New Contraceptive Promptly Condemned as "Promiscuity Pill," Plus, I Love Sluts

The fact is that these medications don’t increase the rate of sexual activity at a statistically significant rate, but who cares if they did?
Publish date:
October 19, 2012
sluts, contraception, slut-shaming, emergency contraception, day after pill

This week, we learned that the HPV vaccine doesn’t turn girls into raging sluts; I for one am shocked, simply shocked by this news, and I assume you are as well. But not to worry, friends, because there’s a new medical menace looming on the horizon. EllaOne, a contraceptive sold in the UK, can be used to prevent pregnancy up to five days after having unprotected sex. So, basically, it’s a pill for total slutty mcslutbags who think they can go around slutting it up without any consequences.

The Daily Fail calls it “the promiscuity pill,” so I guess we know how their editors feel about it. As far as memorable generic names go, I’m not sure this one is going to catch on; can you imagine going to the pharmacy and asking for a six-pack of promiscuity pills?

The fact that the public response to any kind of medical intervention for sexual health is to assume that it turns girls into raging hos is deeply troubling, and indicative of larger social attitudes about women’s sexuality. It’s infuriating that any kind of medical advance that helps protect public health, prevent unwanted pregnancy, and give people more control over their own bodies is treated as the next coming of Sodom and Gomorrah.

In the case of the HPV vaccine, the fact that the development of a vaccine to prevent a strain of a potentially serious sexually transmitted infection that can lead to cervical cancer was treated as anything other than totally fantastic was utterly gross. Pundits opined that giving it to young women and girls would lead to an epidemic of rampant sexuality –- as though this is something bad -– and lobbied hard against it. I say that if you’re going to be having sex, you should have access to the full range of options to control your fertility and protect yourself from STIs, and this was one great option for young women and girls.

With the release of a study illustrating that the HPV vaccine doesn’t actually cause promiscuity, one might think that the furor could die down and everyone could embrace it as a useful medical development. I doubt that’s going to happen, though, because conservatives seem to hate science and peer-reviewed studies with a flaming passion, and they like to engage in a peculiarly obstinate form of denial when it comes to anything about fertility and women’s health.

Check out Joe Walsh, for example, who just claimed that maternal mortality doesn’t exist, so exceptions for the life of the mother don’t need to be built into abortion bans. Apparently he’s not aware that the US has a worse maternal mortality rate than most of Europe, with 12-15 deaths per 1,000 live births between 2003 and 2007.

Half of those were preventable.

So now we have EllaOne, which is apparently going to lead to an onslaught of rampant unprotected sex in the bedrooms, clubs, and who knows where else of the UK. Not only can people now bareback with impunity now, but with all fear of pregnancy removed, they’ll obviously be having much more sex than they did before – after all, that HPV study illustrating that the vaccine didn’t influence sexual behavior was obviously a fluke.

Because, clearly, the only concern people have when engaging in sexual activity is whether they will get pregnant. They definitely don't think about emotions, relationships, and other squishy issues. And surely no one thinks about the risk of STIs and wants to take measures to protect themselves from those, so obviously the only thing holding people back from wild orgies in the streets is lack of a day after pill that works for five days, right?

Opponents of EllaOne aren’t just attacking its OTC availability on the grounds that it will create a nation of sluts. They’re also claiming it’s a form of “early abortion,” which takes us right back to arguments from US conservatives demonstrating the usual appalling lack of understanding about how birth control works.

EllaOne, like the day after pill, is a contraceptive, not an abortifacient. It works in two ways. Firstly, it attempts to prevent fertilized eggs from passing into the uterus, and if they go ahead and make the journey on their own, it changes the uterine lining to prevent implantation. No implantation, no pregnancy. Boom. We’re done.

And, like the day after pill, it has a lot more uses beyond “we were too lazy to use protection and now I think I might get pregnant.” It can be used in cases of rape, incest, and reproductive coercion, for example. It can also be used when condoms fail or there’s a problem with an existing birth control method. Things happen, and the more options people have for dealing with them, the better.

Reactions to the release of developments like EllaOne and the HPV vaccine trouble me on two levels. I dislike the conservative outcry about sluts and how these developments will supposedly increase sexual behavior. But I’m honestly not so into the liberal response of “oh no, they won’t change the rate of sexual activity at all!”

Because, you know what? Sluts are fine. I like sluts. All hail the mighty slut. Having lots of sex is not wrong. The fact is that these medications don’t increase the rate of sexual activity at a statistically significant rate, but who cares if they did? If patients find that having access to these options makes them feel more comfortable and secure in their sexuality and they decide to take advantage of that, I say more power to them.

You slut on with your slutty selves, and I'm glad you have more options to safeguard your reproductive health.

Image credits: Dirk Loop (Flickr), Cory Doctorow