We are so excited to share this guest column from Jerry Gossel, a local community member and Bridgercare supporter!
I’m an older guy, actually a really old guy that Bridgercare asked to write a Blog about why I, as a male, care about birth control and why other males should also care. For anyone with a penis, that means starting with the basics, a condom.
I was a teenager in a small town, population 500 people, in rural eastern South Dakota during the late 50’s. Because of the small population, there were 50 kids in the high school, and everybody knew everybody.
The town families were “traditional” with most of the fathers employed at a granite rock quarry that was located in the area. The mothers were the homemakers and care providers for the children. The area surrounding the town was comprised of small, self-sustaining farms. The entire family was involved in the planting and harvesting of the crops and the raising of small amounts of livestock for the family food and income.
It was a rite of passage for the guys to have a condom in their wallet even though I didn’t have a clue how to use it or even the possibility of having sex. Into the drug store I went to purchase my first condom or “rubber” as it was called at the time.
It was a humiliating and embarrassing endeavor. I was trying to be cool even though the owner of the drug store knew who I was, so I asked to purchase a contraceptive. He said “What?” I started to sink into my shoes. Again, I said, I want to buy a contraceptive and he replied a bit louder, “What?” I then squeaked out, “A rubber.” He laughed, took my money and handed me the rubber. He was still laughing as I slunk out of the store.
I’m not sure if it’s still “cool” for a guy to have a condom in their wallet but if it is, you can go to a CVS store and there are multiple shelves stocked with condoms in any size, shape, color or taste, and the checkout person doesn’t know you personally.
Personally dating was usually boy and girl, sometimes it would be a double-date, limited to one night a week, Saturday night. A typical date involved a twenty-mile drive to a town with a population of 10,000 people. The town had two movie theaters, a drive-in theatre (during the summer months) and a favorite truck-stop restaurant. After viewing a movie, it was hamburgers and a Coke at the truck-stop and then the drive back to the hometown.
Usually on the drive home there would be a detour into a corn field or behind a haystack with the intent of “making-out.” Having sex was never discussed with the date, but usually there would be an attempt at pushing the line past hugging and kissing, but it was the girl that would stop any attempt at sexual intercourse.
The big social event was the “wedding dance.” There were several small towns within a half hour drive of my hometown. Three of the towns had dance halls for public dancing. To celebrate a wedding, a wedding dance, that was open to the public, was held in one of the three towns. That’s where the guys from my town would go to meet girls from other towns. The dance band would have a half hour intermission so it was a pressure packed time before the intermission to connect with a girl and hopefully spend the intermission “making out”.
Unlike today, no one talked about sex. The movies and television were very conservative and romantic. If there was a bedroom scene, it showed twin beds. The word “sex” was taboo. Sometimes guys would make jokes about “hooking-up,” but there were never any discussions about intercourse. The schools did not offer any sex education. The school library did not have any helpful books. It was a strange time as the testosterone was in full force but no guidance about how to control or manage it.
Interestingly, even without any formal sexual knowledge, I don’t recall knowing or hearing about any girl getting pregnant in my town or any of the other towns.
In the past birth control was the responsibility of the woman. I’m reminded of an ad that stated, “He didn’t even notice your hair today and you think he’s going to remember to use a condom? Girl, Please.” The ad places the responsibility of birth control directly on the woman which is not fair or equitable. That’s where Bridgercare comes in.
Bridgercare’s mission is to provide excellent, affordable reproductive and sexual healthcare and education in a safe, supportive empowering atmosphere. How the world has changed.
For starters there’s the website. Bridgercare’s website is one of the most effective sites I’ve encountered. It’s easy to navigate and the information and services are truly outstanding. I went to the birth control page and found seventeen options. Not only options, but there was detailed information about each method. Wow!!!!
As a male, I don’t need seventeen choices, but then I realized the gift of knowing all the different methods so if and when there’s going to be sexual activity, the guy can be an informed, active participant and discuss the methods with an intended partner.
That’s just the web site. Bridgercare’s staff of caring and non-judgmental people are available to carry out their previously described mission that includes two services that I wish had been available when I was a teen; The Teen Clinic and the Peer Education.
The Teen Clinic is for ANYONE through the age of 19. The services include birth control, emergency contraception (Plan B/Morning After Pill), condoms, period pain, pregnancy tests, pregnancy options counseling, STI testing and treatment, annual exams for all genders (women, men, intersex, trans), depression and anxiety help. They also help direct and connect a person with resources and aid if they are experiencing sexual abuse or assault.
Peer Education is a combined effort by Bridgercare and HAVEN to have a high school peer-to-peer education and advocacy group. And I quote, “The Peer Education Team not only offers medically-accurate, developmentally-appropriate, evidence based, culturally-sensitive sexual health and relationship information to students in local schools and community groups, but they also provide resources and referrals outside of presentations in informal settings. In this way, area youth are better able to access the information they need as it becomes relevant to them”.
I’m a firm believer that education and low-cost contraception can reduce unwanted pregnancies. A six-year program by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment offered teenage girls and low income women free or minimum cost intrauterine devices and implants that prevent pregnancy for years. Over 30,000 women participated in the program. The program’s results showed a 40 percent drop in teen births and that the abortion rate fell 35 percent.
The services Bridgercare provides in the fields of birth control and sex education are an invaluable component of our community.
A huge thank you to Jerry for sharing his story!