complaints, family, healthcare

Repost: No, vasectomies are NOT totally reversible!

I am reposting this article I wrote in September 2018 because I keep seeing memes promoting (in jest) forcing men to get vasectomies because they are “totally reversible”. Unfortunately, Bill and I know from personal experience that that’s not always true. Besides, I don’t agree with pressuring anyone– male or female– to have elective surgery. That should be a personal decision made by the person having the surgery and forced to live with the aftermath of it.

Yesterday, someone in the Duggar group posted this article, based on tweets by a Mormon mom of six who lays out why she thinks men are responsible for every “unwanted” pregnancy.  The mom, name of Gabrielle Blair, reminds everyone that women can only get pregnant for a couple of days every month, while men could theoretically get different women pregnant thousands of times per month.  Because men are so easily able to impregnate women, she believes they should be more responsible about birth control.  In fact, she thinks the onus should be on men to prevent “unwanted” pregnancies.  They should be more willing to make birth control accessible, affordable, and available to all women.  And they should also be much more willing to wear condoms.

Gabrielle Blair refers to “unwanted” pregnancies, but that’s not a term I’m comfortable with.  I once used it when I was getting my MSW and was corrected by my field instructor, who told me the right term is “unintended pregnancy”.  Although I do think a lot of unintended pregnancies are also unwanted, I decided that I liked the word “unintended” better.  Sometimes women find themselves unexpectedly pregnant and later decide they’re glad about it.  So, in this post, I will refer to unintended pregnancies instead of “unwanted” pregnancies.

I agree with many of the concepts Blair discusses in her tweets.  Although birth control has never been an issue I’ve personally had a lot of concerns about, I did used to work in maternal and child health, back before I was an overeducated housewife.  I have seen the aftereffects of what happens when a woman has a child she isn’t ready to nurture.  I do think we need to make birth control readily available so that there is less of a need for abortion.  I would much rather see a woman prevent an unintended pregnancy than have an abortion.

The one thing that I don’t agree with, however, is the idea that vasectomies are totally reversible.  Blair tweets this concept, after just having suggested castration as a penalty for men who cause unintended pregnancies.  Of course she realizes that castration as punishment for a man who accidentally impregnates a woman would never happen.  So then she “jokingly” suggests required vasectomies for boys at the onset of puberty.

It’s really not that simple.


Before I get too cranked up with my comments about this, let me say that I know that, just like the castration law Blair suggested, forced vasectomies for pubescent boys would also never happen.  Maybe if we only had female lawmakers who were also extreme feminists with a cruelty streak, something like that could possibly be considered, but even then, I really doubt it.  The United States would have to turn into a completely matriarchal society with a hefty dose of The Handmaid’s Tale thrown in for good measure.  Blair’s suggestions are very sci-fi and interesting to ponder, but completely implausible and highly unlikely to happen in my lifetime.

That being established, I will agree that microsurgeries have come a long way and a lot of men are able to successfully have their vasectomies reversed even years after the vasectomy was done.  However, I can also speak from personal experience that not every reversal will result in a man regaining his fertility.  I know this because my husband had a vasectomy reversal that was technically successful.  He had 90 million “swimmers” after he underwent a 4 hour operation to reconnect his junk.  And yet, here we sit, still childless. I know we aren’t the only ones who had this outcome after a reversal, either.

Now… it’s entirely possible that the reason we didn’t have children could be because of something other than Bill’s vasectomy reversal not working.  For all I know, I didn’t get pregnant because something is wrong with me.  However, even if that were the case, the fact remains that not every vasectomy reversal will result in pregnancy.  The Mayo Clinic reports that reversal surgery can be anywhere from 30% to 90% effective.  A lot depends on the conditions the surgeon has to work with.  The reversal surgery has the best chance of working if it’s done within a few years of the vasectomy, the patient is young and healthy, the vasectomy was done with a minimum of scarring, and the surgeon has mad skills.

In Bill’s case, it had been about eleven years since he’d gotten snipped.  At first, his surgeon told him that he might have to do a more complicated procedure, since it had been so long since his vasectomy (done in 1993).  In the end, they did a less complicated procedure.  A couple of weeks later, a different doctor– not the one who did Bill’s surgery, because that guy got deployed to Iraq– told Bill that he needed to be careful where he pointed his “thing”, since he was firing “live ammunition”.  They’d found 90 million sperm in his sample.  Sadly, not a single one was able to penetrate any of my eggs, despite multiple attempts at the right time of the month.

After a couple of years, we quit trying, deciding that we’d rather not go through other methods of trying to conceive. Our decision about that mostly had to do with finances, and my realization that I didn’t want to be a parent badly enough to go through all of what becoming a parent in a non-traditional way entails.

I don’t know why I never got pregnant.  We did try.  There were a few things beyond our control that got in the way of conception, not the least of which was Bill’s own adventure in Iraq.  However, even if I had gotten pregnant, I still would never agree that reversals are 100% successful.  That wouldn’t be true.  Although many men can regain their fertility after having a vasectomy reversal, at least for a time, the fact is, sometimes men aren’t able to get it back.  Their bodies start seeing sperm as something foreign that needs to be destroyed or there’s too much scar tissue.  

Aside from that, reversal surgery is expensive, delicate and involved, and requires time off work.  In our case, Bill was able to have it done for free, courtesy of an Army urologist who needed to maintain his skills.  He also got plenty of time to recover, thanks to his understanding Army bosses at the time.  But most men won’t have the opportunity Bill had to get that surgery for free.  Reversals are also a hell of a lot more involved than vasectomies are.  They take much longer, cost a lot more, and are riskier.  Those who do get reversal surgery will also need to be able to take the time to recuperate.  

I totally agree with Blair’s main points that birth control is important and should be easier to get.  She’s right that men should be more willing to do their part to prevent unintended pregnancies.  However, I think it’s wrong to promote sterilization surgery as an easy fix for anyone, especially with the irresponsible comment that vasectomies are “totally reversible”.  They’re not.  

Vasectomies are intended to be permanent sterilization.  Any man who gets one should do it with the knowledge that it will possibly permanently end his ability to father children the easy way.  If they’re alright with that, fine.  But no man should ever have a vasectomy believing that someday, he can simply have it reversed and father children without medical intervention.  It doesn’t always work out that way, and it’s irresponsible of Blair to promote the idea that it does, even if her comments were really intended jokingly as sort of a “modest proposal”.

I made a comment about how vasectomy reversals aren’t always successful in the Duggar Family News group and immediately got a ration of shit from a couple of the members who wanted to argue with me about it. One woman said that in her hospital, 95% of reversals are successful with “swimmers”.  I called bullshit on that.  I don’t know that woman from Adam, and have no idea what her background is, but it’s a well established fact that reversals don’t always work, even if the surgeon is a superstar.  I would be very skeptical if any medical professional claimed that success rate, because not every candidate is going to get those results, regardless of the quality of the facility and the skill of the staff performing the operation.  

Another woman commented with some tripe about how I should be more sensitive to the women who have to deal with preventing pregnancy.  I AM sensitive to the women.  I DO agree that birth control for both partners is a good thing and both people are responsible.  I simply don’t agree with the idea that forcing boys to have vasectomies is a good idea, even if the idea is presented in jest.  

I would be horrified if anyone suggested tying the tubes of pre-pubescent girls, rationalizing that they can later have the operation reversed.  I am just as horrified by the suggestion that we should be giving vasectomies to boys to prevent them from knocking up girls.  That’s an extreme and unethical solution, and even as a joke, it’s really not funny in my opinion.  But what really prompted me to write this morning is the idea that a decision to be permanently sterilized is easily undone.  It’s not, and reputable medical institutions confirm that it’s not. We should be more respectful about every person’s right to make personal decisions about their own bodies without pressure or interference from other people.

That being said… although I always wanted children, I now think it’s a blessing that I don’t have them, and am mostly at peace with not being someone’s mother. I do sometimes wonder what a child between Bill and me would have been like, though. Then, after I fantasize about it, I realize I wouldn’t wish today’s fucked up world on any child of mine. Also… I wonder how in the world Gabrielle Blair can be a Mormon and be as much of a feminist as she is. She’s either simply a cultural Mormon or she has some serious cognitive dissonance going on.

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condescending twatbags, healthcare, sex, slut shamers

This just in! “Unintended pregnancies” are caused by having sex!

Okay… now that I’ve had a walk and all of my other chores for the day are done, I’ve just thought of something else to write about… and that is, “unintended pregnancies”. This morning, I learned that they’re caused by having sex! Who knew?

I recently read about how scientists are concerned because not enough people have gotten pregnant during the pandemic, that will eventually cause a shortfall in people to care for the elderly. I blogged about that revelation, which came from information in an article with the headline “Experts sound the alarm on declining birth rates among younger generations: ‘It’s a crisis’.

This morning, I read another alarming headline “The pandemic has caused as many as 1.4 million unintended pregnancies. Here’s how that impacts women’s lives.” I was confused, since I have seen several headlines lamenting the baby bust. The lamenting over the baby bust also confused me, since I’ve been hearing for years about how overpopulated the world is. And the fact that people weren’t getting pregnant over the past year means fewer abortions, right? But apparently, there hasn’t been a baby bust after all…

I started reading the article and discovered that it was about women in developing countries. In places like East Africa, South Asia, and Latin America, plenty of people were getting pregnant. They had lost access to birth control, thanks to widespread closures of facilities that weren’t needed for treating COVID-19. According to the article, a lot of women were unable to get birth control even before the pandemic. After it struck, things got markedly worse, and the women were faced with a potentially terrible choice– have a potentially unsafe abortion (obviously depending on the location) and worry about the stigma attached to that, or be forced into a potentially unsuitable marriage.

Well, none of this is news to me. I used to work in maternal and child health as well as healthcare policy. My older sister is also in public health and spent years traveling to developing countries to research and promote contraception. But, as is my habit, I decided to read the comments anyway. Lots of people who didn’t read were chiming in, as usual. And one man came up with this illuminating comment:

The pandemic caused pregnancies? I know science is distorted these days, but I still believe sex caused those pregnancies.

Another man came up with this one…

And here I thought pregnancy was a side effect of having sex…

When someone asked why he thought this was an amusing subject, he said…

“where did I say it was amusing? Its a fact that pregnancy is a result of sex, don’t want to be pregnant and can’t get access to birth control? Don’t have sex, pretty simple.”

I suppose it is simple, as long as men respect a woman’s right to say no to sex. But, as we all know, some men don’t respect that right. That is especially true in developing countries, where women are thought of as second class citizens and/or property. A couple of other guys chimed in about how women shouldn’t be having sex if they don’t want to be pregnant. When someone else brought up the issue of consent, or lack thereof, a guy asked “So all these women were raped?”

To that question, a woman replied, “only men can be having this stupid conversation. And maybe you should educate yourselves a little bit: even using birth control a woman can get pregnant.

Then, Mr. Brilliant added, “If you get pregnant using a condom you should name that baby Houdini.

Maybe… except this article was about women in developing countries, who may or may not have access to condoms or partners willing to use them. And then, someone else suggested butt sex, which does not result in pregnancy. But it does result in a pain in the ass. Not everyone is that chocolate, either. I know I’m about as vanilla as they come… maybe with a little fruity ripple and a few nuts.

Jesus Christ!

And then someone made a comment about Republicans and manages to add in a blurb about face masks. I agree with her comment about Republicans, but it has no place on this article, which has nothing to do with the Republican Party. It’s about the worldwide shortage of condoms and access to contraception. I WISH PEOPLE WOULD READ BEFORE LEAVING THEIR DUMB COMMENTS.

Wow… for once, I’m with the guys.

And it went even further, with talk of dildoes…

Midgets? WTF?

Well… it’s true that sex causes pregnancy, at least most of the time– barring any medical procedures, that is. But being in a pandemic, with reduced access to contraception and medical care, more women are getting pregnant without meaning to get pregnant. Before I studied social work, I used to refer to the unintended pregnancies that resulted in unprotected sex as “unwanted”. But I was corrected by a field instructor and told I should use the term “unintended”. I’m sure that has a better ring to it, especially in a state like South Carolina, where legislators are continually trying to control women’s uteri. We don’t like to think of pregnancy and the resulting births, which many people consider to be a blessing, as “unwanted”. Many religious folks consider children gifts from God, and they proclaim that God will provide. Except when God doesn’t provide and the women need help.

As we can see from reading this article, unintended pregnancies happen all over the world, and they can and do have a devastating effect on the lives of the people who aren’t prepared for them. And while the headline for this article could have been better considered and more accurate, the fact is, a lot of women are pregnant and didn’t want to be because of conditions caused by the pandemic. That’s the main idea of the article. I got the point; did you?

I’ll end with a poem…

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LDS, musings

Getting laid… a continuation.

Today’s post is going to include frank discussion of sex. Proceed with caution.

More mood music…

A few days ago, I wrote a post about a guy named Lafayette who has Asperger’s Syndrome and wants to know how he can get laid. The good folks on the Recovery from Mormonism site offered plenty of tips. Some of it was actually good advice. Because there was such an outpouring of advice for Lafayette, his post was eventually closed and someone opened a new thread offering even more advice. The new thread was lighthearted and joking, so someone was kind enough to let Lafayette know that the first post offering tips was joking in nature.

But then, a woman offered this comment, which I thought was very astute…

Just a thought for Aspie (or not) men who want casual sex: your desire for pleasure is reasonable, but please consider that for women, casual sex comes with a risk of becoming pregnant with a human being that will need to be cared for for the next 18 years, unless she aborts it, and making either of those choices as a single women will be loaded with a metric ton of judgment from society. Even without a pregnancy or abortion, casual sex for a woman is still loaded with a whole lot of baggage. Even more judgment for being a woman who has casual sex, for example. Please take these things into account when you wonder why it isn’t easier to get laid.

I was talking about this with Bill recently. This guy wants to get laid. I’m assuming it’s because he has a physical desire for it. Not being male, I have no idea what that feels like for a man. It must be a very strong drive, though, because it seems like most men are looking for physical affection. A lot of them want it casually, with no strings attached. Some are looking for it from other males, but most want it from females. Females have more to lose when they engage in casual sex. Most of them can get pregnant.

We now live in a society where males are actively trying to take bodily autonomy away from women. Read the news, and you’ll see that in many U.S. states, there are “heartbeat bills“, that would ban abortion for women beyond about six weeks gestation. A lot of women don’t even know that they’re pregnant at that point. Unintended pregnancy can really put a kink in a woman’s plans for her own life. She can have the baby and raise it, give it up for adoption, and at least for now, consider having an abortion. All of those choices are potentially devastating and involve costs– financial and personal– that will affect the woman for the rest of her life. Most men aren’t like my husband. They expect the woman to financially provide for herself. It’s a lot harder to do that with children.

Another thing I didn’t see addressed in the original thread is that for some women, sex is painful. I am one of those unlucky women who needs a lot of lead time before sex doesn’t physically hurt me. Fortunately, Bill is the kind of man who doesn’t mind taking his time warming me up. Not all guys are like Bill. Some of them want what they want when they want it, and they don’t consider that sex hurts sometimes. It might be easy for a guy to be ready to go at a moment’s notice. Maybe it’s like that for most other women, too. But I know that my experiences are not unique. A lot of women experience pain when they have sex. There are a lot of nerve endings down there. And frankly, I am not willing to go through that kind of pain for someone I don’t care about.

There are a lot of reasons why sex hurts for some women. Sometimes, it’s a matter of not being lubricated enough. In that case, a little more foreplay is all that is needed. Generally, that’s what works for me. Some people use commercially prepared lubricant to ease the way. Personally, I don’t care for it– it’s messy, slimy, and gross to me. But other people don’t mind it and use it with great success. I think I also suffer from a touch of vaginismus, which is when the vagina tenses up and spasms before something enters it. I know I had vaginismus when I was younger, and having sex was a nightmare. I can remember tensing up before doing the deed, knowing it was going to hurt. That’s also why I don’t use tampons.

Sometimes a woman has anatomical issues or sexually transmitted infections that make sex painful. In that case, a visit to a physician is the best way to solve the problem. But visits to the doctor cost money and time off work, and they are also potentially embarrassing. Although getting treated is probably the best thing the woman can do for herself, she may not want casual sex with you badly enough to go to the doctor. That’s her call.

I have some empathy for Lafayette. I was glad to see him come back and leave this comment on his original thread:

Top notch! Awesome feedback!

The post-start was a bit rhetorical.

It is not very likely that I will get laid but it makes it all much funnier to discuss.

Once – back in the time – I found a blog post that described how animals that are raised by humans imprint wrong behaviour. Things that will come naturally does not, so they will be lucky to learn to do natural things. I do not know if autism is just like that but it feels similar.

Being raised inside the frames of a cultural theocracy takes it toll on the imprinting.

As a naturally gullible person I must say that life has not always been easy but I should not complain today. Some things really are great!

I’m sure when he mentioned “getting laid”, it probably wouldn’t be the approach he would actually use. Or, at least I hope not. Autism is another one of those life experiences other people have that I can’t relate to at all. I don’t know how it feels. But I also liked this comment:

Announcing that you want to get laid. Jesus! Dude!

If the only thing you want to do is have sex, okay. But “How do I get laid”? I can’t even.

What you wrote translates into “Women exist for the laying of males. No mind or feelings necessary. All I want is a wet vagina.”

Christ! DUDE!

For some of us, achieving a wet vagina, even with someone we love and trust, isn’t all that easy. And if you’re not willing to put in the effort to get the woman there, why should she risk pregnancy, STIs, or heartbreak for you, just so you can satisfy that physical urge? I don’t know what it’s like for a man. But I think a lot of men don’t know and have never considered what it’s like for a woman, either. Too many of them want a woman who will “put out”, but then shame her for being “slutty” or getting pregnant. And too many men are unwilling to do their part to reduce the risk that the woman they’re having sex with won’t be left with any unpleasant lingering aftereffects… not that having a baby is necessarily “unpleasant”, per se. But not every woman wants to be a mother. Not every woman is cut out to be a mother. And quite a lot of women can’t afford to be a mother without help from the other party.

Personally, I wouldn’t want to have sex with someone with whom I couldn’t raise a child, but that’s just me… and fortunately, I’m about done with my childbearing years, anyway. I suspect that in a few years, it won’t matter at all for me anymore. I’m writing this for the younger women out there… and the men who might be willing to consider this perspective. You think of it as a roll in the sack, but for her, it could end up being a lot more than that. So if you really want to “get laid”, have a little consideration for what that could lead to for the other party and act accordingly.

Wow… even Cyndi Lauper was a Dr. Ruth fan.

On another note… sometimes I miss Dr. Ruth Westheimer’s cable show. Too bad I was too young for it when it aired on Lifetime.

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