Meet the People Who Won’t Have Sex Until They’re Sterilized
by Alaina Demopoulos
…But when it came to her own feelings, Sasha “dreaded almost every other aspect of being a parent.” She didn’t want to experience pregnancy, the trauma of childbirth, the financial burden of raising a little one. And she worried how being a parent would “directly inhibit [her] ability to achieve other goals in life.”
Sasha spent time volunteering with children to see if she’d change her mind. It only solidified her feelings. “I didn’t dislike the kids, [but] I just wasn’t comfortable there,” she said. “I realized that parenting a young kid would just not be for me.”
…She began researching permanent contraception in the form of a sterilization procedure. Sasha made the decision to not have sex until she could afford the surgery.
To this day, she hasn’t been able to get one. So Sasha, who is now 25 and lives in Minneapolis, hasn’t had sex since her sophomore year of college.
Part of the problem, Sasha and others say, is how difficult it can be for young women and non-binary people to convince doctors they will not “regret” opting into a procedure that leaves them unable to have children for the rest of their lives.
Women in the United States must be 21 to have their sterilizations covered by Medicaid or the Indian Health Service. Those with private insurance do not have that age restriction.
One study cited by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) reported that around 20 percent of women who get the procedure before they are 30 feel “regretful” afterwards. That risk of regret drops down to 6 percent for women who are sterilized after age 30.
Still, ACOG lists sterilization as the most common form of contraception for married couples, with 18.6 percent of American women aged 15-49 getting permanent contraception.
…Nisha Verma, MD, the Darney-Landy Fellow at ACOG and a complex family planning specialist, told The Daily Beast that, “There is still some paternalism where there’s a provider who won’t do permanent contraception or tubal ligations for younger people or those who haven’t had kids. I’ve seen some people who have been turned away from other doctors. But many of us have intentionally shifted from that and are counseling patients instead of telling them what to do. We talk about the potential regret and that this is permanent, but feel that it’s important to provide permanent contraception to people who feel that this is something they really want, whether they’re 18, 21, or relatively ‘young’ people.”
…Kristy MacLennan, a psychology honors student from Perth, Western Australia, recently completed a research study and thesis on the lived experiences of childfree women who have been refused sterilization surgery by doctors.
She spoke with 11 people for this project. Many participants said they developed tokophobia, or the fear of being pregnant, because of how difficult it was to get their procedures done. This led some to avoid sex completely.
“The situation ended up splitting me and my partner at that point up, just because I kind of went through a stage after that where I was just like, ‘I don’t want to have sex at all if this is going to be the outcome,’” one woman told MacLennan. Another newlywed said, “For the first almost year of our marriage, living together and like, our intimate life was almost non-existent because I was so terrified.”
…Matt, an 18-year-old college student from Central Florida, has never had sex—and he doesn’t plan to until he’s had a vasectomy. “It’s cooled down the [number of people] who I can reasonably go out with,” he said. “I haven’t dated anyone. I went on one date, but the issue is she said she wanted five children. So when I told her that I don’t want kids, we just became friends.”
He once told his family pediatrician that he wanted a vasectomy, and the doctor told him that he would change his mind eventually. …
…While the decision to not have children—and, for some, therefore sex—remains deeply personal to every individual, there is evidence to suggest the choice falls in line with declining birth rates in the United States.
Melissa S. Kearney, a professor of economics at the University of Maryland, recently co-authored a report on the “The Puzzling Fall of Birth Rates Since the Great Recession.” The paper found that between 1980 and 2007, US birth rates “generally fluctuated within a narrow range of roughly 65 to 70 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44.” But since 2007, the numbers have “plummeted, reaching 55.8 in 2020, about a 20 percent decline over 13 years.”
This reduction impacts women “across many demographic subgroups,” meaning there’s no one type of woman who’s having less children. Women with and without college degrees, teens, and women of differing races are contributing to the steep drop-off in birth rates.
… All of the people who spoke to The Daily Beast about their decision to remain abstinent until they can get sterilized felt like they would not regret their decision as they got older.