I have been taking birth control pills since I was 15. Fifteen years old. It sounds so young to me now at the age of 19, shameful even. I have been actively ingesting foreign hormones for four years (since before I could even drive to pick them up myself) all to prevent pregnancy.
I am not “slut-shaming” myself. I know that birth control is an extremely important aspect of sexual education and sexual health, especially when we’re young. Some might even argue that I was smart for starting it that early in life. However, stopping it made me realize that not only did I start taking it for all the wrong reasons, but it also did me much more harm than good.
The decision I recently made to stop taking birth control pills was made all my own and not influenced by anyone but myself. I cannot say the same however, about why I first started the pill.
Do you know why I started taking birth control? Because my first boyfriend pressured me. I don’t think this was his intention, but the truth of the matter is that he strongly urged me to have a conversation with my mom that I was not ready to have at 15; a conversation that would forever change the way she viewed her little girl and the innocent relationship we had up until that point.
While starting birth control as a second form of protection is a very good idea, this was not the reason my then-boyfriend persistently encouraged I get on the pill. He repeatedly asked me to talk to my mom about starting birth control because he no longer wanted to use condoms, and I obliged because I was in love and vulnerable and insecure about our relationship and myself.
Over the next four years, popping that tiny white pill became part of my everyday routine. It became second nature even. I didn’t even question the act long after we broke up because I had grown so accustomed to it and because I didn’t realize the effects it was having on me at the time.
I gained weight (maybe not enough for others to notice but enough to put a dent in my self-esteem), I lost control of my emotions around the time of my period and, perhaps most detrimental, I lost my control over decisions about my own body.
In the college hook-up scene, it seems as if the question, “aren’t you on birth control?” is all too common – and accepted. This question makes it seem as if preventing pregnancy is solely the girl’s responsibility when it’s obviously a two-way street. It also makes it seem like pregnancy is the only concern while having casual sex. After all, what are STIs?
This should not be the norm. I am ashamed to admit that I have almost accepted it as the norm while attempting to navigate the hook-up and relationship scene in college that is unlike anything in high school or the real world.
Women (and men) need to know that birth control pills should be used as a second form of birth control in addition to condoms, not in place of it. We can simply not accept putting our health and our futures at risk to please a guy’s preferences – especially not when those preferences are, frankly, BS in the first place.
So now that I have decided to stop taking birth control pills and have been off of them for quite a few months for the first time in the past four years, I have realized that this has been the best decision I could have made for my own health: sexual, physical and mental.
Don’t get me wrong; I am not disowning safe sex. I am simply owning my right to choose what is best for my own body.
I will never again let a boy’s preferences dictate how I will protect myself, and I will never again let such a small aspect of life (sex) trump my physical health and mental happiness.