I once heard this story from an OB-GYN—it was about how one of her patients barely surviving childbirth. The patient had a heart condition and she and her husband were strongly advised not to have any more children. Our speaker suggested for the husband to consider getting a vasectomy because having his wife go under the knife for a tubal ligation was also a high-risk procedure for her condition.
The husband said no.
I think about this still because this attitude is not uncommon in Philippine society. Tubal ligation is surgery. A vasectomy is an out-patient procedure. Rather than have any sharp instrument go near male genitalia, women are expected to take one for the team.
Taking one for the team is what women know how to do best. It’s what goes through my mind when I think of bringing a pregnancy to term and actually delivering the child.
When I went off hormonal birth control (I was on the pill for many years) in an attempt to get pregnant, I was shocked at the relief I felt. I felt like a fog lifted when I quit the pill and couldn’t imagine how I was able to put up with those years of being emotionally and mentally off kilter. The pill for the most part did an amazing job in keeping my husband and I child-free. But because I was so grateful for not having any physical side effects, I didn’t pay attention to how the pill affected my moods and clarity of thought.
The various side effects hormonal birth control range from gorgeous skin to mind-numbing cramps. I’m grateful for the pill but it will always be a symbol of how I allow my body to go through all this discomfort while my partner doesn’t have to worry about a thing in this quest of non-procreational sex.
It takes two to make a baby and I wonder what it will take to see a societal shift in men to take on their share of the responsibility.
I wonder if because sex is often centered on male pleasure. If I examined the whole body of heteronormative media I consumed in my lifetime, this is the narrative of sex I have in my mind: 1) The act is only considered finished if the male achieves orgasm; 2) Apparently the only orgasm a female can achieve is through vaginal penetration (Fun fact: Only 25 percent of women consistently orgasm this way); 3) Usually in tandem with the male (this never happens with me); and 4) It’s either women are on some form of birth control or no one gives a damn about contraception because I hardly ever see a sex scene where men slip on condoms.
The implications don’t bode well for women. In a world where we still struggle to have healthy conversations about sex, media portrayals are our imagined norms projected—and are usually the only things we have as points of reference.
If male pleasure is the point of sex, then it makes sense why women carry the brunt of everything uncomfortable related to it.
The only way I can see how a balance can be restored is if we move away from concepts and actually start seeing people as people. If we start acknowledging women’s pain as real. If men start regarding their partners as complex beings with their own desires and thresholds. If men start doing a reckoning with how much they’ve gotten away with. If we understand that meaningful sex is relational, not transactional.
After I gave birth to our first child, the subject of contraception came up again. Because I didn’t want to go back on the pill, for the first time in a long time, my husband and I had to figure out alternatives that would work for me and him. We sometimes do condoms; we sometimes pull out. We’re open to having another baby, hence the room for error on our end.
Our contraception plan of choice isn’t the best for my husband’s pleasure because the plan became a matter of everyone’s pleasure.
Once we reach a point where we’re sure we don’t want to have kids anymore, my husband intends to have a vasectomy. To him it makes sense. To him, I’ve already been through the rollercoaster of hormonal birth control and actual birth and it’s the least he could do.
Contraceptive plans between partners will always be an ongoing discussion and when each partner figures out how each one can help distribute the weight, I imagine this as love in action.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Preen.ph, or any other entity of the Inquirer Group of Companies.
Art by Marian Hukom
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