What Abusers and “Pro-Family” Conservatives Have in Common

Birth control sabotage has been revealed to be a common form of partner abuse. In a report released earlier this week by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 25 percent of women callers to the hot line, who voluntarily answered questions about birth control and pressure to get pregnant in their relationships, reported some form of reproductive coercion.

The callers said their partners hid birth control pills or flushed them down the toilet. Some refused to wear condoms or poked holes in them. One woman’s partner became furious when she recently got her period.

The study’s authors state firmly that reproductive coercion is a form of abuse. Family Violence Prevention Fund president Esta Soler says, “While there is a cultural assumption that some women use pregnancy as a way to trap their partner in a relationship, this survey shows that men who are abusive will sabotage their partner’s birth control and pressure them to become pregnant as a way to trap or control their partner.”

And physical and emotional abuse go hand-in-hand with birth control sabotage: Another study on reproductive coercion found that one-third of women using reproductive health clinics (of five studied), whose partners were physically abusive, also said their partners had pressured or forced them into pregnancy, often hiding or destroying contraception.

This tactic should alarm feminists and anti-domestic-violence workers. It also suggests a revealing political analogy.

It seems these ostensibly “pro-family” men, who are busily destroying contraception in pursuit of children, have a lot in common with the “pro-family” (read: anti-reproductive rights) political agenda.

So why aren’t we willing to call the anti-choice agenda abusive, too?

The conservative political agenda is anti-women working outside the home, anti-abortion, anti-birth control, and once upon a time, anti-battered women’s shelters (the better to keep women inside the home and attached to intact nuclear families). Each of these stances, in some way, disempowers women.

It’s easy to see how restricting shelters keeps women under the thumb of abusive men: It’s a no brainer. If there’s no safe place to go, you’re trapped.

The same holds for denying women access to birth control or abortion. If you’re pregnant with this man’s child, you’re attached–you’re trapped, again, by an unwanted pregnancy.

And women who don’t work outside the home tend to have less say within it. Not to mention that a lack of income makes it hard to leave an abusive partner.

The “pro-family” political agenda may claim to uphold “traditional” American values, but for for many young men claiming to want “normal” nuclear families, pregnancy coercion is a form of abuse and control. What kind of “family values” are those?

Georgia Platts

This post originally appeared in the Ms. Magazine Blog, February 18, 2011

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social 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. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on February 21, 2011, in feminism, men, politics/class inequality, rape and sexual assault, relationships, reproductive rights, sex and sexuality, sexism, violence against women, women and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. After reading this blog post, I felt primarily surprised by the lengths men seem to go to in order to secure their dominance over women. Being only 19, I have mainly only heard of stories that articulate boys getting mad when asked to put on a condom. I find it very interesting how much power men do in fact hold over women in our patriarchal society. To many people, condoms are increasingly becoming “unnecessary” in order to ensure the male’s pleasure. The responsibility of birth control is then put on the woman (in hetero couples). However, if she is not on birth control then she has to opt for Plan B or maybe an abortion. Because conservatives feel they “belong in the bedroom” as you mentioned in today’s lecture, these variety of birth control options are gradually becoming more and more difficult to access. As a direct result of men disregarding women, they place women in shackles while simultaneously claiming to love them. I think it is important to see these issues as they are: sexist and abusive. Since this treatment is gradually learned and individuals become numb to it, it’s easy to see encounters like this as “normal” despite the fact that they are anything but. The radical concept that women are valuable and worthy of equal respect (especially in sexual encounters with men) must be granted if we want to create a society of equality and unity.

  2. It’s scary to read, that there are people trying to mess with your things, because they’re potentially harming you, and often it’s not for the best, it’s just so that the other person gets it way. In a sense, i’m grateful that there’s technology out there, because technology could change people’s lives for the best!

  3. In the ancient world, men’s duty is hunting and supporting their family and women’s duty is parenting children and taking care of housework. In that time, human tend to have as many children as possible in order to increase their group’s survival rate. Yet, current human population have boomed. We no longer need to consider extinction. Sadly, some men still can’t change their out-of-date concepts, and still force their wife or girlfriend to pregnant, which should be seen as a kind of abuse. Nowadays, equality is widely accepted and supported. Gender equality also shouldn’t be an exception. It should be legitimated and be advocated that women have the right to decide whether want the baby.

  4. I think the anti-choice agenda does go hand-in-hand with abuse, and I think both are very sad. This post caught my eye because I hear about women getting pregnant to trap a man, and I hear about men forcing women into having abortions; but I haven’t heard much about a man abusing a woman this way. I find it quite disturbing that a man, who is abusing his wife, in any way at all, could possibly get the chance to have children. I honestly can’t understand why a man that would do this would even want children. The part about the man becoming furious when his wife got her period is also a very scary thought. It makes me see how forcing or tricking a woman into having a baby, can quickly turn into a more physical, and dangerous abuse. What if she can’t give him a baby? What would he do to her? It’s sad to know that this goes on; but I’m always glad to become aware of things that I wasn’t really aware of before.

  5. When I was a military wife, I chose not to get pregnant. I soon found out how hard it is to explain that I was not planning to have a child. I soon realized that the military tries to get women to have children so we would have a family and would need to reinlist. In other words the military wants young people to have families so we would be dependent on them for our livelihood. I was asked over and over when will I have a child. I was made to feel that this was how all military people live.
    Needless to say I did not give into this kind of pressure.

  6. I actually have a friend that just divorced her ex-husband about a year ago, and he used to force her to have sex with him trying to get her pregnant again so that she would stay with him. This was before she filed for divorce, and it sickens me to think he would do that to her. That is the biggest violation of personal space and the biggest disrespect you could do to another human being. It’s disgusting.

    I don’t know anyone that has had their birth control messed with by anyone but I’ve heard the stories of it happening. I feel like men doing that to women is on the same level as treating her like she’s a dog or something.

  7. In this day and age in America it makes absolutely no sense to restrict women from getting abortions or exercising birth control. We might as well go ahead and ban condoms and the morning after pill as well if this is the path we are going down. Forcing women to get pregnant in order to control them makes even less sense. This behavior is absolutely abusive, but I believe it is less common for this to happen than for women to do the same in order to trap their partners. In fact, I know at least two cases personally where a girl has either tried to get pregnant, or pretended to get pregnant to get their boyfriends to commit.

  8. Tatiana Dehnad

    It is so sad that even in the twenty-first century where we have women CEO’s and successful leaders of our society, they are still put in a stereotypical light of needing to bear children and their place is in the home. In a society that is tolerable of many things that go against norms from years ago, people seem to be stuck on the concept that women are not useful for anything but child bearing and if they try and go against the societal norm they are shunned and harassed by others. We live in a nation where we have the freedom of speech and yet when people do or say as someone may not approve of instead of seeing it in a light of their opinion and decision they see it as a greater picture of not abiding by society’s norms and standards that were set years ago when there really was not much else for women to do. How unfortunate that even today when women repeatedly prove to society that they are huge contributors, we still look down upon them and disregard them when they need society’s support the most; not necessarily agreeing with their decision, but just support and respecting their decision and view point.

  9. Tonya (Facundo) Kamaloni

    Several weeks ago I went on a road trip with my cousin. With the open road in front of us and hours to chat, I was surprised to find out that her very Catholic husband was so against certain types of birth control that he pretty much told her that she was either to learn how to prevent pregnancy by his method of choice or not have sex with him at all. I was so surprised that I was left speechless. This blog post put in to words what I couldn’t—that women who can’t choose what to do with their bodies are suffering a form of abuse.

  10. This post can be related to social inequality. Looking back into the early history, the time of “gathering and hunting” society, men usually worked outside for hunting, trading, and other jobs, while women stayed home and were responsible for childcare and child rearing. This is when social inequality all begun. Overtime, this has not changed much. As a result, in nowadays society, it is no surprise that our society is not able to achieve equality yet, when it comes to the topic of gender. Women are still in the positions, as they were years ago, when it comes to child bearing and child rearing. Examples, in this case, would be “birth control sabotage” or “reproductive coercion.” In order to avoid such issues, I think our society should increases the awareness of such matters, either through education or counseling. By doing so, It will greatly benefit ourselves and our future generations.

  11. Kristina Mardinian

    When reading through this blog entry, it brought up the idea of what the typical woman our society deems acceptable. It’s been said since the beginning of time that a woman’s role is to bear children , care and raise them. This blog shows how this image of the average woman has not changed and women who do decide to go against the norm are harassed in different ways. Birth control sabotage has apparently become a pretty big problem for women around the world as men do not accept the fact that some women do not want a lifestyle with children. Abortion also plays a part in this whole controversial topic of how women are faced with the fact that if they are found pregnant they are stuck with the child by a pregnancy they never wanted. Overall, birth control sabotage is something that will hopefully evolve in the future to allow women to choose what lifestyles they’d like to live.

  12. Vita Castaneda-Morgan

    The connection you made between the pro-family agenda and the agenda of the men who trick their women into getting pregnant is really is one that may not be immediately seen by others, but is definitely important. It is important because as women and feminists who are fighting for equality among sexes we sometimes don’t see the less obvious actions that are taken by men and those in power to keep them in power. We have to connect the dots in order to see how so many boundaries that are set up in society are mainly all to control women and for the benefit of men. If we see the whole picture then it is much easier to know who and what to oppose.

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