“The Pill” Blocks Romance?

imagesI think that the Pill has changed greatly the woman of our times, masculinized her … that chases away the romance from our lives and that’s a great pity.

So says celebrated director, Roman Polanski.

But how do pregnancy fears heighten romance?

Back when birth control was illegal, men were told to “sleep on the roof” if they didn’t want more kids.

Yeah, that really helps romance.

Sleeping on the roof didn’t work for many couples. And then too many women died from self-induced abortions because they couldn’t afford more kids.

I suppose being dead enhances romance, too.

Meanwhile, despite a drop in hormone levels, some women are more interested in sex after menopause — because they have fewer children underfoot and fewer worries over pregnancy.

Is Polanski mourning a lack of romance? Or a lack of power over women?

Some abusive men destroy their lovers’ contraception, hoping to make their partners dependent — and stuck with them. (How romantic.)

As it happens, Polanski is an abuser. Years ago he was accused of child sex abuse of a 13-year-old girl. Facing imprisonment, he fled to France.

Of course, it would have been more romantic had the girl gotten pregnant.

It’s interesting that Polanski would add, “Trying to level the genders is purely idiotic.”

If by “masculine” Polanski means “empowered,” then by all means, I do hope the pill has made women more masculine.

This man’s comments wouldn’t matter except that some conservatives are trying to make contraception illegal and some are using these sorts of arguments to dissuade women from using birth control: you wouldn’t want to be “masculine” or lose romance! Don’t know how persuasive they will be. But some in the W. Bush Administration and some states have worked or been working to end contraception as we know it.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych, women's psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State University. And I have blogged for Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos.

Posted on May 31, 2013, in feminism, rape and sexual assault, relationships, reproductive rights, sex, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 57 Comments.

  1. Hear, hear! What the pill and other contraception has done for us is freeing. I do not think there is anything more romantic than the ability to choose how and when we exercise our sexuality, and handle the consequences of it.

  2. I for one am a fan of the pill. Anything that empowers both men and women to express and enjoy their sexuality free from certain stressors and fears is a good thing.

    I think women need to be a little careful with long term use, it might be a good idea to take a break from time to time in order to let the hormones and cycles return to normal every now and then. But overall the pill has been great. Those against it are simply those who stand to lose something by allowing women to take more control over their own sexuality and their lives.

    Thanks for sharing :)

    Rohan.

  3. Thank you – so much – for pointing out all the ways this statement is totally ridiculous, scientifically unfounded and a serious threat to public health!

  4. I’m a woman who came of age on the cusp of the age of reliable birth control. Because of this, I was able to do what the vast majority of women do not do: I planned reproduction. Even in this age of easy and reliable birth control, most pregnancies are not planned.

    For me, when easy access to birth control pills came along, the expectation came with it that I would be freely available for casual sex. Before birth control, I was able to hold an expectation that a romantic or love relationship would be in place before sex occurred. After “easy” birth control pills (weight gain, mood instability, stokes, hypertension, sexually-transmitted diseases) came along, we were supposed to set aside love and romantic relationships and become “free” women sexually.

    I agree with most of what you say in this article. Becoming pregnant and having children is not easy. This is one of the truths that differentiate men from women.

    I have no intention of supporting the point of view of a child molester (if this was proved to be fact) or being a supporter of a misogynist (if this is what he is).

    However, I agree with him. Birth control pills made any expectation of romance, committed relationship or love before sex, old hat.

    Thanks. I enjoyed this provocative article. Keep writing.

    Alice

    • Well, freedom from pregnancy doesn’t have to make anyone less romantic. I think the pressure to have sex without romance came out of a mix of the pill making that possible and a reaction to slut-shaming. It’s okay for men to have casual sex but women are shamed for it.

      Unfortunately, I guess many people took that as creating pressure to have casual sex when they didn’t want to. But the pill does not HAVE to do that. I never experienced it, for instance.

      But a lot of people who advocate against women using birth control are talking about not using birth control DURING MARRIAGE. Like Rick Santorum and many other sexist men. They want to overburden women with so many children that they become dependent on their husbands, unable to work and subservient.

      And plenty of my students don’t feel pressured to have sex without romance. Hookup culture is not a part of either of the liberal, Bay Area college campuses I have taught at: Foothill College or San Jose State. These kids have relationships.

      Even where hookup culture is thought to be prevalent, it appears to be more myth and reality. http://broadblogs.com/2011/10/10/hookup-culture/

      Although where it does exist it certainly isn’t helping romance. But many feminists are critiquing pressure to have casual sex, too:

      What’s Wrong With Hooking Up?

      http://broadblogs.com/2012/09/24/whats-wrong-with-hooking-up/

      Amidst it all: Guys Are Getting More Romantic

      http://broadblogs.com/2012/06/11/guys-are-getting-more-romantic/

      • It sounds like you’ve got all the bases covered here.

        More opinions from my personal life experiences:

        Perhaps things have changed a lot since the dark cave years of my youth. Perhaps my experience was a phenomenon spawned by the cultural changes that resulted from the pill becoming available after eons with few reproductive choices. Perhaps relationships are stronger, more satisfying and longer lasting than ever.

        As the third of seven children I understand the difficulties when one has a lot of children. It limits things one can do outside the home. Home and family must take priority if you’ve decided to (or accidentally) created new people.

        At the same time, having multiple children is not necessarily a sign of pathological gender control issues. Dependency between reproductive partners is a natural phenomenon among most species. How could humans be different?

        My husband and I both worked well below our income potential after having kids. I was certainly dependent on his income and wasn’t leaving him.

        There are sacrifices the individual makes to raise a family. Raising children can be exceptionally satisfying. Jobs are highly over-rated as the main source of self-esteem for any human of any gender.

        All the best.
        Alice

      • I agree.

        re “At the same time, having multiple children is not necessarily a sign of pathological gender control issues. Dependency between reproductive partners is a natural phenomenon among most species. How could humans be different?”

        I agree. But it can be. As you see when some abusive men try to get rid of their partners contraception. You also see it among sexist men who want to keep women, generally, from having birth control. That’s how Polanski sounds.

        And really, there’s nothing stopping Mr. Polanski or his partner from being romantic, even if she uses the pill.

  5. Pretty rich coming from a child molester.

  6. Mary Sparrow

    I’m not surprised at his comments. I suppose he thinks having sex with underage girls is romantic. And who cares what he thinks is romantic; his movies certainly are not.

  7. Last time I had sex I was worried like crazy about pregnancy. I can’t wait for RISUG to come here, finally men will get decent control over their reproduction which is sorely needed especially as we have zero abortion rights (right to opt out of parenthood, not force an abortion on someone else).

  8. Really? We are going to take this man’s comments about women and their choices? I think that the advent of the pill have had a huge, positive effective on women and how they express their sexuality. There is definitely more freedom, more intimacy, more control over family planning since the pill. I can’t imagine that it makes women more masculine? That seems like an odd statement? However, like you stated, if masculine equates to empowerment, I can take that!! Can you just contemplate what life would be like for many, many women had the pill not been available? So many unwanted pregnancies. My body, my choice. :) Call it masculine if you want to, little man. :)

    • And unfortunately, some conservative men are trying to make contraception illegal.

      • In my mind I was thinking “Please don’t break, Please don’t break (condom)” and it actually made sex a bit more difficult because I was so worried. For me having a kid at the moment is just not an option as I have very little funds n health and given that I can’t opt out at all, I can’t just say I don’t wanna be a parent and give up right, nor can I influence her decision for abortion it makes it extremely annoying that the fun aspect of sex ends up being quite daunting. Feels very much like you need to have a good income, a HOME not a house, a family life setup just to have sex!

      • “Please don’t break, Please don’t break (condom)” and it actually made sex a bit more difficult because I was so worried.

        Then we really do need the pill.

  9. Chimaechi Ahanotu

    I believe that the pill has greatly changed women’s lives individually and for the whole environment. I say for the environment because as stated when birth control was not even a thought or option, women were forced to keep having babies depsite the lack of money to be able to raise them. With those fears, it makes women scared to have sex and lessen’s the romantic aspect I think. It also depends on the person and the time. If a couple is not ready to have a baby and know they are protected against that by being on the pill, they will have greater passion and free of stress which will allow them to relax more and enjoy sex. This also goes with men because they are not stressed about having an unwanted baby. On the other hand, if a women is trying to conceive and has trouble doing that, that can also lead to the stress. Stressing about the pill and troubles conceving can lessen romance and decrease the chances to have a baby. I think Roman Polanski represents a very small percentage of men who dis birth control. I believe alot of men these days welcom it with open arms and seem to go with the flow of their partner about when the right time to conceive is.

  10. I don’t understand the comment by Polanski. How does the Pill masculinize women? is he getting his biology mixed up or is he referring to empowerment like you suggest? Maybe he is justifying his own inadequacy and blaming it on masculine women. Maybe “lack of romance” is a euphemism for lack of potency.
    Funny, because I got a sense of his fear of a gender equal society in his recent film Carnage. HIS STATEMENT about leveling the genders is idiotic.

  11. Polanski is the true definition of an idiot. The word “love” or “romance” should not have any relationship to the pill. Just because a woman is smart and chooses to protect herself against a pregnancy does not mean she does not love the man she is with or doesn’t feel a sense of romance. A pill is a pill, if the man that I am with cannot handle the fact that I want to take the pill will have to learn that he has no control over me and can watch me as I walk away. It’s silly to think anything Polanski has to say will be taken seriously… especially with a record like sexual abuse towards a minor. The last time I heard, people believe sexual abusers and rapist deserve to die. But then again, we all have our own opinions about everything and Polanski will just have to sleep at night not knowing how much people don’t care about what he has to say especially since most of it is nonsense.

    • I wouldn’t worry if he were the only one.

      Unfortunately, other conservatives are trying to make birth control illegal and discourage women from using it, sometimes by saying the same thing Polanski said. I sometimes wonder how persuasive they’ll be. But many are working hard to keep women away from contraception.

      • This scares me. Women are not allowed to take birth control. Women are not allowed to choose to have an abortion. We are taking about 89 steps back… In the end, who will be there to help women when they are pregnant and cannot provide for themselves or their child.

  12. I think being able to enjoy sex without constantly worrying about pregnancy is a pretty romantic thing!

  13. I consider birth control a basic right of women and self-evident enough to face all the questioning: who has more right to take control of a woman’s body than herself? It is believed traditionally, especially by disciples of some religions, that women are not supposed to reject the possibility of pregnancy, let alone making decision of abortion. However, though the issue has been under discussion for years, there is actually no need for any arguing. If a man belongs to himself and himself only, so does a woman. Comments of this sort, as mentioned at the beginning of this blog, is only trying to create a social environment that is against women from making their own decisions. The director’s works are good. However, his comments are way too manipulating.

  14. You are greatly over estimating the role of pill.Fertility rates have already started declining long time before that.

    • You are missing the point.

      Conservatives want to end all sorts of birth control. By saying “the pill” Polanski meant birth control, generally. The pill is actually symbolic of women’s sexual freedom.

      • Most conservatives have no problem with pill.They just dont want to pay the cost.

      • Yes, most.

        But some want to take contraception away from women, and are powerful enough to have convinced a U.S. President (W) to work toward that end.

  15. f.naghiniarami

    certainly, he is worrying about male-domination culture and romance does not matter at all. I cannot undrstand how we can have romance while worring about not getting pregrant? I’d like to know if he has any scientic proof of getting masculine because of taking contraceptive? I am agree with Rachael. That is any woman’s besic right to take control over her body. If someones supposed to be worrying about romance, it’s me as a woman. women are so emotional and they care much more than men for having romantic relationships so if pills could ruin my relationship, I’d never take that. I believe that his idea is another dumb, uneducated idea that only comes from abusive men that are trying to not lose their power and control over women.

  16. I think that you dont understand what he says, let me explain.

    In out times a guy meet a girl and he ask “do you wanna have sex” y she says “lets do it”.

    In her times, when a guy meet a girl “can i talk to you”, then “do you wanna go the the cine”, “i writte a letter for you” and at the end “can i kiss you” with the kiss being the most sexual thing that you can do.

    So, before you can approach a girl you must follow a ritual(romance) and now that ritual es gone. Even in my country women says that you cant find men like in the old times(romantic ones).

    And if you ask me, romance sucks and die.

    Pd: non native english speaker here, so sorry for my grammar.

  17. I really like this article. Contraception has done so much to help women be able to be in control of their own bodies. Some people offer abstaining from sex, but that wouldn’t please the woman’s husband so is a very impractical solution. Men always want to feel power over women and limiting their contraception is just a way of having power over women’s bodies. If women only wanted to have children then the men would be on the other side of it, wanting women to take contraception. In the book The Autobiography of Malcom X, white men raped black women to show the black community that they were less than the white. To get back at the white men and show them that black men are just as powerful, they raped white women. They used the women as a tool in their battle of power. Thank you for posting this!

    • No, men do NOT always want power over women. Quit telling lies. SOME men and SOME women want power over one another but that doesn’t mean all men or women do.

  18. By taking the pill away from women, you’re taking away the right to their own bodies. I know some women who don’t use it as a form of contraception but to regulate their bodies, a tool that helps women remain fertile if they chose to have children in the future. The use of contraception doesn’t block romance, and it’s sad that Polanski’s view of considered romance to only be defined as having more children. Funny come from a pedophile. Taking away contraception for women is not only taking away their rights to something natural but their own bodies as well.

  19. “If by “masculine” Polanski means “empowered,” then by all means, I do hope the pill has made women more masculine.”
    This is what i’m taking away as well. The fallacy that he labels as romance is just an antiquated sense of expected servitude from woman to man. I find the new playing field, where all are considered equal, to be far more romantic.

    My question is when the male version of birth control (not including “withdrawal” like planned parenthood has because come on really) is actually going to show up. It’s been in rumorville for a while now. I don’t know what exactly is keeping it from turning up. I doubt that the male biology is somehow more difficult but rather that there isn’t the market(yet) of men who would take a contraceptive.
    Only “36 percent of men said they would take a hormonal birth control”(quote taken from the link below). Which seems really low but depending on the demographic surveyed i’m sure the percentage changes a great deal. Maybe it’s the controlling of their hormones that repulses some men from the idea. They’re nonchalant about women taking drugs to affect their hormones but to do the same to themselves would be an affront to their masculinity.
    It’s too bad that they can’t look past it and see how actively sharing responsibility for procreation could be a great step. Now that’s romantic.

    The link below has a good summary on the subject.
    howstuffworks:http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/human-biology/male-bc-pill.htm

  20. Elizabeth McMurray

    In a strange way, this reminds me of your blog post about scientists in the late 1800s who claimed education caused a woman’s uterus to shrink. What a great rumor to try to dissuade women from continuing their education! If women are trying to empower themselves, whether it be through education or controlling their own bodies with contraception, ridiculous lies emerge in an attempt to stop women from getting too close to equality. This also comes up in the daycare debate, like with the Baptist church in Arkansas that closed its daycare in 1997 because working mothers “neglect their children, damage their marriages, and set a bad example.” In reality, quality daycares are showing consistent benefits for children. But we can’t say that if we want to keep women in their place.

  21. Elizabeth Wright

    Initially I was surprised that a Roman Polanski quote was used (due to his sexually abusive past). It makes sense though that the argument against birth control would be presented through a known sex offender. The only reason why women’s rights to use birth control would be illegal is to obtain power and control over women’s lives. The excuse that birth control takes romance out of sex is absurd. Couples are now able to express their love for one another without worry of getting pregnant. I can’t imagine living in an age where the solution was for the man to “sleep on the roof.” Women and men deserve the right to decide when or even if they want to have a child. They should not be punished for not wanting kids.

  22. I really appriciate I was born in the world that birth control is legal. At the same time, I feel sad that many women have died because of self-abortion. Self-abortion has so many risks because most of them don’t have enough knowledge and skill to do that. Pill is the greatest method for birth control. Not only for birth control, but also women can control time of period. Moreover, I heard that the pill beings a good result on skin from a doctor. Taking pills has many advantages. I don’t get why Polanski stated that the pill has made women more masculine. the title “The pill blocks romance” also doesn’t make sense to me. Pills only block pregnancy, but not romance. Personally, the story of “sleep on the roof” in the past was interesting to know.

  23. Mikaela Hansen

    I definitely think the pill enhances romance between two people because there are no worries about becoming pregnant. In general, when there is no stress or worry life is a lot more enjoyable! I could actually see why not being on the pill would decrease romance; simply because of the fear of becoming pregnant.

  24. It’s still strange to me that we live in a world where people can speak this way and the mass of people can just hear it and not care, or worse; agree. I don’t know who this director is, but why are we listening to him at all?

  25. Manisha Joshi

    In my opinion, the pill plays a vital role in a woman’s life. Earlier, when there were no pills available and also abortion was illegal, many women’s were forced to have children despite a lack of the resources to raise them. Also, many young women died while trying to do the abortion themselves. Now situation is different from those times. Pills are available, abortion is also legal, and abortion practices are much safer. So how can pills block romance? In fact in my opinion, the pill enhances the romance and decreases stress as women don’t have to worry about unwanted pregnancies. So both men and women can enjoy sex without being worried about it.

  26. You know what really puts a damper on romance? A crying baby who is hungry. The pill has really freed women from getting pregnant at a young age, staying home, having more kids and possibly putting up with a philandering husband because she can’t support a family on her own. I think pills are one of the biggest reasons why women are claiming an education and why there are so many independent women now. They don’t see marrying as a way to survive. They can have sex with less risk of pregnancy. Pills have given women a more leveled playing field.

  27. I think unwanted baby blocks the romance, not the pills. Romance is broken down with unwanted pregnancy. How many women could love some one who doesn’t care if his partner gets pregnant or not and force her to have an abortion? Pregnancy is a disaster for a couple who aren’t ready to take the responsibility. Typically, the relationship ends when they have unwanted baby. If you genuinely loved the woman, you would respect her and be safe. This is just an excuse to have sex whenever he wants. This is a ridiculous statement from a man who are irresponsible and doesn’t love his partner. He should find his “romance” from prostitutes who are always ready as long as he pays.

  28. I think unwanted baby blocks the romance, not the pills. Romance is broken down with unwanted pregnancy. How many women could love some one who doesn’t care if his partner gets pregnant or not and force her to have an abortion? Pregnancy is a disaster for a couple who aren’t ready to take the responsibility. Typically, the relationship ends when they have unwanted baby. If you genuinely loved the woman, you would respect her and be safe. This is just an excuse to have sex whenever he wants. This is a ridiculous statement from a man who are irresponsible and doesn’t love his partner. He should find his “romance” from prostitutes.

  29. It find it upsetting and ignorant that Polanski and other conservative people think the pill makes women less romantic, yet alone that the pill should be taken away from women. Using the pill empowers women from not having children. Most times when women have children their future goes downhill in the sense that they stop working and they turn into stay at home moms. When this happens they will most likely need their men to provide from them and they become submissive and homemakers like their expected gender roles. Women have chosen to be on the pill because they aren’t ready to have kids. Furthermore, they might be pursing their goals and desires without the need of changing diapers or without having a huge strain in their lives. I have personally been on the pills many times. At the age of twelve my doctor provided me with the pill since it would regulate my abnormal period, yet I didn’t take them until the age of eighteen. The pill has negative side effects like blood clogging, weight gain, and mood swings, yet all these negative side effects are way better than becoming a stay at home mom. I would a million times have these side effects than to have a child. Being on the pill is women’s basic right as well as they have the right to abort if they desired to. I think being on the pill is smart and it gives women control over their own bodies.

    • Hold up. Don’t talk about women’s rights and then shame stay-at-home-moms. Being a full time mommy is a very legitimate choice and if a woman wants to stay at home to raise her kids, rather than have a career, that is also her right. Being a SAHM doesn’t mean a woman is weak or submissive. Does she have to depend on her partner’s income? Sure. But I’m a working, motherless woman and I depend on my husband’s income because I would not be able to cover rent, bills, and groceries by myself! In any case, I’ve known lots of SAHMs, my own mother stayed home with us. All were very strong women who made that choice for themselves; they were not forced into it.

  30. The pill and other contraceptives definitely give more woman confidence and security when it comes to sex. It’s one HUGE things less to worry about, and when things start to get hot and steamy, you’ll be thinking about that instead of “I hope I dont get pregnant” or “I hope he’s wearing protection”. Polanski is a sick man. Most guys I know think the pill is the best thing that has ever happened. Pill? or unplanned baby for 18 years? Hm. Pill.

  31. For me, the pill does not have any affect on how romantic a relationship is. A relationship where the man wants to hold all the power while making the woman powerless is not a romantic relationship. It might make the men enjoy the relationship more, but not the women. I recently read an article stated that most of the time, the longer a relationship last, the happier the man will be, while the woman will be the less happy side. Beside, since the pill is legal, couples definitely do sex more often, without having to worry about pregnancy. This will surely enhance the romance in the relationship. After all, the pill works fine in preventing pregnancy, making both men and women in a relationship more confident in doing sex.

  32. Jenna Francisco

    So true, I think Polanski is afraid a women having higher power than men and using the excuse of it being a “lack in romance”. The pill does in a way cause a lack in sex because of the side effects of less sexual desire but that doesn’t mean that it lacks romance. Personally, I use the pill and it has made me less afraid of something unplanned happening. And I feel very empowered by the pill because it gives me a sense of confidence that I can control my own sex life.

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