March 4th, 2010

I swear

The Youth of America

I blame the religious right for this.
According to a new study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, many young American men exhibit attitudes toward contraception that could best be described as “magical.” The study [PDF] surveyed American singles ages 18–29 about their perceptions about and use of contraception. Twenty-eight percent of young men think that wearing two condoms at a time is more effective than just one. Twenty-five percent think that women can prevent pregnancy by douching after sex. Eighteen percent believe that they can reduce the chance of pregnancy by doing it standing up.

For the most part, men lagged behind women on the pregnancy prevention front. And when the study dipped into the realm of “female” forms of birth control, the gender divide intensified. In the study, 29 percent of men and 32 percent of women reported that they know “little or nothing about condoms.” When asked to rate their knowledge of birth control pills, 78 percent of men reported to be clueless, compared to 45 percent of women.

With a majority of young men generally unknowledgeable about hormonal birth control—and nearly half of young women equally stumped—men sometimes don’t figure out the basics until they think they may have impregnated someone, or their penis feels something weird. “I dated a girl with a NuvaRing, while I didn’t know she had one,” says a 22-year-old Arlington resident who didn’t discover how the couple was preventing baby-making until his penis was already well inside her vagina. “I found out the physical way, when I felt the alien object. I immediately recoiled in fear, asking what was wrong. It was frightening. Then she told me her birth control was a ring in her vagina, which I had never heard of.” He demanded the evidence. “She retrieved it—which is a sight to see—and showed it to me, put it back, and we continued,” he says. “I feel like girls should tell people.”
The stories in the article are kind of horrific, and they make me wonder why we've reverted in education about the very basics of reproduction. There were men who didn't know that the NuvaRing was hormonal, not a barrier method form of birth control. There were men who didn't know that hormonal birth control can totally eliminate menstrual cycles. There were men who didn't know that the women they were having sex with were using birth control until they felt something inside. At the very least, people should know the difference between the barrier method and hormonal methods of contraception. I guess, part of it is that women have 11 types of contraception available to them. Men have two. And apparently the men go a) go to sleep during the part about contraception beyond condom and vascectomy in their sex-education classes, or b) get taught abstinence only, assume pulling out sort of works, and move on.

I don't think I've ever had sex without some sort of birth control, even the drunken hookups that characterized my early sex-life. My parents sat me down for a talk at some point in my early adolescence, and they explained the various methods to me. I knew fairly early on that my mom had been on the pill until she started feeling tinging in her legs somewhere in the 70s. Then she moved on to a diaphragm and spermacidal jelly, though she may have tried out an IUD until they were taken off the market by the FDA after the Dalcon Shield disaster. I later had a presentation on birth control in my biology class in school. My dad gave me a condom (I still have it somewhere for sentimental purposes, I never found an opportunity to use it) when I took off for Europe when I was 18 years old. I still have stashes of condoms all over the house from those days when I wasn't sleeping with anyone regularly, though it's been years since I've needed to unwrap one.

The two instances where birth control failed (one was a condom break, the other a condom slip), I immediately got a morning after pill. I've been on the pill for five years, and I know how it works. I suspect I'll move on to something like an IUD once I'm done having kid. I know how that works.

I'll put the rest of the really interesting things about this study behind a cut. Collapse )

That last bulletpoint "Even among those who say it is important to them to avoid pregnancy right now, 20% of women and 43% of men say they would be at least a little pleased if they found out today that they or their partner were pregnant." has been getting a lot of play around the feminist blogosphere in the last few days. I know that if I were to announce a pregnancy to Graham tomorrow, even though "it's important to us to avoid pregnancy right now" he'd be over the moon excited about it. I'd probably, after the shock wore off, be a little psyched too, though I'd be pissed that after being so careful, I managed to fuck up timing. Graham and I don't fall into the "young people" category, though. And when I was in my teens, 20s, and early 30s, I would have been totally freaked out and probably wouldn't have chosen to carry a baby to term. My partners? I don't know.