Impacts of Birth Control

Discuss the impacts of birth control on men and women.

The aspect of sex and the use of birth control were touchy issues in the early 20th century. Sex was only for married couples that wanted to have children. The idea of sex before marriage was crazy. Because of all the beliefs about sex being only for procreation and not for pleasure birth control was not needed. There was one major event and one key person who are responsible for making the use of birth control acceptable in America.

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The major event being World War I. In World War I there was a lot of usage of whore houses by the French and English soldiers. A major problem with the French and English governments allowing men to go to the whorehouses was that there was rapid spread of VD. A soldier that is suffering from herpes, syphilis, or gonorrhea doesn’t fight too well. President Wilson was very concerned about the American soldiers getting sick and not able to fight. He also wanted to stop the spread of VD

Wilson decided that during boot camp the soldiers would be taught about VD’s, and the effect of them. The recruits had to take a sexual education class. In the class the men were shown pictures and movies that showed what various vaginal diseases looked like, and what they would do to a mans sex organs. This was an effective in stopping the American soldiers from going to the French whorehouses. Another program the U.S. Government instituted to stop the spread of VD was to give out condoms to the soldiers. The government, however, wasn’t condoning sex with the free condoms. Printed on the condoms was “ for prevention of disease only”. The government was only using birth control to stop VD not pregnancy.

After World War I the GI’s that came home used the information they learned in the sexual education classes in boot camp and put them to work. With the knowledge of the condom and the recent invention of the car, premarital sex was widely practiced. The women of post World War I had twice as much sex as their mothers had had.

Many people in the early 1900’s said sex was not only for reproduction but for pleasure as well. The psychologist Sigmund Freud said sex was a natural human behavior. He said that every normal human had a natural biological sex drive. Another person who contradicted the idea of sex only for marriage and babies was Havloc Ellis. He said everyone has sexual feelings not related to reproduction. Ellis also said that people should have sex before marriage to see what they like, and that couples should have trial marriages where they had sex to see if they were compatible. Both Freud and Ellis believed that sex was a form of love that should be expressed. Finally, Dr. Morrow wanted for sex education to be taught to children. He believed that if the children were informed about sex and birth control they would help stop the spread of Venereal Diseases .

One of the harbingers of birth control was Emma Goldman. Emma was a Russian immigrant to America. She was a trained nurse and helped treat the men in World War I. She also worked in a hospital and saw women dying all the time of incorrectly done abortions. Emma was outraged about all the men who have VD and all of the women who had died from bad abortions. She decided to start teaching about birth control. She gave huge public rallies in cities across the country on the use of birth control. Unfortunately, the public didn’t accept what Emma said. She was arrested in 37 different cities. In the end, her ideas were too radical for the time, and she was sent back to Russia.

Emma Goldman opened the door for the woman who would get birth control eventually accepted by the doctors and the public. Margaret Sanger would be the next person to take Emma’s space. She worked in a hospital on the Lower East Side of New York. Margaret became involved in the International Workers of the World. This was a union that wanted to reach out to women, immigrants, colored people, and migrant workers, to try and create a huge union. Sanger worked in the International Workers of the World with Emma Goldman and learned about issues concerning women’s health. This is when she begins to write about Venereal Disease, and sexual matters. Sanger wrote a brochure about the use of birth control to help stop the spread of VD and unwanted pregnancies. Unfortunately, due to the Comstock Law her pamphlet was considered obscene, and a warrant for her arrest was made. Margaret fled to Europe to avoid being prosecuted for her writings.

Margaret is able to make a deal with the United States and is able to come back to America. Once she is back in America she starts a birth control clinic. Margaret isn’t able to get birth control devices in America, so she smuggles in condoms and diaphragms from Europe and Japan into America for her clinics. Again, Margaret Sanger is arrested and goes to jail for distributing birth control to the public. Sanger was then convicted of distributing illegal items and is sent to jail for a short prison sentence.

Sanger serves her jail sentence and marries a wealthy inventor, Noah Slee. Slee has the same views on birth control as Margaret does, and they start a birth control movement. Sanger knew she wouldn’t be able to convince the doctors and the public of the use of birth control of whites, so she used racist material to get the support of birth control. Sanger uses the “science” of Eugenics, which is the science of race, to promote birth control. She says that birth control needs to become legal in order to stop the blacks and the non-whites from having too many children. Sanger says that the non-whites would start to outnumber the white population in America, so birth control was needed to stop the spread of the non-whites.

Sanger organized conventions to talk about her new ideas, and invited doctors. The doctors eat up her ideas about birth control. Margaret starts up the American Birth Control League, which was an organization that supported the use of birth control. By 1936, Sanger has the support of the doctors for birth control. In the same year the Supreme Court decided that birth control was not immoral or obscene. Sanger then, with the financial support of her husband, starts to set up birth control clinics in New York and surrounding areas.

Margaret wasn’t finished with the legalization on birth control in New York. There were still many states that birth control was still illegal. Sanger decided to try to make a very cheap and efficient form of birth control. She started to work with a pharmaceutical company to make a birth control pill. Margaret and Dr. Pincus managed to make the very first effective birth control pill in 1959. Margaret Sanger was able to make the concept of birth control acceptable in the eye of the general public. The one problem with the first pill was that it contained too many hormones, and many women were having heart attacks, cancer, and strokes..

The invention of the pill was a revolutionary step in modern sexuality. Millions of women were on the pill. The invention of condoms made out of latex was also very important with sex. Couples could now have sex without having to worry about getting pregnant or getting a VD. Women could go out and have sex with her boyfriend and not need to worry so much about the possible consequences. Another thing the pill did was it made the country less conservative toward sex. Premarital sex was still unlocked, but it was humored now.

Women loved the invention of the pill. With the invention of the pill gave women tremendous power over men. Now the woman had the power to determine when she wanted to get pregnant, and when she wouldn’t get pregnant. If a woman gets nervous that her man will leave her all she needs to do is get pregnant, and most of the time the man would stay with the woman because of the children. The pill did however bring on a negative aspect of sex. It allowed women to fool around on their men and not get caught. The only way she could get caught was to get a VD, or to be caught in the act

Men also loved the invention of the pill. Men no longer needed to use a condom to prevent childbirth. He could go at it without having to use the cumbersome, not to mention less sensual, condom. The Pill also allowed men to fool around on their wives/girlfriends with out getting in trouble for it.

The final advantage of the pill was an economic advantage. Families could now control how large their families got. If a husband and wife couldn’t afford to have any more children they no longer needed to stop having sex like they did in the Victorian age. They now had the pill to take care of any limitations they had prior to the pill.

In 1965 the Supreme Court made birth control legal in all states for married couples. It wasn’t; until 1972 that birth control became legal for use by everyone in every state in America. The taboo of premarital sex was so strong that even today there are strong anti teen, and anti non-married couples having sex. Birth control made it possible for people to have sex without the consequences of VD or a baby.


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Impacts of Birth Control. (2018, Jul 03). Retrieved from