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Why Gen Z has killed the Pill Feminism has forgotten where it came from

Are you a Catholic or a witch? Credit: Everything I Know About Love, BBC

Are you a Catholic or a witch? Credit: Everything I Know About Love, BBC


May 14, 2024   6 mins

Young women pack out Vauxhall’s pubs on a sunny summer evening. They chat over Diet Cokes, pilsners and passion-fruit-flavoured vapes. Many smoke rollies, some do ket and cocaine. Eyes rarely widen at the mention of such things; bring up the Pill, however, and you elicit a flurry of disdain and lively debate.

Once seen as a tool of sexual liberation, the Pill is now often spoken of as a pharmaceutical menace, wreaking havoc with female moods and increasing the risk of cancer. It was first rolled out on the NHS in 1961 — for married women, of course. And though still the most popular method of birth-control, its use is plummeting — data published in June last year showed that community pharmacies dispensed 7.2 million items of progestogen and combined contraceptives in 2022-3. In 2014/15, the number was 8.5 million.

A world away from the groans associated with the Pill, there is an enticing optimism to the chatter around the contraception app of the moment, Natural Cycles. To look at testimonies online is to find yourself in the lexical world of the farmers market — words like “harmony” and “rhythms” crop up just as a wrinkling of the nose, an eye roll, follow any mention of the Pill. How good might it be, I think between big rips of a vape, to be free of chemicals?

There are currently three million users, or “Cyclers”. And the Swedish developers claim a 93% effectiveness rate — similar to the Pill — when used correctly. But the app’s effectiveness is in fact disputed, with many women reporting unwanted pregnancies. The NHS says of fertility awareness methods: “If you do not follow the instructions exactly, it is only 76% effective. This means 24 in 100 women will get pregnant when tracking their fertility for a year.” Aside from this, you have to pay for it. I was quoted £69.99/year to use Natural Cycles, or £9.99/month; the Pill is free for us and costs the NHS £11-18 per year. “It takes a bit of privilege to be able to afford to do all this lifestyle stuff,” remarked one friend. “It’s kind of like being vegan.”

One Cycler friend talks me through the appeal. “The reason I did it was because the alternatives were just shite. I had used condoms for a while and then I was seeing someone who was an absolute arsehole, who refused to use a condom.” The app requires you to take your temperature every day; some looking for more data insights also take a luteinising hormone test — a strip dipped in urine — which indicates when you are about to ovulate.

The theory goes that your temperature rises in line with ovulation — but it’s far from an exact science. “I’ve been using it for two months and my temperature has not gone up when I’ve ovulated,” says my friend. “Another problem is the temperature is declared void if you’re hungover or if you’ve slept differently (three hours more or less than usual) which for me is quite often.” But, she adds, there is a “huge positive”: “This girl I know has the sweetest boyfriend, and they have both downloaded the app, so he can see her cycle days. I think that’s a really sweet aspect of it.”

The app’s effectiveness seems secondary to the lifestyle it implies: one of responsible, communicative relationships, control and modernity. Thinking about my past relationships, I’m not sure I’d want someone to be able to cross-reference my bouts of irritation or friskiness with charts on their phone. But might the dividend, a feeling of purity, be worth it? One hormone-free friend tells me: “I love being in touch with my body and knowing when my period is coming. Obviously if I get pregnant, I’ll probably feel differently but so far it’s been working really well for me, and I love how it feels more natural.”

I can understand this desire. Like most women I know, I’ve been through the ringer. The day after I lost my virginity, a woman in Boots told me with full confidence that I was almost definitely pregnant and had to take the morning-after pill. I fainted from the shock and found myself lying in a side room with my legs in the air, with my best friend trying not to laugh. Then I was put on the combined pill Rigevidon, the architect of so many teen crises. I would cry hysterically, rage at my poor boyfriend, break out in a rash of chin spots. A year on, I got the progesterone-only arm implant. But when I wanted it removed, three years later, muscle had grown so tightly around it that the lady in the UCL sexual health clinic had to spend a good five minutes trying to jimmy it out with a scalpel, blood streaming down the left side of my body. When my hormones went back to normal, I couldn’t cope. I was so used to synthetic interventions that I couldn’t hack being without them. So I came full circle, returning to the chemical embrace of the good old combined Pill.

And the funny thing is, my experiences are very much at the less dramatic end. Almost every straight woman my age is walking around with about 10 years of contraceptive crises behind them — pregnancy scares, alien discharge, battered sex drives, fizzing rage.

 

One explanation for Gen Z’s particular aversion to the Pill might be its much-touted sexlessness. Much has been made of “puriteens” — who are now entering their monastic mid-twenties. Over the weekend, I asked one pal why on earth she wasn’t using any contraception. “Because I don’t have sex,” she said. “It’s like a solstice,” she conceded. “Bi-annual.” She has high standards, she added. “And men are disgusting” — an afterthought.

The poisonous dating scene may be all the contraceptive we need. It also dampens hopes of a male Pill — if there even was one, would women trust them to take it? Probing further, the common refrains emerge. “I’ve never met a penis that’s worth the risk.”

Most women I speak to also cite cancer concerns. I can pinpoint the exact moment my circles started fretting about this — the publication of an Oxford study in March last year, which showed progestogen-only contraception raised the risk of breast cancer by up to 30%, an effect which disappears a year or so after you stop taking it. The extra cases of breast cancer amounted to eight in 100,000 for those in their late teens, and 265 in their late 30s. In other words, there will be just 0.008-0.265% more cases of breast cancer because of the Pill. The only new information in the study was that the risks of progestogen-only contraception were similar to those of the combined Pill — stats which had been known about for decades. But the ripples of panic among women I knew (and myself, before I looked into it more) were completely out of proportion.

It cannot escape us that a generation so accepting of the considerably greater risks of gender-affirming hormones is so worried about those of the Pill. This tells you, I believe, how ideological the use of oral contraceptives actually is: in a cishet context, synthetic hormones are symbolic of the lack of parity between the sexes (“I feel slightly hard done-by as a woman that we’re expected to take drugs that could potentially harm us when men get off scot-free,” says one friend); for a gender-dysphoric teenager, they are framed as a revolutionary tool.

The final nail in the coffin may, I believe, be the mood changes associated with the Pill. “Instantly when I took it my libido was just zero,” said a friend. “I came off the patch by accident when I was travelling and once I got back I noticed I was a lot less anxious — despite being at quite a stressful point in life,” said another. Another tells me: “I was on all sorts of hormonal contraception for over 10 years and I’ve been doing the pull-out method for a year now. When I first came off the patch this weird dark cloud lifted off me that I didn’t realise was there and had been for years. Like I was basically a little bit depressed all the time without knowing.” I am well aware of the rollercoaster of synthetic hormones — by turns euphoric, terrifying, nauseating, lurching. I have three sisters, and suspect that the stratospheric teenaged dramas in our house at least partly originated in some pharmaceutical lab.

Politically, the Pill has always been grist to any mill going — a cypher for social malaise. Its liberating potential is a big topic in the manosphere — it variously frees men from the apparently oppressive strictures of monogamy or allows women, formerly wiping baby-sick from chins at home as they should, to sail through workplace hierarchies and tread on men’s prospects. In feminist circles, its emancipating qualities have been linked to a casual sex culture which ultimately disadvantages women. While I know this to be true, I think what gives men the desire and ability to pick up and cast aside partners has to do with more than just pharmaceuticals.

“Are you a Catholic, are you a witch, are you a femcel?”

What will really sink the Pill, though, is not its cancer risk, mental health impacts or effectiveness — but its susceptibility to the swirl of ideologies that swamps modern women. It has become synonymous with self-fashioning; do you identify as a feminist, are you sex-positive, are you a health nut? Are you a Catholic, are you a witch, are you a femcel? Any one of these labels has a corresponding stance on the Pill. What was once a question of being liberated or not has been swept up in the thousand atomised tribes of modern identity politics. We have forgotten how hard-won reproductive rights are, and look with disdain on many of the women who fought for and secured us those rights in the Fifties and Sixties, and whose views we now deem outmoded. Fragmentary feminism is at risk of forgetting where it came from.  

It matters greatly if the Pill falls out of fashion, because in a world where abortion rights are ever more precarious, we need to be on our guard about contraceptive trends — fuelled by exaggeration, misinformation and purity fantasies, they may in fact land any one of us with an unwanted pregnancy. In the sweep of history, having sex without having a baby has only recently become an option — and it may not be forever.


Poppy Sowerby is an UnHerd columnist

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Bret Larson
Bret Larson
2 months ago

Laugh, the more things change the more they remain the same.

Jake F.
Jake F.
2 months ago

Yuck. Women like those described in this article are the exact reason why I don’t date anymore. Imagine having a child with someone who pumps themselves full of drugs (and does so socially to boot) and doesn’t even have anything approaching a regular sleep schedule. That hop into sexual encounters without thinking and let themselves get trammeled by creeps. What an amazing market to pick a spouse from!

I think the problem with modern dating (and the anger between the sexes generally) boils down to one thing: People are getting more selfish. I’ve noticed that many of my peers aren’t willing take responsibility for anything. They aren’t willing to account for their spending habits, let alone their sexual ones. It’s all about ‘me, me, me’ and how hard of a time *I* am having.

Older people seem to be affected by this too. Men and women everywhere are choosing to be bitter about their differences. Grace and humor have dried up. And from what I can see, all this ‘liberation’ is making people miserable. ‘Men are disgusting’ indeed.

I have mixed feelings about the Pill. I think it can be useful. I don’t like the side effects. But no one talks about abstinence. Nor planning. Nor consequences. No drug, condom, or fancy app will inoculate a couple against the possibility of conception 100% of the time. So why not wait until you’re stable enough to handle the results?

Because I want my pleasure and I want it now, and damn the chances.

RM Parker
RM Parker
2 months ago
Reply to  Jake F.

I think you’ve about summed it up. Humour has definitely been the main casualty, followed closely by personal responsibility. I’ve honestly never been so grateful for being an old git, and I wonder what social landscape my children are growing up to inherit.
Dating right now sounds so bloody awful I can’t imagine why any reasonable person, male or female, would bother. It’s just not appealing at all. The anomie that this breeds will be a problem for all of us, though. No escaping it.

J Dunne
J Dunne
2 months ago
Reply to  RM Parker

“I had used condoms for a while and then I was seeing someone who was an absolute arsehole, who refused to use a condom.”

So don’t have sex with him then.

I’ve never understood the aversion to condoms, especially from a man’s point of view. They are the one thing that allows a man to exercise control over his own parental future, hugely outweighing the slight inconvenience.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 months ago
Reply to  J Dunne

Probably because they feel horrible, they take some of the fun out of it.
I’m so glad I was young before all this was going on. If you got lucky one night now you’d be terrified a sprog would turn up 9 months later! When I was young you could usually assume the girl was on some sort of contraceptive unless she told you otherwise

RM Parker
RM Parker
2 months ago
Reply to  J Dunne

Amen to all points raised.
I also raised an eyebrow at the “I was seeing someone who was an absolute arsehole…” sentence and had a similar thought – at what point was it compulsory to keep seeing such a moron? Dear God, surely we can all have more self respect than that!

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
2 months ago
Reply to  RM Parker

It was him or nobody, maybe.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
2 months ago
Reply to  J Dunne

“So don’t have sex with him then.”
The problem is, I suspect, that standards amongst men on terms of how they treat women has dropped dramatically, and inevitably. And most men these days couldn’t care less about the women they sleep with, or any incidental offspring that ensue.

Most men my generation would be appalled at the thought of not wearing a condom and pushing the onus on to the woman.

But the issue is, male standards are a strong function of how women themselves behave.
When women show commitment and are careful and selective about partners, men are more likely to be monogamous and take their responsibilities seriously.

Whereas, in a culture where traditional male roles are sneered at, fatherhood is disrespected and proper male role models are non existent, in school, media or even on the time, you get exactly what you should expect.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

“Most men my generation would be appalled at the thought of not wearing a condom”

What age are you? I only ask because no lads of my age ever put one on unless asked by the girl. Thankfully most were on the pill so it wasn’t usually an issue

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
2 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Early 40s.
But point is, even among the lads you describe, they were polite enough to use a condom if asked to

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 months ago
Reply to  RM Parker

Don’t get too caught up with what you read online though. The young lads I work with are no different to what we were 25 years ago when it comes to chasing the girls, they just have the advantage thanks to tinder of not having to spend all Saturday night buying them drinks just to watch them go home with somebody else at the end

Andrew Vanbarner
Andrew Vanbarner
2 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

That guy may be an arsehole, too, but he’s tall, muscular, and has a flash job.
That’s likely the real reason she doesn’t wear condoms.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 months ago

If he refuses to wear them that’s his choice. If that’s the case they’ve got the same choice as generations gone by, they either risk getting up the spout or they don’t get their leg over at all

Lee Cadaver
Lee Cadaver
2 months ago
Reply to  RM Parker

that’s because you are older…were you younger and into it, the dating landscape would be OK

ChilblainEdwardOlmos
ChilblainEdwardOlmos
2 months ago
Reply to  Jake F.

It’s a Brave New World indeed!

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 months ago
Reply to  Jake F.

What’s so wrong with just enjoying yourself while you’re young? Why fight nature by not having a bit of fun with your partner until after you’re married?

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
2 months ago
Reply to  Jake F.

I’ve noticed that many of my peers aren’t willing take responsibility for anything.
Among the young, this is learned behavior. They have never been held accountable and have no idea what to do when that occurs. Look at the American college students and their sincere (yet tortured) talk of privation while choosing to barricade themselves in the campus library, as if it’s someone else’s job to worry about feeding them.

Howard Clegg
Howard Clegg
2 months ago
Reply to  Jake F.

I had to stop reading half way through, it was all too depressing. It’s easy to beat up on Gen Z, especially when they appear to be accusing me of being a racist purely for being a white dude. But I’m not going to do that. Because my lot, Gen X are just as bad. I gave up dating years ago for very similar reasons as Jake, but with so much more baggage on show.

Otherwise normal women become neurotic dumpster fires at the approach of anything resembling intimacy. I seriously doubt our culture’s chances of surviving the next 50 years.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
2 months ago
Reply to  Jake F.

A failure rate of 24 out of 100 is not a viable form of protection from pregnancy. It would never fly in the United States for obvious reasons. Although I don’t completely disagree with your assessment of the dismal dating scene, I think you missed a big reason—technology. There are many reports on how young people don’t know how to socialize in person, especially with the opposite sex. Unless people quit living their lives online, it’s not going to get better.

Matt S
Matt S
2 months ago
Reply to  Jake F.

I love that you might dump someone for “not having anything approaching a regular sleep schedule”

John Murray
John Murray
2 months ago

My wife gave up on the pill back when she was still an age when it was relevant (we are now past that stage in life). Basically, it made her feel bloated and she found had a harder time achieving orgasm when she was on it. So, she gave up on using it.
Required a bit of discipline on my part, but withdrawal worked perfectly fine. Of course, that’s with a married couple. If you’re younger and “hooking up” then greater precautions may be wiser (but isn’t that what condoms are for?).

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 months ago
Reply to  John Murray

We ended up with 4 kids so you were clearly more disciplined than I was

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
2 months ago

Are you a Catholic or a witch?
Yes.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
2 months ago

” … and then I was seeing someone who was an absolute arsehole, who refused to use a condom.” And you continued going out with him? Why?

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 months ago

I know, it’s horrific. I read that and thought “Girlfriend! I’m guessing you have functional hands and fingers. Forget that idiot, get into bed on your own and learn to use them!”
As a millennial female, I feel almost personally responsible for Gen Z girls still being like this. I was lucky to have a VERY open and sexually confident flatmate at university who taught me all about solo pleasure (not manually!), and I will be forever grateful to her. Essential life skills ladies!
Either we’ve failed to progress much or we older ladies been having too much of a good time with ourselves to pass the masturbation message on properly.

Clive MacDonald
Clive MacDonald
2 months ago

The quote is not from the author.

William Shaw
William Shaw
2 months ago

Why is she having sex with “an absolute arsehole?”
Fat wallet no doubt.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 months ago

One Cycler friend talks me through the appeal. “The reason I did it was because the alternatives were just shite. I had used condoms for a while and then I was seeing someone who was an absolute arsehole, who refused to use a condom.” The app requires you to take your temperature every day; some looking for more data insights also take a luteinising hormone test — a strip dipped in urine — which indicates when you are about to ovulate.”
What I’m getting from this paragraph is that this young lady stayed with someone she doesn’t really like who refused to use a condom (which probably means bad manners and a severe lack of respect) and had to do all the donkey work of monitoring her hormones to carry on sleeping with him.
I appreciate that other women are different, but that just seems like far too much work for sex to me, a very bad cost-benefit analysis. And the word degradation springs to mind.
It’s less the contraception I’m worried about here, it’s what’s going on in these young ladies’ heads.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
2 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Her case reads like self-degradation. He won’t use a condom? Then don’t sleep with him. Age-old solutions to age-old problems.

Rob N
Rob N
2 months ago

Strange article. I think The Pill is clearly a ‘bad’ thing. It has caused this obvious loss of respect for, and acceptance of, the risks of sex. Sure, I was glad it was around when I was younger but now I am wiser, and older, I can see how much social damage it has directly caused.

On top of that it seems to be a major cause of our own self destruction due to low birth rates. And I am beginning to wonder if it is a contributor to why so many women seem incapable of knowing what a woman is and buy into so many ‘latest things’

All in all a disaster and I am trying to explain to my daughters why they should not take it.

Robbie K
Robbie K
2 months ago

When my hormones went back to normal, I couldn’t cope. I was so used to synthetic interventions that I couldn’t hack being without them. So I came full circle, returning to the chemical embrace of the good old combined Pill.

The article blames the pill for hormonal side effects yet the author prefers that to her own crazed hormones! Just maybe this is how girls are?

Archibald Tennyson
Archibald Tennyson
2 months ago

Christian monogamy is the answer, Poppy. But given your liberal individualistic worldview, you probably see this as untenable.
I implore you to scrutinise the foundations of your worldview. All the way down. Then perhaps you’ll stop calling the right to murder unborn babies “emancipation”.

“Everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8: 34-36

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 months ago

I implore you to stop being so judgemental of others. Your worldview is a very narrow one based on a book of fables, a majority of us are quite capable of forming our own opinions based on our own life experiences.

Archibald Tennyson
Archibald Tennyson
2 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I implore you to stop being so judgmental about my judgments!
We can both play at that game. In fact, we can play it ad infinitum. The question isn’t whether I’m being judgmental; it’s whether the judgment itself is fair and truthful.
It’s a common misconception that Christ forbade His followers from judging the behaviour of others. He said we should accept judgment by the same standard we use to judge. Moreover, in John’s Gospel, He instructs us to “stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” So I feel comfortably speaking my mind as I have.
Besides, if I recall our previous conversations, you haven’t provided any real foundation for your own moral judgments. Instead, you assert the validity of your subjective opinions. Ok, that’s your prerogative. But by your logic, I don’t have to agree with anything you say. It’s all just arbitrary, right? So I can just assert my own life experiences, proclaim my own opinions, and let that be the end of the matter? Ok, great! So I can judge as much as I want!

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
2 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Please look into the mirror.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
2 months ago

Who impregnated the mother of Jesus? By whatever method?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 months ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

Christianity. The story of one woman’s affair that got slightly out of hand

William Shaw
William Shaw
2 months ago
Reply to  Lancashire Lad

What’s more likely… that a supernatural entity manifested itself and impregnated a totally unknown and insignificant woman with the son of the creator of the universe or, a simply young Jewish girl got into a bit of trouble and lied about it?

R Wright
R Wright
2 months ago

Until i see mass downvotes on comments like these I tend to forget a good 40% of Unherd’s readership is liberal women of a certain age mugged by reality on the transgender issue.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
2 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

‘…a good 40% of Unherd’s readership is liberal women of a certain age mugged by reality on the transgender issue’

What’s your source for this interesting information?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

I certainly don’t think 40% is liberal women, at least not anymore. It’s much more American Bible Belt now, as shown by the numerous comments here essentially calling these young women immoral for wanting a bit of rumpy pumpy

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
2 months ago

What stands out is the sheer resentment at being “burdened” with the ability to bear and nurture a baby. No sense of joy, anticipation of the delights of having your own child, or concept of responsibility when it comes to choosing a partner, just seething hatred of the biological reality that comes in the way of sleeping around with a succession of males without “consequences”, – and then of course even more resentment when the “casual sex culture… ultimately disadvantages women.”

What also goes without saying is that we live in a society where men are denigrated and maligned for earning more than women, or if they want a woman to perform even some if their traditional roles.
But those same women refuse to marry a man unless he earns more and post divorce expect to sit at home, grab the kids they hate so much, while the man has to slave away to pay for them..

Makes you wonder, why would a man even bother any more with marriage, commitment or long term relationships.

William Shaw
William Shaw
2 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

For men, marriage no longer serves any purpose. Young women engage in one night stands and consider themselves empowered, so sex is freely available to anyone who makes a modicum of effort. And besides, sexless marriages are so common it’s the opposite of what a young man should be considering.

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
2 months ago

“I love how it feels more natural”

Sounds like another middle class luxury belief to me. Given that 50% of births are now by elective Cesarean – nothing ‘natural ‘ about that but obviously it comes at a price, whereas everybody now wants to pose cost-free.

Suzie Ryan
Suzie Ryan
2 months ago
Reply to  Mike Downing

Hormones are extremely powerful, and can really f**k with your moods. Imagine living day to day without knowing if what you’re feeling is what your personality is, or whether it’s synthetic hormones? Are you tearful at what happened at work because it’s who you are, or are you tearful because of hormones? And then when you go home and cry and get angry with your boyfriend, is it because that’s who you are, or is it because of the pill that you’re taking? Then imagine that every single day and the compound effect on the trajectory of your life.
I think lots of men are dismissive of how the Pill can impact women’s lives. I absolutely don’t think you can compare elective c-sections, which a woman may have, what, twice?, in her life—to a pill that she takes every day that synthetically alters her menstrual cycle, mood, and physical appearance, which will impact her on a daily basis.
Elective c-sections mean women can actively choose to avoid the unknowns of childbirth, especially in the context of so much birth trauma and devastating injuries caused by NHS negligence. I’d much rather have an elective section than risk having the numerous nightmarish birth injuries that happen all the time, but of course are written off as just part of life for women.
No, it’s not natural, but lots of us aren’t doing these things in pursuit of something natural: we’re doing it to protect our mental and physical health.

David Morley
David Morley
2 months ago

“I feel slightly hard done-by as a woman that we’re expected to take drugs that could potentially harm us when men get off scot-free,”

Don’t worry, men still don’t live as long and commit suicide at a much higher rate. This is based more on a desire to feel aggrieved than on real inequality.

Suzie Ryan
Suzie Ryan
2 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

But this is only in relation to sex. Men generally DO get off scot-free when it comes to sex. It IS inconvenient for women that we are the ones who have the option to take a daily pill that really does have awful effects, mentally and physically.
However, that’s life. And it doesn’t take away from the fact that in other areas, men DO have it worse.
I personally recognise the struggles and advantages of being both male and female, and don’t feel a need to try and make everything equal to within an inch of its life: I actually do think that women need to be the ones who have more responsibility over contraception, because it is their bodies that will be impacted by pregnancy. We can’t fight biology.

Daniel P
Daniel P
2 months ago

I gotta say, I feel really sorry for these young people.

They got this way because of what we have allowed them to be taught, what we did not teach them, the lack of good examples we gave them.

And I mean both the young men and the young women. All we have taught them is how to be miserable over the long haul.

Someone needs to sit down with them and let them know the truth.

Norfolk Sceptic
Norfolk Sceptic
2 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

Save some sorrow for those currently in Primary School. After the ‘fluid gender’ agenda, they will need some truth.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
2 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

Hard to do when there is no truth.

Michael Walsh
Michael Walsh
2 months ago

A piece by a creepy feminist who doesn’t bother to examine the wide-ranging issues surrounding the pill.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
2 months ago
Reply to  Michael Walsh

And nothing to explain the large drop in pull consumption. Me thinks it has to do mainly with the new inhabitants of your lovely island nation. The ones that procreate like rabbits.

R Wright
R Wright
2 months ago

Here’s a shockingly Victorian suggestion. Instead of having intercourse with strangers just pick one, hold the possibility of sex over him and force him to buy the cow instead if getting the (chemically altered) milk for free?

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
2 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

How is telling women to use sex as a weapon helpful to them or to men?

David Morley
David Morley
2 months ago

It has become synonymous with self-fashioning; do you identify as a feminist, are you sex-positive, are you a health nut?

I realise that young people have always been very tribal, but do young women really put that much effort into determining which tribe they fit into – and then allowing that to dictate important life choices?

Gilmour Campbell
Gilmour Campbell
2 months ago

Have none of these girls heard of the coil?

Bruni Schling
Bruni Schling
2 months ago

….or of the cap for that matter. Following the advice of my GP I came off the pill after 15 years of using it, he recommended the old fashioned cap. It was easy to use. Btw, I also took the pill because it alleviated some of my severe period pain . I don’t understand the fuss about the pill. If you don’t like don’t use it, there are other safe ways of contraception for women.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
2 months ago

Was the thesis here to reduce women to beings with no agency who are ruled solely by their hormones? How affirming it must be to spend so much brain power fretting over first-world problems while lacking the self-awareness to realize what’s happening. There are numerous birth control options other than the pill and there is always the quaint notion of not sleeping with whomever on a whim since women are most impacted by unwanted outcomes. Still, I’m sure the average Islamic bride would love to spend time with her girlfriends debating the merits of the pill and how “men are disgusting.”
Feminism has done what every other cause has done – it has degenerated into a racket that refuses to accept victory or take yes for an answer. If one didn’t know better, the average woman faces a life straight out of the Handmade’s Tale with no real-world prospects. Yet, we’re in a time when women heads of state are so common that no one bats an eye at the idea.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
2 months ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

I still bat an eye. Give me Maggie or no one else.

Suzie Ryan
Suzie Ryan
2 months ago

I’ve been trying to reply to Jake F‘s comment but it seems I can’t directly reply.
“Imagine having a child with someone who pumps themselves full of drugs (and does so socially to boot) and doesn’t even have anything approaching a regular sleep schedule.” 
I mean, you’ve just described the average uni student or someone in their 20s, or someone before they’ve settled down. We don’t all remain like this forever. In fact, we make mistakes and have fun in our 20s and (usually) become more responsible as we grow up. I was certainly drinking and taking drugs socially in my 20s and early 30s but now I’m a mother I don’t.
“So why not wait until you’re stable enough to handle the results? Because I want my pleasure and I want it now, and damn the chances.”
Um. Yeah….? You’re saying that like it’s a bad/unusual thing? Sex is fun! Of course we want to have it! There’s probably another reason you’ve ‘given up’ on dating and it’s likely because you’ve had no choice in the matter…

Mark epperson
Mark epperson
2 months ago

Well, it seems there is nothing but confusion, uncertainty, more angst, and blaming going on in the feminine world. Well, everything can’t be measured, dissected, graphed, put into algorithms, or solved on a talk show, mobile, or PowerPoint presentation. The world just doesn’t work that way and while I believe the millennials and Gen Z have been totally screwed by Boomers (of which I am one) and X’ers, they have to find a way through by utilizing some common sense and a sense of outrage against the present “elites”. Start taking some responsibility for the present mess, don’t be taken in by “we care, we are green, we are diverse” because these are only words, and they have been used to screw you.

Frances Killian
Frances Killian
2 months ago

Take heart girls (women). I am 72, took the pill for maybe 20 years all told and never felt better than when I was on it.

Nikki Hayes
Nikki Hayes
2 months ago

35 years for me – first combined and then mini pill. Never had any problems or side effects.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
2 months ago

Strange thing.
Whenever UnHerd publishes a piece about female sexuality by a woman the Comments section fills up with missives from men (and women, too) lecturing y’ll about “what you’re doing wrong”, “what you better start doing” and (here’s the kicker) “why you have no respect for yourself.”
It set me to thinkin’. There’s a great quote from Marguerite Duras: “You have to be very fond of men. Very, very fond, You have to be very fond of them to love them. Otherwise they’re simply unbearable.”
The wonderful thing is it’s just as true if you reverse the genders! Men who don’t really like women will simply never get over their unbearableness.
I’m just grateful to have known a few women who were fond of men. And one or two who were particularly fond of me.
Unbearably yours,
Laurence

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
2 months ago

This is one of those amazing essays that is trying to comment on a thing while also simultaneously embodying the thing – here, something like the incoherence of contemporary feminism. You can’t read this and not see just how obvious are the profound, eternal, immutable sexed differences between men and women. Long live women! But a little more self-awareness would be great.

Peter Mott
Peter Mott
2 months ago

The Pill is the most significant invention since the steam engine it’s why Malthus was wrong and the Sierra Club also.

Kent Ausburn
Kent Ausburn
2 months ago

A litany of female 1st world problems.

Kent Ausburn
Kent Ausburn
2 months ago

Decrease use of contraception = more abortions. Pick your poison.

Amanda Conidaris
Amanda Conidaris
2 months ago

Um, re: no condoms, anyone ever heard of STDs??

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
2 months ago

Perhaps the ideal of childless sex without trade-odds was merely promised by the Pill but never fulfilled. Perhaps women are now merely acknowledging what never was.

Yessica A.
Yessica A.
2 months ago

Interesting article. I’d encourage the author to also examine the “swirl of ideologies” that wouldn’t exist without the pill. It seems to have gone from useful tool to avoid unwanted pregnancies until a woman was ready to get pregnant to something every woman is supposed to be on from her teens onward. The expectation nowadays is that a woman in her fertile years won’t get pregnant because, surely, she must be on hormonal birth control. Otherwise, what are you even doing? These ideas also deserve examination. As does the idea that the pill allows you to have consequence-free casual sex (i.e. baby-less sex, because the other consequences of casual sex pretty much remain, think STIs and the psychological impact many women report at having strings of meaningless hook-ups). I know, I know, some women really *want* to have meaningless hook-ups, but that doesn’t change the fact that many don’t and that hormonal birth control plays a role in allowing women to pretend that we aren’t fertile and men to assume that we’re up for anything and everything sexually since we can’t get pregnant anyway.
Another thing to examine is the negativity these women report at the idea of having a child. Could it be that the synthetic hormones (in combination with our culture) we’re expected to consume from our teens onward play a role in our unwillingness to become mothers? This is a genuine question, I wonder if anyone is studying this.

I started taking the pill because I didn’t want my heavy periods to interfere with my working life. Nobody told me that I could do other things to alleviate heavy periods, other than take painkillers or synthetic hormones. I don’t think we should do away with the pill, but we should definitely be more honest about what it’s for and what it does.

William Shaw
William Shaw
2 months ago

“I’ve never met a p***s that’s worth the risk.”
Surely by the time that level of intimacy has been reached you’ve already incurred the risk?

Matthew Jones
Matthew Jones
2 months ago

I had an interesting discussion with a priest about this and contraception more generally when I was a becoming a catholic.
I think that the church was well aware that the scriptural warning against contraception was not particularly clear (onan’s sins were greater than simply wasting his seed). Rather, the fear was that widespread, effective and ubiquitous contraception would accelerate the death of the nuclear family. This was feared because it would lead to worse outcomes for children: mentally, socially, in terms of physical health, and of course spiritually.
The church was right about this. The data are beyond debate. What is left to ponder is the role the sexual revolution, and the pill with it, has played and continues to play with the unravelling of the post-Christian west.

Sarah Panzetta
Sarah Panzetta
2 months ago

Love this. Loads of good stuff – “How good might it be, I think between big rips of a vape, to be free of chemicals?”. Also v fair about the rough time many women have with the pill, and the lack of parity between the sexes. 
But info on fertility awareness methods could be better – this doesn’t just mean Natural Cycles. And missing a few waking temperatures each month isn’t as bad as missing a few pills. The NHS recommends getting support if you want it to work well. https://www.nhs.uk/contraception/methods-of-contraception/natural-family-planning/

Virginia McGough
Virginia McGough
2 months ago

Fertility Awareness, or Natural Family Planning, has been used for decades by thousands of women with great success. I’m one of them. Once learned (and it was taught by a volunteer who only charged what you could afford) it required no temperature taking. And it got you out of the clutches of Big Pharma. I’m glad it’s growing in popularity. If it helps more women to refuse casual sex, so much the better.

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
2 months ago

What do they call couples who use “Cycles” for birth control? They call them Mom and Dad. (Apologies to critics of the old Rhythm Method.)

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
2 months ago

It looks like a booming cat market building on the horizon. Two to three per woman.