A Hard Pill to Swallow



Hormones: it’s almost as if men don’t have them, isn’t it? When was the last time you heard ‘one of the guys’ accused of being ‘hormonal’, or a father warning his son that sometimes he might feel ‘hormonal’ during his teenage years? How many times have you had the vague cultural assumption that your hormones go ‘haywire’ during your period thrown in your face during an impassioned debate, undermining your argument in one fell swoop with its assertion that if you’re a woman, you may as well not be taken seriously for one quarter of every month? And how much obsession has been poured into women’s media about the minute fluctuations of oestrogen and progesterone every few weeks, suggesting that your tastes and aspirations are basically governed by them - one week of ovulation and all you want is nonstop steamy sex with a construction worker from Essex, then a tip of the menstrual cycle later and you’re gooey-eyed over Harry from One Direction, who you want lots and lots of babies with at that very moment to boot?

Yes, hormones are a buzzword where women are concerned - and they’ve been storming the pages of your most cherished newspapers and loathed magazines for the past couple of weeks. Last week, The Daily Fail told us to ‘ditch the Pill to find out if you really fancy him’ - because, you know, women on the Pill are basically star-crossed idiots wandering around society and getting endlessly engaged without really knowing what they want. This isn’t exactly new ground for the Fail, who have peppered the last few years with their various, usually unqualified thoughts on the Pill: in 2009, they claimed that ‘the contraceptive Pill has put women off masculine men’; in 2010, they blamed ‘the death of passion’ in relationships on women taking the Pill; and only one month before their most recent article, a contributing journalist wrote that the Pill has damaged the British workforce, contributed to a national dependence on immigration, and ‘played a key role in contributing to a culture of sexual licentiousness.’

Hot on the heels of a good scaremongering, the women’s lifestyle press have reported on effects of the Pill in their droves. This bizarre contraceptive backlash hasn’t wasted any time suggesting that minor things like migraines and polyps might happen to you if you keep popping oestrogen - instead, they’ve gone right to the heart of the matter and suggested that taking the Pill will probably result in your choosing the wrong lifestyle, the wrong partner, becoming hella broody, and then not being able to have children. Awesome.

There’s no big mystery about the Pill. It uses hormonal therapy to stop sperm getting to eggs. Some women love it; some women hate it; some women use it because they’re in a long-term monogamous relationship where they don’t want children and know they’re not at risk for STDs; some women use it because their periods are too heavy; some women use it for their skin; some women use it so they can sleep with loads of cool people with the reassurance that, if the condom breaks, there’s still a very low likelihood of pregnancy. What the Fail terms a ‘culture of sexual licentiousness’ - and they just would, wouldn’t they? - is actually a culture where some of the contraceptive control has finally been put in the hands of the people who would actually have to carry the babies inside their bodies if the shit hit the fan.

Fundamentally, the Pill is just a great idea. My mother remembers it as one of the most liberating tools of the sixties - barriers against STDs are obviously more important than ever now, and nothing can as yet replace the condom in that vein, but knowing the exact day of your next period? Feeling confident that you’re not running a high risk of putting your body through the much more traumatic hormonal onslaught of the ‘morning after pill’ or a chemical abortion? Little packets with days written on them in teeny tiny writing? The media might be having a hissy fit for want of anything better to write at the moment, but it all sounds good to me.

As always, it’s too damn easy to criticise the 'clearly more unhinged' sex. The podium of judgement belongs to The Man Who Says Stuff, and ideally, women cower before him and are judged. But just as I cyber-complained last week that ‘doughnuts making women depressed’ was the most ridiculous study of the year, and openly complained to friends this week that Stylist magazine’s report into ‘women self-medicating at work’ was unnecessarily focussed on the gals, I’d like to reiterate that we’re seeing a glut of how everything from food to coffee to medication affects the delicate emotions of women, which seems to implicitly back up the idea that the men - the default humans - are all essentially OK. We’ve just got to deal with this endless woman problem, and how they’re going to cope with going to work and choosing their own food and picking out their own relationships, so they can be like us one day. How will we ever shape them into normal people?

Psst: I take the Pill, eat doughnuts, and ingest copious amounts of caffeine daily. And guess what? I do the same job as the man next to me, who takes protein supplements, eats Oreos, and loves a cappuccino. How about you pick on him for a change, eh? Or better still, fuck off out of my sex life and my fridge, and give me some real advice that isn’t built on the assumption I’m a maniac.

Image credit to Ambro