Author: has written 5300 posts for this blog.

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
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43 Responses

  1. BluntHammer
    BluntHammer March 4, 2010 at 3:00 pm |

    I have to agree. As much as I would LOVE teen agers to remain virgins until marriage, the truth is that it is NOT going to happen. We need to stress the importance of the Pill and other non-hormone birth control measures at the time a child goes into high school. The idea of: “If we bury our heads in the sands, our kids will be baby virgins” is outdated and woefully counter-productive.

    I am also horrified by the fact BC is not free to everyone … it is short sighted in the extreme.

  2. PixelFish
    PixelFish March 4, 2010 at 3:20 pm |

    I’ve had BC failure before, and since that time have educated myself and sexual partners on the options available, the medical effects, how it works, etc.

    My boyfriend loves the NuvaRing. (He can apparently feel it occasionally during intercourse.) He has also been thoroughly educated in why I use the Ring and not other forms of BC (I have GERD, and my medication for that makes oral BC less effective, plus I suck at taking regular meds). He also pays for half the cost of BC and he knows why we keep the Rings in the fridge. He knows roughly how long it is from the time I remove the Ring and my period begins, and what day I reinsert. This knowledge not only makes him feel more secure about our plans, but it seems to also help him know what my expectations will be and when I might not be up for sex.

    These knowledge benefits don’t just stop with BC. When I had a yeast infection recently, he asked questions about the treatment and how it might affect the BC. (He also bought me yogurt and cranberry juice.) Likewise, we also discussed how various lubes and oils might be better for prevention because they don’t contain glycerin (which is sugar-alcohol).

  3. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable March 4, 2010 at 3:27 pm |

    -18% of men believe you can reduce the risk of pregnancy if you have sex standing up.

    Love that one. That’s one of those things people joke about in the media, but the sad fact is that 1/5 of men believe it. It makes all of those jokes significantly less funny.

  4. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin March 4, 2010 at 3:28 pm |

    I wish I could say that I’m some stellar example of someone who was always as careful and always as cautious as he probably should have been. I can’t even use the argument that I was misinformed as defense. But now, after I rolled the dice more times then I am comfortable thinking about, I finally take the precautions that are necessary and essential.

    I fully recognize that I was exceptionally luck. Lots of people aren’t quite so fortunate.

  5. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin March 4, 2010 at 3:28 pm |

    exceptionally, LUCKY, rather.

  6. Athenia
    Athenia March 4, 2010 at 3:29 pm |

    Can’t people google this stuff? Geez!

  7. Redstocking Grandma
    Redstocking Grandma March 4, 2010 at 3:31 pm |

    Excellent information on birth control has been available in everyone’s local library for 40 years. Stupidity, recklessness, being drunk or drugged seem more of an explanation. I do not know one single person who relied on any sex education in the schools.

  8. preying mantis
    preying mantis March 4, 2010 at 3:32 pm |

    Jeebus. You’d think that after answering ‘no’ consistently to all of the above questions, they’d have picked up on the fact that the answer to “Do you have all the knowledge you need to prevent an unplanned pregnancy?” should be “Apparently not.”. Keep on truckin’, guys who think you can’t get pregnant if you fuck standing up.

  9. gexx
    gexx March 4, 2010 at 3:49 pm |

    I want to know how many guys think that women pee out of the vagina!

    I’m serious. I had a boyfriend once ask if i replaced my tampon every time I peed or if the urine just trickled through it.

  10. Mighty Ponygirl
    Mighty Ponygirl March 4, 2010 at 3:51 pm |

    Actually, I *did* rely on sex education to learn about different forms of birth control. And it was important, because before the teacher sat us down and discussed methods, failure rates, and “what doesn’t work,” a lot of people at our school DID think you couldn’t get pregnant your first time, or that you couldn’t get pregnant if you douched, or you couldn’t get pregnant if you stood up. I had a pretty good idea this was all bullshit, but having someone in authority telling you definitively what worked and what didn’t was a very important process for me. And it actually did a lot towards keeping my legs crossed because I was able to make my risk-assessment with accurate information.

    The thing about all of these theories is that they are obviously there because teenagers are self-conscious about their sex lives. Going into the local pharmacy or convenience store and picking up a pack of condoms is fraught, particularly in a small town where there’s a chance of stuff “getting back.” If you hear “oh, you can’t get pregnant if you douche with coke” is like a godsend to kids because then they just have to pick up a bottle of coke, and there’s nothing sexual about that. All of the myths surrounding “you can’t get pregnant if” are intended to make kids feel like they have alternatives to sucking it up and going to buy that pack of condoms.

    Also, the “you can’t get pregnant if it’s your first time” is a nice sexist touch: if you’re a girl and your boyfriend is telling you he’s not going to wear a condom “because you can’t get pregnant your first time,” you are in the fun position of having to explain that it isn’t you first time on top of demanding that he wear a condom. I can see a lot of teenage girls worried about being called a slut just meekly going along with that one.

  11. frau sally benz
    frau sally benz March 4, 2010 at 3:55 pm | *

    I wish I had a more insightful comment than “um… WOW!” But that’s all I seem to have right now. Oh, that and “holy crap…”

  12. Danny
    Danny March 4, 2010 at 3:59 pm |

    I agree with Jill plus I want to add:
    Can’t people google this stuff? Geez!
    Availability of the internet is probably even worse off than availability of public library space (hell I’m just getting into the 4rd year of having it availble in my area). The local library in my area is only open during Mon. – Fri. school hours (when I myself work) and 9am – 1pm Sat. (20min. drive and I don’t have my own car).

    But still if it were as simple as putting the info out there I’m sure the results would not look like this. Its just like in a lot of sitcoms when someone does something wrong that causes a small disaster. They really thought they knew what they were doing therefore they saw no need to look up directions/seek help. The key is going to be getting people to realize they can’t depend on what they saw on tv, superstitions, unproven assurances from older relatives, etc… for all the answers when it comes to sex.

  13. BluntHammer
    BluntHammer March 4, 2010 at 4:11 pm |

    I again site the “head in sand” issue. When I said kids should be told about this stuff upon entering highschool, I did not mean JUST the school. I mean we are PARENTS need to sit down with our sons AND daughters and explain what is going on. (I would, in fact, say that it should be something parents need to do the MINUTE their child can reproduce.)

    @Mighty Ponygirl
    I have heard that from girls when I was growing up, so it is not a ‘sexist’ issue. It is an issue of misinformation, where girls talk to other girls about it, and guys talk to other guys about it, and boom.. two clueless kids both think it is true, just because their friend’s brother’s girlfriend got lucky and they didn’t have a child.

    And if people are going to have sex.. each partner should have said before then if they had sex or not. the “fun position of having to explain that it isn’t you first time” stage should have happened for BOTH parties before the need for a condom or BC is even an issue. And if it is a one night stand, honestly.. neither of them should be calling the other a slut for not being a virgin because they are, after all, having a one night stand and are in no position to take the ‘moral high ground’.

  14. Mighty Ponygirl
    Mighty Ponygirl March 4, 2010 at 4:11 pm |

    not to mention a lot of public libraries have software filters to prevent people from looking up anything sex-related. I remember one case involving a woman who was trying to do research on her breast cancer and not getting very far because it was all considered “inappropriate.”

  15. Baratunde
    Baratunde March 4, 2010 at 4:12 pm |

    This is a very important question: can I make a woman pregnant with the Christian side hug? I cannot find any books on this subject, and youtube is totally useless. Please advise. It’s pretty urgent.

  16. anonymous coward
    anonymous coward March 4, 2010 at 4:18 pm |

    She’s not American, but my partner comes from a developed country and received just one day of sex education in her entire school career. One day! When I learned that it really explained a lot of her misconceptions about sex. I also met students there who sincerely believed you could get AIDS by shaking hands. Ignorance is the normal human condition around the world.

  17. Henry
    Henry March 4, 2010 at 4:22 pm |

    Dear people not using any birth control and who want to prevent pregnancy (the 19%):

    We men are not withdrawing – this isn’t a porno where the guy withdraws prior to the big moment. Being inside you is too much fun and we will forget or refuse to withdraw at the right time. Also note that pre-ejaculate fluid might contain sperm (those evil cells you non-child planning ladies want to avoid at all costs) so it may not work even if we do withdraw.

    (before you bash me the above was partly in jest, but I am trying to make a point – if you are having sex and don’t want kids keep something with a high success rate on hand (for you singles this would be condoms since they also prevent diseases).

    Lastly, it’s not just the uneducated – I know of a PhD. in Biology who once insisted on using the “withdrawal” method with her partner – go figure…

  18. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil March 4, 2010 at 4:25 pm |

    not to mention a lot of public libraries have software filters to prevent people from looking up anything sex-related

    I grew up in New Jersey, where two of the counties are Essex and Sussex. Any information about them was blocked by the library’s filter because they contained the word “sex.”

  19. Lance
    Lance March 4, 2010 at 4:28 pm |

    I’m going to play a bit of devil’s advocate here: I didn’t know the sex standing up one off-hand either (I’ve actually never heard that before). It seems vaguely plausible– gravity will cause some semen to drip out, which has to have an impact, right? It actually doesn’t matter if people falsely believe method x is effective, so long as they’re using method y which is in fact effective. And while it’s important to know the potential side effects of the pill or nuvaring and that they don’t protect against STD’s, it’s not that crucial to know how they actually work, is it? We rely on all sorts of things with only a foggy notion of how they work. This website and your microwave are good examples, unless you’re unusually technically inclined.

  20. Emily H.
    Emily H. March 4, 2010 at 4:30 pm |

    If anyone is unfamiliar with the good work Scarleteen does in getting information about sexual health out to teens: support them. Obviously they really need it.

  21. akeeyu
    akeeyu March 4, 2010 at 4:39 pm |

    Henry, why are you only addressing your sage ‘advice’ to women? Shouldn’t you be chastising the men involved in the 19% as well?

    From the article:
    “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.”

    Um. I feel like people should ASK.

    Maybe this is why the MRAs always get so het up about Those Evil Women who magically manipulate their fecundity to Trap Men? Because a large percentage of them don’t really know what the hell is going on with regards to birth control?

  22. Mighty Ponygirl
    Mighty Ponygirl March 4, 2010 at 5:02 pm |

    I have heard that from girls when I was growing up, so it is not a ’sexist’ issue. It is an issue of misinformation, where girls talk to other girls about it, and guys talk to other guys about it, and boom.. two clueless kids both think it is true, just because their friend’s brother’s girlfriend got lucky and they didn’t have a child.

    If the girl doesn’t know otherwise, I’m sure the guy is going to be the one who brings up the “you don’t need a condom if it’s your first time” because he stands to gain a lot more from that lie than girls do. The fact that girls then repeat the lie to each other doesn’t mean that men aren’t the one pressuring the lie.

    And if people are going to have sex.. each partner should have said before then if they had sex or not.

    Absolutely cannot agree with you on this one. A person’s sexual history is private. There is no obligation there. I think that yes, it would probably be in the best interests of both partners to mention if it was a first time, but not mentioning it is not some betrayal.

  23. ACG
    ACG March 4, 2010 at 5:12 pm |

    Athenia – People (intellectually incurious ones, anyway) generally only Google things that they don’t feel they know already, and we’re raising a generation of abstinence-only-educated kids who are convinced they already know everything there is to know about birth control. Why Google? I already know that condoms don’t work, hormonal BC kills babies, and abortion gives you breast cancer, so why would I want to look that up?

    Akeeyu – “Immediately recoiled in fear”? Because, what, the Mystery Object deep in her girly zone was going to do him harm? Did he think that she’d put something horrible there as a security measure, or did he think it crawled up there without her knowledge?

    (Must brag on my guy a bit – this morning, when I said, “Ugh, I’m spotting,” his reply was, “But you usually do that on Saturdays.” Which I did, back before I switched from the Pill to an IUD. Kind of weird that he remembers, but kind of cool that he pays attention.)

  24. Henry
    Henry March 4, 2010 at 5:17 pm |

    like I said Akeeyu – it was partly in jest…why direct my advice to women? – because women disproportionately bear the consequences of unintended pregnancies (in many cases 100% of the consequences) – not saying men should not take responsibility -they should – but I deal in the real world where tons and tons of men abandon the families they create, have to be chased after for paternity support payments yada yada. Putting a condom in your purse and making sure the man you are with uses it seems like common sense to me – not sexism.

    So go ahead and demand that your male partner take responsibility, just don’t expect it to happen unless we find a way to implant uteruses into men and make them give birth. The world would be a vastly different place if the hospital nurse drove the baby out to the boyfriend’s house and left it there with an instruction pamphlet.

  25. Chally
    Chally March 4, 2010 at 5:37 pm |

    ‘they are, after all, having a one night stand and are in no position to take the ‘moral high ground’.’

    Dude, no.

    ‘Being inside you is too much fun and we will forget or refuse to withdraw at the right time.’

    This might be partly in jest, but it’s totally inappropriate.

    1. Cara
      Cara March 4, 2010 at 5:44 pm |

      Dear Henry!

      Refusing to withdraw? That is fucking rape. So I’m glad that you’re really into “jest” and all, but that is not only inappropriate, it is triggering, it is misogynistic, and it is bullshit. You are now on moderation. For that kind of thing, if this was my thread, I would have just straight up banned you. Who knows, when Jill comes along, she may do exactly that! And I won’t hesitate to ban you from here on out if I see you doing anything like it anywhere on this blog ever again.

      An apology to everyone reading this thread, by the way, would also be appropriate.

      But with that exception, back on topic, please.

  26. ellen
    ellen March 4, 2010 at 5:42 pm |

    This discussion reminds me that when I visit the doctor and ask for oral BC, they ask if I know how to use it, I say yes, and the prescription is written. I wonder how many of these people would tell a doctor/clinician that they already know how to use what they’re asking for?

    Real life example: a woman who has “successfully” prevented pregnancy by obtaining a prescription for oral contraceptives, and sharing them with her roommate by putting the crushed pills into the shampoo bottle they both used.

    I’d be willing to sit through the instructional talk for each new prescription if it meant that all patients, whether they think they know the deal or not, are required to receive directions from a health worker about how to use the method of prescribed contraception they’ve chosen.

  27. Henry
    Henry March 4, 2010 at 6:14 pm |

    Dear Cara – I was referring to the “withdrawal method” some couples mistakenly believe will prevent pregnancy. I should not have used “refuse” as it could have multiple meanings. The fact is this method does not work because the withdrawal does not happen – usually because it can’t be timed accurately. If you want to ban me go for it – I’ll wear the ban with honor.

    1. Cara
      Cara March 4, 2010 at 10:42 pm |

      Yes, Henry, I knew exactly what you meant. And what you were referring to by using the word “refuse” in that context — a man saying that he will not ejaculate inside his female partner, so as to attempt to prevent pregnancy, and then deciding that he does not want to pull out, and ejaculating inside her purposely in spite of having her explicit non-consent to do so — is rape. Timing and accidents, however, certainly can be an issue. You are correct in that, which is why the method is not generally recommended.

      As for banning, if you do not want to comment here any longer, you don’t need me to ban you. You can just stop. Otherwise, I’ll stick with what I said. If you make any other “jokes” involving sexual violence, derail threads, or otherwise violate the comment policy, you’ll be banned like anyone else would be.

  28. becky
    becky March 4, 2010 at 6:22 pm |

    alright… i know i’m not being productive, but enough already. henry, you freaking piss me off. in every single thread you comment on. it’s all about explaining what the rest of the female or transgender community on here just doesn’t get, apparently, and you have to enlighten us every single time – mostly by saying it’s women’s responsibility, followed by a clever fact of life…

    please stop talking!

  29. becky
    becky March 4, 2010 at 6:24 pm |

    sorry, cara – i missed your comment before posting mine, you’ve already said something about henrys post. thank you for that!

  30. preying mantis
    preying mantis March 4, 2010 at 9:13 pm |

    “Akeeyu – “Immediately recoiled in fear”? Because, what, the Mystery Object deep in her girly zone was going to do him harm? Did he think that she’d put something horrible there as a security measure, or did he think it crawled up there without her knowledge?”

    I dunno. If I was fooling around with a lady and suddenly felt something really odd or moving in a way that was truly unexpected, my initial gut reaction might be “zomg something’s wrong is she okay?!”. (I’ve heard of similar responses to unwitting period sex from guys, with the first thought at seeing the blood being “zomg is she hurt?!”.) If I was a dude using a condom, my initial thought might be “Oh shit the condom broke oh shit oh shit,” and the appropriate course of action would be ‘withdraw immediately.’

    Of course, the “Girls should tell people” thing is pure idiocy. If you’re going to care, the time to do it is before you stick your dick somewhere. I mean, apparently it’s sometimes super-hard for dudes to think of the world as a place where they have to take care of their own business instead of being hand-held and having their whims and ignorance catered to and papered over, but come the fuck on.

  31. Erica A
    Erica A March 4, 2010 at 11:42 pm |

    @Ellen, I think the flip side of that coin is that a lot of doctors would be totally unprepared if a patient ever said, “You know, actually, I’m not quite sure how these work–could you explain what they do?” Many docs are well-versed in contraception and reproductive & sexual health. But far too many aren’t.

    I’d actually be really curious to give this survey to my class.

  32. Mel
    Mel March 5, 2010 at 12:13 am |

    A friend recommended Nuvaring to me and I think it’s great so far. But I forgot to tell my boyfriend I was using it and his reaction upon discovering it was priceless. “Uh…there’s something in here by the way…?” Awesome.

    But…you can’t get pregnant if the girl’s on top, right?!

  33. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig March 5, 2010 at 10:53 am |

    Fun fact: In the Middle Ages woman-on top was referred to as ‘trying for a bishop.’
    Er, I don’t think girls should tell guys that they’re using contraception, unless the guy explicitly states that he does not want a kid at the time. Far too many guys (see a previous thread) are too elated about unplanned pregnancies, and many would actively interfere with women’s contraceptives.

  34. ada
    ada March 5, 2010 at 11:52 am |

    Lets bash on Henry for being honest. Claiming he is promoting sexual violence is little over the top. He merely stated that depending on the withdrawal method is ineffective for various reasons. Apparently some of us feel the need to protect our favorite ineffective meathods. Also, dont forget that certain medications do effect Oral BC making them less effective, be sure to talk to your pharmacist about any new medications and BC.

  35. Bushfire
    Bushfire March 5, 2010 at 4:55 pm |

    “I grew up in New Jersey, where two of the counties are Essex and Sussex. Any information about them was blocked by the library’s filter because they contained the word “sex.””

    Thanks for that! That was a fist-pounding laugh you gave me!

  36. Kay
    Kay March 7, 2010 at 11:04 pm |

    The myth about positions interfering with conception was still incuded in a Catholic marriage manual in 1970. It actually advised wives to lie flat on their backs for 8 hours following sex, so they would not “interfere with God’s will.” I wonder if it has been updated yet.

    Abstinence only programs are unconscionable, when they fail to explain the condom’s 15% failure rate is per typical year of use, and can be reduced to below 5% per year (rivaling the pill) by simply adding spermicide.

  37. Angie
    Angie March 8, 2010 at 10:36 am |

    I can’t help but wonder if pervasive abstinence-only sex ed has something to do with all this ignorance about contraception.

  38. The Chemist
    The Chemist March 11, 2010 at 9:25 pm |

    I had a great biology teacher in high school (one of those teachers you never forget) who was very strident in her pro-woman views and probably played no small part in my eventual coming-around out of my more hetero-sexist attitudes. We had to learn about this stuff in a fairly high level of detail (since it was an advanced class) and I still remember a great level of detail about LH and FSH, but she brought the Pill into it and explained how that worked- which IIRC wasn’t required for the course. She also explained how the morning-after pill also fit into it. When I tell people that men should have a basic idea of how women’s reproductive systems work- people inevitably question why.

    As a man (and a non-biologist), you’d think I wouldn’t have any use for that information, but I argue that’s a very narrow definition of “use”. I “use” it whenever I’m considering politics surrounding sex-ed, or a pharmacist refusing to dispense. I “use” it when an otherwise intelligent male friend tells me that a girl being on the Pill but not dating is a sign they’re promiscuous (Yes, this really happened). I guess by that token I “use” the information when I’m not making ignorant statements like the one above. And, even though I don’t think I (or anyone else) should have this kind of power, I “use” it at the voting booth.

    On a slightly humorous note: We did a lab on menstruation in high school, and I asked without thinking- as I tended to for all labs*, “Is this going to be a dry-lab?” I don’t think I lived that one down for a while.

    *I hated dry labs- which is why I always asked.

  39. The Chemist
    The Chemist March 11, 2010 at 9:31 pm |


    Plenty of men somehow manage to withdraw regularly and dependably. Sure, it’s not an effective method of birth control- but I don’t fucking buy your “just can’t help it” argument. You know what else feels irresistibly good? A massage chair, but I don’t steal them from Brookstone and claim it’s a reasonable defense.

  40. Astrid
    Astrid March 13, 2010 at 9:40 am |

    I definitely think absitnence only education did some of the harm. This is really shocking.

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