, your story and the stories of others are crucial.

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