It wasn’t until I got a long-term boyfriend that my day-outs to the sexual health clinic were accompanied by someone other than a female friend or my Ma. Despite the motivation for the trips being prompted by my heterosexual encounters, only half of the team showed up.
For heterosexual couples, sex is often defined as penetrative sex with the final whistle being the man’s ejaculation. This is also the usual depiction of sex within the media. This view of sex is an expression of sexism - that the man decides when and if the sex is complete. Imagine the scenario was reversed, and in fact it was the female orgasm that signaled the end of the intimacy, before which everything else was considered ‘foreplay’, with the man’s pleasure being side-lined. A lot more women would have a lot more orgasms, I am sure.
During sex, the moment the male ejaculates is clearly significant, as it is this instant that can result in conception, leading to pregnancy (not to be entered into (pun-intended) lightly) and dealing with an unwanted pregnancy can be a risky, emotionally intense procedure. However, it is post-ejaculation that I believe the injustice occurs. I feel that once this moment has passed, if barrier contraceptives have not been used, all responsibility to deal with the repercussions are placed on the female. I’m not saying that men aren’t kind enough to accompany the woman to the pharmacy and split the cost of the morning after pill, and we do really appreciate it when you do. But - and this is a big but - men have never had to take a daily dose of hormones to trick your body into thinking it’s something it’s not. I recently realised that since the ripe old age of 16 I have been lying to my body - each morning taking a tablet which contains the hormones needed to convince my body that I have actually been pregnant this whole time! No need to get pregnant again!
I am not suggesting at all that women take hormonal contraception unwillingly, although I’m sure a small fraction do. We do all of this body-chemistry altering of our own accord, as our responsibility over motherhood (or lack of) is engrained within us.
So, as you can imagine, it frustrates me that the objective of sex be defined as a man’s ejaculation, when women are the ones paying for this privilege, despite both participants enjoying it. As an analogy – if a man expected a woman to cook him a meal, and after devouring the lot, he pushed back his chair and walked out, leaving the dirty plates and pans for her to clean up. In the biological world this is described as antagonism; one organism benefits at the expense of the other. Common side effects of oral contraception include; headaches, weight gain, mood-swings, blood clotting and yeast infections to name just a few, with others resulting from other forms of hormonal contraception I’m sure. Male hormonal contraceptions are currently in clinical trials but are not yet commercially available for understandable reasons; 1 in 20 of the participants were found to not have their sperm count restored a year after having the injection. Read more on the progress here: https://edition.cnn.com/2016/10/30/health/male-birth-control/index.html
To clarify: this is not a ‘boo, straight men suck’ scenario. This is everyone’s problem; everyone expresses these micro-sexisms without even realising. For example, when my lesbian friends get asked - by both male and female friends - how do they ‘do it’? As if for some reason clitoral stimulation and other female sexual pleasures are less worthy than a man’s? How exactly do you think they do it?
So, I want to make a blanket policy; ANYTHING considered intimate and sexual (beyond your average Monday night snog in Gravity) should be considered as sex. As long as two (or more) people are (partially) naked together and sexually enjoying each other it should be classified as sex! To save the awkward questions to gay friends of how they ‘do it’ and to even out the emphasis of pleasure between partners.