As a woman, your sex life often invites the judgement of others—it becomes a political statement. Having sex? Choosing not to? With which gender(s)? What form of contraception? What do these choices say about you? Is it really anyone’s business, though?
Now, New York is an open-minded city, but in America’s current political climate, it’s become harder for women to own their sexual health (re: Planned Parenthood’s current state). Having lived in London this semester, I see that in comparison to New York, women here have far more sexual health resources at their disposal. I talked with a friend of mine at NYU London about her experience accessing birth control in the UK, to talk “Sex and the City” an entire ocean away from Carrie’s Manhattan.
Q: Had you ever considered going on birth control pills back in New York?
A: I’m the daughter of South Asian immigrants. My parents are very socially conservative; they would definitely disown me if they knew I was sexually active. I wanted to go on birth control back in New York, but there was no way to go about it without it becoming my parents’ business, even though I’m an adult. You need to see a doctor, and you need to get a prescription for pills. If I use my parents’ insurance, they’ll know that I’m trying to get on the Pill when they get their statement of benefits. If I choose not to use insurance, I’ll go broke trying to pay for the prescription.
Q: That’s a really tough fix for anyone to be in. What made you try getting birth control pills here?
A: It was free. And easy. I went to a walk-in sexual health clinic for under 25s. The nurse took my medical history, explained my options, and gave me a three month supply of birth control pills. I told her that I’d be going back to the States in December, and she said that if I came back before I left, she’d give me a six month supply.
Q: How did this process make you feel?
A: At first, I was overcome with shame. My culture told me that I wasn’t allowed to have sex. Over time, I realized that whatever my culture dictated, it was my right to choose whether or not I was sexually active. By going on birth control, I was taking control of my body--I was forging my own autonomy. I felt empowered.
Being a woman in London has been eye-opening. I’m thankful for my privileges in both New York and London, but I see that New York has a ways to go in granting true sexual autonomy to its women. Carrie may have been right about sex and politics, but should a woman’s sex life be a political statement? Should a woman have to pay to not get pregnant? What can we do, as women of New York, to change that?