Is Poking Holes in Condoms Sexual Assault?
I’m not sure if most of you remember Craig Jaret Hutchinson? He is the 42-year-old Canadian man (and by man, I mean psycho) from Clyde River, Nunavut, who poked holes in an entire pack of condoms in hopes of knocking up his girlfriend so that she would be forced to stay in a relationship with him.
Hutchinson and his girlfriend (who, for obvious reasons, has kept her name private during this long, complicated trial) began dating in 2008 and when things got rocky, Hutchinson executed his genius plan to sabotage condoms so she would get pregnant. It worked. His girlfriend got pregnant and they struggled through the relationship for the sake of the unborn child, but (big shocker) it eventually fell apart. When the couple split, Hutchinson broke down, called his girlfriend and admitted what he had done to the condoms because he was afraid she might contract an STD from another partner if she used the ruined condoms. The girlfriend called the police and scheduled an abortion.
Hutchinson was charged and went to trial in 2009, but the Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge found him not guilty of aggravated sexual assault.
Not guilty of aggravated sexual assault.
I’m going to stop right here. By definition, aggravated sexual assault means that the victim’s life was put at risk. Somehow, a judge found that this was not true. Excuse me? The woman had to have an abortion (which left her with an infection in her uterus and two weeks of “painful complications”). She had to endure the beginning stages of pregnancy without consent on her behalf, plus she had to deal with the emotional, mental and physical trauma of not only this very public case, but the abortion and severed relationship to this pathetic low life. Yes, there was no gun held to her head. Yes, there was no gag rope strangled around her mouth. Yes, the actual sex was consensual, but the absence of valid contraception was not. So was this an assault?
One of the many reasons why I will never shut up about Sex Ed
…Most Americans by now have a passing familiarity with the way the anti-choice movement has grown past attacks on abortion and is moving on to attacks on contraception access, from defunding Planned Parenthood to fighting the Obama administration on an HHS requirement to make contraception available without a co-pay to women with insurance. What they may see less of is the war on contraception that’s going on in the culture. Anti-choice activists have been turning up the volume on misinformation campaigns aimed at creating doubt in the public, especially among young people, about the efficacy of contraception. These efforts started in earnest under the Bush administration, with the explosion of federally funded abstinence-only programs. As those programs have mostly receded due to utter inability to convince kids to abstain from sex, efforts like 1 Flesh and the Pill Kills have stepped up to try to sow doubts about the use of contraception.
Abstinence-only programs were justified by claims that they were about discouraging teenage sex altogether, but considering how much anti-choice literature tells romantic stories about how unintended pregnancy led to ecstatic proposals and happily-ever-afters, one gets the feeling they also would be happy with an uptick in the unplanned pregnancy rate. Sites like 1 Flesh make the “more pregnancies” agenda clear; the site specifically argues against the use of contraception even in marriage, which can’t serve any other purpose in the reality-based world except to increase the rate of unintended pregnancies.
Unfortunately, the new strategies that 1 Flesh is using might actually be effective in achieving this goal, because unlike the old church lady-style methods of anti-contraception efforts, 1 Flesh is tapping into preexisting cultural myths and narratives about contraception that are already known to cause people to be inconsistent in their contraception use.
They go straight for some common beliefs: 1) condoms ruin sex (as Dan Savage has noted, if condoms decreased sensation that much, you’d think men would notice more when they broke); 2) the pill has a lot more negative side effects than it actually has; and 3) condom breakage is more common than it is. In other words, the usual comportment of myths that sex educators find they have to debunk coming from all sorts of people, even those who don’t have any relationship to the Christian right whatsoever.
1 Flesh also promotes the idea that birth control doesn’t do anything to reduce the unintended pregnancy rate. That this idea might have traction in the public at large already might seem asinine (what are people using all that contraception for, if not to prevent pregnancy?), but even without Christian right propaganda, the idea that birth control doesn’t do a very good job at preventing unintended pregnancy is surprisingly widespread. Earlier this year, Guttmacher released a study where it quizzed over 1,000 young people between ages 18 and 29 about their contraception knowledge. Unsurprisingly, the usual myths about condom failure and pill danger were well-represented, but the big surprise was that the myth that birth control doesn’t actually matter was also widespread.
A shocking 40 percent of the young people surveyed believed that using birth control doesn’t actually do much to prevent pregnancy, agreeing with the statement, “when it is your time to get pregnant, it will happen.” In other words, they had a magical belief that somehow the universe would prevent them from getting pregnant when it wasn’t time, even if they’re not using contraception at the time. This preexisting belief is one that groups like 1 Flesh are trying to encourage by spreading lies about how birth control doesn’t change the unintended pregnancy rate.
Why is it so easy for people to underestimate not just the effectiveness of birth control, but also how likely they are to get pregnant if they don’t use it? Part of the problem is, ironically, that birth control is so effective, but so hidden. Much as the anti-vaccine movement could only erupt in a culture where the diseases the vaccines prevent are out of sight and easy to dismiss, contraception works so well at suppressing fertility that many people have no idea how high fertility rates would be without it. Sex is everywhere: TV characters have it, songs on the radio are full of it, and most friends gossip about it. But contraception is rarely discussed in much detail, if at all. It’s easy for someone to look at all this booty-knocking and the relatively low birth rate and conclude that it’s not that easy to get pregnant instead of concluding, correctly, that contraception use is widespread.
To add even more confusion into the mix, heavy media coverage of infertility in light of exciting new technologies to fix the problem has had the side effect of encouraging people to overestimate their own chances of infertility. Researchers at John Hopkins University found that 19 percent of women and 13 percent of men ages 18-29 believed that they were likely to be infertile, though they had no evidence to believe this. The drumbeat of stories about couples who have a hard time conceiving might also contribute to the misconception that getting pregnant without contraception is more infrequent than it actually is.
In reality, a sexually active woman who uses no contraception has an 85 percent chance of getting pregnant within a year. Anti-contraception activists go out of their way to conceal this fact, hoping women feel that their risks of skipping contraception are much lower than they are. It would be laughable if the only audience for this anti-contraception propaganda were folks with good sex education and a solid knowledge of how effective contraception really is. Unfortunately, they’re speaking to a larger audience already rife with misinformation about contraception and fertility; an audience that might not like the anti-sex message, but could be influenced by the anti-contraception one.
Amanda Marcotte exposes 1 Flesh and other campaigns spreading misinformation about contraception. 1 Flesh doesn’t just promote condomless sex, they are aggressively anti-birth control of any kind, which presents a serious threat to the health and well being of young folks.
I already posted an excerpt from this article but now that 1Flesh has a Tumblr page that is tagging its posts to get into sexual health related tags it is time to post it again.
Method Monday: Condoms!
In honor of STD Awareness Month, we’ve decided this Method Monday to feature the only method of birth control available on the U.S. market that protects against both pregnancy and STDs (a.k.a. STIs). You know it, you love it, you probably think of it every time you hear the phrase “safe sex.” It’s…the condom!
The condom comes in two forms—external (which we refer to as the male condom on Bedsider) and internal (which we call the female condom)—and both protect against STIs. We did a Method Monday post about the female condom recently—check it out if you haven’t already—so this Monday we’re focusing on the male condom. So what is there to know?
- It’s available in flavors, so you can use it more pleasantly for oral sex. That’s good news since some STIs can be transmitted via oral sex.
- Two is not better than one when it comes to condoms.
- We won’t say that using a condom feels exactly the same as not using one, but it’s hardly like wearing a rain coat. (Some folks even say they feel great and/or that they help guys last longer.)
- Condoms may not be one size fits all—but we have it on good authority that the normal ones can fit around a human head. And then there are condoms that are designed for the well-endowed, like Magnums. In other words, if he says he’s too big, he’s not trying hard enough.
- Most condoms are made of latex (and most people are not allergic to it), but if one of you has a latex allergy, there are other options.
- 30% of young adults in the U.S. say they know little or nothing about condoms, and 11% of folks who had a condom fail said it was because they used a sharp object to open the wrapper.
- Which brings us to our last point: condoms work best if you use them right. We’ve got information on how on Bedsider—or, if you have an iPhone, download Condom Pro, a game we made to help you get some practice.