I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed by a gruff demand to “come with me” in Turkey, but I managed to get away. I’ve never found myself pregnant against my will. I’ve never had to ask myself - could I bear and rear a child of my rapist? But plenty of women do.
Since my childhood, I’ve had access to sex education (while it’s come far since the early 80s, we did learn the basics of contraception and pregnancy), free reproductive health care (courtesy of the government’s family planning clinics, I could get free pap smears and advice on and access to contraception), and education and employment, which has given me some freedom and say over my own life, and hence my body.
But then there’s millions upon millions of young women and girls, both here in Australia and elsewhere, who don’t have these things.
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Remember the days when Tony Abbott spoke more freely on his views about the sinfulness of modern society? Sometimes I wonder if he misses those happier times when he was free to be “the mad monk”, deploring the “condom culture”.
And his long lost opinions were just part of a chorus of conservative leaders and pro-life organisations who believe that easily accessible and effective contraception is ruining sex, as it means that couples don’t give themselves completely to each other.
But even the most cursory glances at history shows that contraception and sex have gone hand in hand since the earliest civilizations, long before the luxury and ease of hormonal and latex methods.
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Family Planning (NSW) plans to offer older women safe sex packs containing a condom, lube and instructions on how to use condoms. The new sex health campaign is aimed squarely at women because sexually transmitted infections are becoming more prevalent in women aged over 50. A campaign for men will follow in due course.
Popular magazines would have you believe that young people invented sex. The trouble is, they also think they have a monopoly on all of the action too.
The reality is that ageing is not a cause for lack of sex life and older people are busier than ever in the bedroom.
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They call it JQ1. A tiny molecule that reversibly blocks sperm production in mice and rats. It’s the discovery of some American scientists from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and believed to be proof that a male contraceptive can exist.
Sometime in the next five years or so they’ll find a way to bottle it up and farm it out to sexually active men who want to take responsibility for contraception.
About time, some people would say. Particularly women who have spent years resenting the responsibility of remembering to take the pill, or using a diaphragm. But are men up for the job?
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The federal government wants to give women easier access to the contraceptive pill by making it available, without a prescription, over the counter at the local chemist.
Hooray for that, says anyone who’s ever waited in a fit of frustration just to get an appointment to see their doctor when a script runs out.
But the new legislation, that’s been kicked about since last July, has ruffled some feathers among the medical profession.
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Scientists today published preliminary studies into a new contraceptive for men, designed to be worn as a slow release patch or as an implant under the skin.
Previous efforts at male contraception have suffered from several drawbacks, namely compliance of the males, and lack of trust on behalf of the female partners to believe that their beloved male is actually taking the contraceptive.
Females have always been keen to be the primary users of contraceptive, since they are left holding the baby, so to speak. This new form of contraceptive solves both these problems in a unique and stimulating way.
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Most people agree that we, as a society, want to decrease the number of abortions.
Like any grand statement, the means to getting to this end will be the judge of our seriousness and principles.
Tory Shepherd is right to point out our goals cannot be achieved through “guilt, hate and fear mongering”.
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All those people who think sex is just about procreation must be doing it wrong.
Every time a conservative talks about outlawing abortion, or making terminations harder to get, the background message is that sex is dirty and evil and the sinners must bear the consequences.
Because they are never simultaneously arguing for better sex education, or improved access to contraception. They either ignore how the pregnancy happened in the first place, or talk about abstinence.
That this medieval Catholic view of the world persists is startling.
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For women of my mother’s generation, the contraceptive pill represented freedom, protection, liberation and ultimately, the ability to decide what direction you wanted your life to take.
But on the eve of is 50th anniversary, I’m not convinced that you’ll find many women over the age of 25, who would be prepared to see the tiny little pill in the same way.
Because for a variety of different reasons, the pill has stopped making lots of women feel particularly good.
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