The Paradox of Crunchy Women and Chemical Birth Control

By Chrissy Wing
July 21, 2014

I like natural lifestyle choices. Unprocessed food keeps the flora and nutrients balanced in your body, natural deodorant steers clear of aluminum toxicity. Glass instead of plastic, essential oils instead of medicine, and grass-fed beef instead of cows that have been pumped with synthetic hormones. The additives that go into processed foods and mainstream brand toiletries can include carcinogens and other toxins that lead to weight gain, high blood pressure, and cancer.

The trade-off is … well, inconvenience and cost. I pay more for hormone-free meat, as well as other organic products. I have damp underarms because, well, there is no such thing as “natural” anti-perspirant. The best we can hope for is no funk.

And every morning, I take my daily dose of synthetic ethinyl estradiol, also known as the birth control pill, a class one carcinogen.

Wait. What?

This sounds absurd. Yet, it is possibly the most common paradox I have seen. Eat the meat of a cow that has consumed synthetic hormones? No! Take them yourself via a highly concentrated white pill? Yes, please, but I can only wash them down with organic juice. Chemical free.

The recent storm against GMOs are enough to make me think that if birth control didn’t fall within the boundaries of “women’s reproductive rights,” it would have been banned long ago. Women would write letters until “Pharma” (birth control makes up a 2.8 billion dollar slice of the pharmaceutical pie) stopped making poison meant to be consumed by unsuspecting women. There is in fact a big label on any birth control, stating its synthetic nature and chemical name, along with its laundry list of side effects: weight gain, breast cancer, depression, blood clots, heart attacks, strokes … oh, and possible death. In fact, as I write this, there are several class action lawsuits against brands of birth control that have been out for years and have been consumed by millions of women. Yazmin and Nuva Ring are great examples of this.

I can now only conclude that natural-minded women taking the birth control pill have weighed the pros and cons carefully and decided that the pros outweigh the cons. For example, some pros: attracting and keeping a boyfriend/husband with the allure of sexual activity, free of the natural consequence of sex, a baby. One can therefore have all the sex she wants, and feed and nurture relationships, without worrying about conceiving. (It is important to note here that there are isolated and fairly rare cases where the birth control pill is used to treat an illness, although this is not the common use to which I am referring.)

So, in that case, does it stand to reason that birth control is truly good for relationships?

Philadelphia's NBC 10 once dubbed the birth control pill “the divorce pill” because of its dual effect. The first effect is that chemical birth control seems to make women less capable of choosing a compatible mate. Dr. Janet Smith explains the foundation of this claim by citing the “T-Shirt test.” The t-shirt test began by rating men according to their evolutionary desirability (physical attractiveness, diligence, intelligence, high-level job status, financial independence, vs. lower evolutionary desirability, which included tendencies of mental illness, homelessness, lack of motivation, etc.); these men were then given t-shirts to sweat into. Women, without seeing the men who used the t-shirts, were asked to smell the shirts and rate the men. Women who were using chemical contraceptives rated the less desirable men as being more desirable, while the women who were not using chemical contraceptives rated the “good” guys as being most desirable.

This suggests that many women who take chemical contraceptives during their dating years end up choosing an unsuitable spouse for marriage. Several years into the marriage, when the couple decides to have children, the woman stops taking the chemical birth control. She looks at her husband with fresh eyes and wonders what she saw in him while they were dating. This situation could end in divorce, or make a divorce more likely.

The second reason for "the divorce pill" claim is that chemical contraception makes women less attractive to men. Lionel Tiger (yes, that's his real name) conducted a study on an island inhabited by a tribe of monkeys. He watched the alpha male monkey, whom he referred to as “Austin,” taking note of his sexual choices. Austin chose to mate with three female monkeys exclusively. Tiger injected those three female monkeys with Depro-Provera shot (sound familiar? This is a common birth control shot for women) and watched their further interaction. Austin was no longer interested, ignored his original mates, and mated with the other female monkeys on the island. Tiger then injected all the female monkeys with Depro-Provera and Austin acted in a “confused and turbulent” manner.  When the birth control shot wore off, Austin placidly went back to his original three mates.

The two effects work together to create chaos: Women are chasing the wrong men, while the right men are not attracted to them.

As this question rattled in my mind—why do natural-minded women use chemical birth control?—I started researching. Surely someone had written about it. One blogger at treehugger.com wrote that, while she had reduced her exposure to harmful chemicals in other parts of her life, her birth control just wasn’t something she was willing to give up. The substance of her argument included: Once burned, twice shy …  had a kid at 22 and don’t want that particular consequence to happen again …  Maybe it’s fine for a woman who is married, or in a stable relationship … birth control was really the best choice for a lot of women.

I question her argument, based on the above scientific/cultural research and other studies evincing similarly concerning facts. If taking chemical birth control actually prevents you from selecting good relationships, why take it? Why cloud your own judgment while simultaneously putting your health in jeopardy? Accepting that kind of health burden is just another form of female enslavement, not a “freeing” of one's body. Women have been duped into giving men sex without commitment, labeling this decision “reproductive rights.”

If you are already married, especially, why not go a natural route? We already know that chemical birth control lowers a woman’s libido, and lowers her husband’s desire as well. Natural family planning (not the rhythm method, okay, people?) has been shown to be every bit as effective as birth control. In some areas of India the birth rate actually approaches zero because of it. It’s cheap to use, requires only knowledge, and can empower women of all socio-economic statuses to take control of their reproduction, not just an unnecessary health risk.

I hope women (who carefully weigh the pros and cons of every other health decision in their lives) will examine the social and individual health threats that hide behind the convenience of chemical birth control. A 2.8 billion dollar industry has worked hard to make the pill seem the simple answer to our problems. As we know from other areas of life, simple conveniences are often the most toxic and destructive: hormone-driven mass produced meat, instant Ramen noodles ... and birth control is no exception.