May 21st, 2010 by Elizabeth Kissling
Laura Eldridge’s new book In Our Control: The Complete Guide to Contraceptive Choices for Women (Seven Stories Press, 2010) isn’t kidding with that subtitle. The last time I remember reading so much detail about contraceptive options was poring over Our Bodies, Ourselves when I was in my 20s.
Eldridge reviews every method of birth control known to modern woman–and, importantly, some that aren’t widely known. She even briefly reviews the history of contraception in 19th and 20th centuries, reminding us that birth control is not a new invention. People, especially female-bodied people, have struggled to control their fertility from pretty much the first moment humans figured out how it worked.
In Our Control differs from Our Bodies, Ourselves in offering more than just the mechanics of both hormonal and barrier methods: Eldridge provides a history of each method and analysis of the political and cultural contexts of their use in the 21st century U.S.
For example, the chapter about the morning-after pill (also known by either the brand name Plan B or as emergency contraception, EC) discusses the political battle to achieve Federal Drug Administration approval, including Susan Wood’s resignation from the FDA’s Office of Women’s Health over what she believed to be “willful disregard of scientific evidence showing Plan B to be safe.”
Eldridge extensively addresses the relationship between birth control and menstruation, focusing one chapter specifically on the use of hormonal contraception to reduce or eliminate menstrual cycles. She draws upon a wide range of resources to illustrate the cultural attitudes and contexts of menstruation, from stories of the role of birth-control pill co-developer John Rock’s Catholicism in the three-weeks-on/one-week-off dosing of the first pill to a Saturday Night Live parody of advertising schemes for menstrual suppression drugs (with Annuale, you’ll menstruate only once a year, but hold on to your fucking hat!).