Stigma Around Contraception: Exploring the Hows and the Whys

Contraception serves the primary purpose of preventing pregnancies in people. The process of prevention can vary from separating the egg and sperm apart to stopping the production of eggs.  There are various kinds of contraception- oral contraception like pills and intrauterine contraception like Levonorgestrel intrauterine system, copper T intrauterine device.  People with vaginas, especially in South Asian countries are expected to indulge in sex only for the sake of reproduction or carrying the family ‘legacy’ forward.  The unified lens of understanding with regard to sex does not take into account the multi-faceted nature of sex as a human need, exploration of the relationship between sex and pleasure.

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Contraception and Conservatism

The stigma around contraception has existed for a multitude of reasons- barring people from indulging in pre-marital sex, looking down on people with multiple sexual partners, the pressure of marrying at a young age, linking purity with virginity and hymen as a sign of honour. Contraception continues to influence the realm of gender, sexuality, societal norms, and heteronormative expectations of looking at the idea of a family.  A post by Durex India on Twitter said that 95% of men in India did not use condoms.  Many have gone on to say that using contraception devoid them of the “feel” of sexual pleasure. Some people with penises believe that they have the capacity to just pull out at the right time; hence, they did not need contraception.  

The limited understanding of contraception as a method for the sole purpose of preventing pregnancy intensifies the stigma.  The fact that contraceptives also ensure safety from reproductive health issues is a neglected phenomenon.  The deconstruction of the lack of multiple uses of contraceptives lays bare the grim reality of little to no attention put on the reproductive health of people with a vagina. Most people with vaginas in India do not visit a gynaecologist after their first period, after their first sexual encounter that provides a testimony to the sheer lack of awareness regarding their bodies. The lack of proper examination and awareness of underlying infections put people with vaginas in a lot riskier and more sensitive space, both physically and socially.

Is the conservative approach regarding the use of contraception valid? What is at stake if people continue to avoid using contraception? What impact will it have on the world with reference to debates on the human population and family planning? The above questions are pertinent to answer and ponder over before shying away from using/ talking about contraception.

Source: Decolonising contraception

Contraception and Conditioning

The link between contraception and family planning leads to a predetermined pressure on people with a vagina because the onus of rearing a child particularly falls on them. In Seeing Like A Feminist, Nivedita Menon argues about the preconceived notion of family- a family is based on clearly established hierarchies of gender and age, with gender triumphing age.  Hence, people with penises usually get accustomed to a position of power within the rubrics of a society that normalizes their privilege.

The concept of conditioning manifests itself through the mechanisms of labelling, exclusion or segregation. The continued existence of stigma around contraception stems from an exclusionary approach towards people with unique/ different sexual orientations. The need to have sex as a matter of choice results in the labelling of people as ‘sluts’, someone who is easily available or as someone who is asking for it. The restricted conversation around sex/ desire is emblematic of the shying away from the talk around contraception which reinforces the notion that seeking pleasure is shameful.   

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Contraception is an intrinsic aspect for the maintenance of optimum sexual and reproductive health.  The world is opening up to possibilities of conversations around bodies of all shapes, sizes, colours. We, as a society, should become more respectful and embrace our rights to embrace individuality and the liberty to make decisions for ourselves. Sex without contraception can lead to unwanted pregnancies, reproductive diseases. This can lead to an increase in anxiety or depression among people who are not ready to bear the responsibility of a child. Hence, it is okay to indulge in sex whenever or with whosoever one wants to only by making sure that people ensure safety in the longer run.


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