Sexuality Without Synthetic Hormones
At the age of 52 I believe I am in a rather small minority in the developed world of women who have completed 30+ years of natural menstrual cycles, something over 400 cycles in total. I am only now coming to realize just how lucky I have been.
It started accidentally. At the age of 21 or so I proudly presented myself at my local family planning clinic fully expecting to be put on the pill. Instead, I emerged some time later, slightly disappointed, not with a prescription but a diaphragm.
I don’t know who that doctor was or why he gave me such unconventional advice but as time has passed, my gratitude to him has grown immeasurably, as has my anger and sadness for women who have not been as lucky. I had been ready to start a lifetime on the pill with no awareness that I had anything whatsoever to lose. Only over years and decades of natural cycling did I begin to appreciate the birth right I could have given up without a thought.
The natural cycles of fertility and loss I have lived through are at the core of who I am. They are a source of strength, hope and dignity and of deep connection to other people and to my environment. Without these cycles I would only be a shadow of the person I now am.
We are taught so badly about our menstrual cycle. It is all shame and distress – the bleeding, the cramping, the premenstrual horrors. Presented like this, femaleness seems like a terrible burden. Small wonder that young women are so easily convinced to switch off the whole messy show with hormonal contraception.
The Fertile Time: A Wild and Magical Power
Nowhere does anyone tell us about the flip side, the other pole of the cycle: the wild and magical power of the time leading up to and during ovulation. How can it be that our winter time is so heavily publicized while the summer time of our cycle, our time of fertility, creativity and wild power is kept a massive secret?
I eventually began to notice and appreciate this time and look forward to that week every month of unstoppable confidence, heightened perception and extreme sexiness. I trawled the net for information but the most anyone seemed to be able to say was that “You may feel sexier at that time”. Or you may not. Who cares? As if female sexuality was at most an insignificant little buzz.
But it does matter. Desperately. My fertility and sexuality have been my life force. It is impossible to fully describe what they have done for me as they have been so fundamental to my identity, my perceptions and my life path. How could you enumerate the importance of the sense of vision or hearing in your life? This is equally hopeless but I will attempt to give some sense of what the summer of the cycle has been like for me.
Most obviously at this time, I experience astonishing desire, ripe to bursting desire, delight in the slightest touch, feel aching tenderness. This is not like desire at any other time. It is a force of nature, the unstoppable attraction of the female to the male, the force of sexual attraction through which we have evolved.
Conversely, I experience the attraction of the male to the female. At this time, I know I am desirable. I am immune to all of the marketing men’s insecurities. I may have spots, wrinkles, body hair and a thousand other faults but it doesn’t matter. I know I am attractive.
I feel confidence, unbelievable confidence. Everything seems to flow. Fear is gone from me and risk means nothing. I am bold and decisive and everything works out.
Creativity flourishes. Without fear censoring and killing them pre-birth, ideas get to bubble up and form in wild abandon in a way that would be impossible at any other time of the month.
My perceptions are astonishingly heightened. I experience a sense of wonder: in people, in nature, in art and music. I feel as if a dirty veil has been lifted and my perceptions are temporarily opened to the miraculous nature of things. This is perhaps the hardest aspect of all to describe as such unempirical experience has become heretical to our scientific-objectivist ideology. It is, nevertheless as real to me as the duller and more concrete states of consciousness at other times and may be the cruelest cut of all to those deprived.
Our Sexuality Is Our Birth Right
Although this is a hopelessly inadequate account of what my fertility has meant to me, I hope it gives a sense of why I believe it to be a central part of being a woman. Our fertility is not an optional add on. It is not a thing to be got out occasionally when we feel like making a baby. Our sexuality is not just a bit of a buzz. It is not something we can exchange for “convenient” contraception.
To be deprived of the experience of fertility seems to me to be cruelty beyond measure. This is women’s deepest source of power, energy and connection. To separate us from it is a form of slavery for which our culture grooms us. But women continue to accept this loss unwittingly and may spend a lifetime without ever realizing what they have given up.
It’s time for those few of us who have slipped through the net to speak up.