Hey, Faggot:

I’m 32, straight, and female. My boyfriend and I have been together six months and have been using condoms since we began having sex. We both got tested for everything, and we’re both “clean,” so I’m considering the possibility of going on the pill. I want to know how the side effects will be. Most of my girlfriends who’ve been on the pill say they love having large breasts and regular periods. I already have large breasts and regular periods. Also, what about the risks of cancer? Are there any other ways my boyfriend and I can make love skin-to-skin that don’t involve the pill? Do you know anything about ball sinking/testicle bathing to kill the sperm through heat treatment? What about those super-thin condoms?

–Rubber Tired

Hey, RT:

To help answer your dozen questions, I enlisted the help of a biological female–one of those adorable women-born-women–with what, in my opinion, are the best birth-control-advice credentials a person can possibly have: Mary Banecker works for Planned Parenthood. Mary’s based in Philadelphia, where she has been helping girls who fuck boys who fuck girls plan their parenthoods for 17 years.

So what are the side effects of the pill? “Minor side effects vary for each woman,” Mary informed me. “In the first three months, you may experience one or more of the following: nausea, slight weight gain, increase in breast size, bleeding between periods, light or missed periods, changes in skin complexion [i.e., acne], mood changes, fatigue, and decreased or increased sex drive. More serious but rarer symptoms may include abdominal pain, chest pain or shortness of breath, headaches, eye problems, and severe leg pain.” Jesus, arsenic has fewer side effects.

But just because your friends have developed larger breasts or are having more regular periods “doesn’t mean you will too–not every woman is the same,” Mary added. You may get different side effects–acne, puking, mood swings–or, if you’re lucky, none at all. And remember, the side effects of not using birth control are also pretty serious: nausea, increased breast size, major weight gain, abdominal swelling, mood swings, missed periods, contractions, blinding pain, and children.

What about cancer? “Studies have shown that the pill does not cause cancer,” said Mary, unless of course you’re washing your daily pill down with a case or two of diet soda. “In fact, the risks of developing ovarian or uterine cancer are actually reduced when a woman is on the pill, as are the risks of developing ovarian cysts or suffering an ectopic pregnancy.” There has been some noise about a link between the pill and breast cancer, “but studies showing that the pill causes breast cancer have been inconclusive.

“Many [people] agree that the pill’s benefits outweigh its risks,” said Mary. And by far the chief benefit–the main reason people take it–is that the pill taken correctly and consistently has “a pregnancy-prevention rate of 99.6 percent. But it’s important to remember that the pill does not protect you from any sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS.” The pill is not your only skin-to-skin option, however. “Some alternatives include the diaphragm, the IUD, Norplant, and Depo-Provera,” most of which have mild-to-ghastly side effects of their own. “Less popular but highly effective skin-to-skin alternatives include sterilization and vasectomies,” and, of course, anal sex and/or lesbianism. But, again, without condoms, “you are not protected from sexually transmitted infections.” But if you’ve tested for everything and he’s tested for everything, and he’s clean and you’re clean, and he isn’t screwing around and you aren’t screwing around, or if either of you is screwing around but you’re not doing anything with other partners that might expose your primary partner to a sexually transmitted infection–whew–then you should be able to go skin-to-skin without having to worry. Much.

Finally, thin condoms may increase sensitivity, “but they also break much more easily,” and “although increasing or decreasing the temperature of the scrotum and testicles may inhibit sperm production, [ball sinking/testicle bathing and other heat treatments] are not a reliable form of birth control,” unless you’re sinking your boyfriend’s balls into a deep-fat fryer.

For more information about the best birth-control method for you or to make an appointment, call Planned Parenthood at 1-800-230-PLAN.

Hey, Faggot:

Is the AIDS crisis over?

–Just Wondering

Hey, JW:


Hey, Faggot:

I was wondering if you could research the bad effects of smoking marijuana while on the birth-control pill. I’ve heard that cigarettes (which I don’t smoke) can increase a woman’s chance of heart disease by something like ten times. I don’t want to disclose my recreational drug use to my doctor, and I feel that this is a concern that would interest many of your readers. –DS

Hey, DS:

“There are no studies about the effects of smoking marijuana while on the pill,” said Mary. “It does not mean that there are no negative effects; it just means that there is no data on what the effects are,” negative or positive. I have personally compiled data on this subject, however: on several occasions I have inhaled marijuana smoke, but for medicinal purposes only. (I suffer from a debilitating syndrome that, while not taken seriously by medical professionals, is good enough for my dealer.) While I wasn’t on the pill at the time, I did experience some severe side effects: watching too much television; confusion about location of apartment; no mood swings at all, even when called for; long conversations on subjects that did not even merit short change-a-lightbulb jokes; the demonstrably false impression that each fleeting thought was a brilliant revelation; and snacking between meals.

The risks of smoking tobacco while on the pill have been documented, however. “According to the American Cancer Society, women who smoke and use the pill are ten times more likely to suffer a heart attack than nonsmoking women who are not on the pill. Women who smoke also have an increased risk of stroke and blood clots in the legs, and these risks increase in women smokers who are on the pill and over the age of 35.” But before you swear off your medicinal marijuana, remember that smokers with pack-a-day habits inhale much more smoke than dopers who smoke to get high. Dopers are also less likely to smoke every day, so the health risks to pill-popping dope smokers are probably less than those to pill-popping tobacco smokers. However, women on the pill who smoke cigs and smoke dope will probably drop dead before they finish reading this column.

Planned Parenthood is a wonderful organization, and Mary and the rest of the nice folks who work at Planned Parenthood, women’s health clinics, and abortion clinics all over the country are always getting harassed, screamed at, and shot at by right-wing nutcases. Let everyone at Planned Parenthood or your local women’s clinic know their work is appreciated–make a donation.

Next week: The winners of the Hollywood Trivia Contest!

Send questions to Savage Love, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.

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