It’s been 61 years since the FDA approved the birth control pill, a landmark victory for reproductive health and autonomy. While the pill has been empowering for many, Dr. Krystale Littlejohn says it’s also led to the responsibility of sexual health and contraception only being thought of as a women’s issue.
“The state of sexual education in our country … is abysmal. I don’t think we have nearly enough people understanding what equal relationships in sexuality look like.” —Dr. Krystale Littlejohn, University of Oregon
Listen: The gender imbalance of contraception.
Dr. Krystale Littlejohn is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Oregon and author of the upcoming book “Just Get on the Pill: The Uneven Burden of Reproductive Politics.” She says she wrote the book, “to give voice to countless women who have been frustrated with partners and others who try to undermine their contraceptive freedom.” Rather than contraception being a shared responsibility between partners, Littlejohn says the burden of preventing pregnancy is placed solely on those who can carry the pregnancies. “We challenge this [gendered power imbalance] in house work, we challenge this in caretaking, but we don’t challenge this in birth control.”
Littlejohn says birth control can be liberating, but preventing pregnancy has also been a historically gendered labor that places more pressure on marginalized communities. “You really can’t talk about the pill and liberation without talking about race and class and gender oppression.” She says there needs to be more social awareness of the shared responsibility of sexual health in the United States. “The state of sexual education in our country … is abysmal. I don’t think we have nearly enough people understanding what equal relationships in sexuality look like.”