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What’s the true cost of birth control in Ontario?

Women are forced to pay for birth control, feminine hygiene products and take responsibility for their fertility in a way that men are not. As a country that purports democracy and equality, steps need to be taken to ensure women aren’t forced to pay for much-needed products.

Birth control in Canada is expensive and cuts deep into the pockets of young women already trying to make ends meet. Without insurance, birth control has an added cost and women are expected to fork out the cash. One third of women in North America have reported struggling to pay for birth control at one point in their lives.By providing it for a cost in Canada, it questions whether protecting yourself is actually a right of women or is it instead a cash cow for greedy pharmaceutical companies who are actively taking advantage of women.

Birth control is universally covered in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and China, among other countries. Canada does not offer birth control for free or subsidized without insurance coverage, and this limits accessibility for women looking for different options.

 

After comparing prices at three different pharmacies in Toronto, the average prices for the five main types of birth control are astronomical. Mirena, a hormonal IUD offered by Bayer who is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in Canada, has an average cost of $416. Though it lasts for five years, finding this type of money as a young woman is unrealistic and often prevents women from accessing this option.  The Nuva ring is the second most expensive option because it must be bought monthly. It is approximately $31 per month and this cost adds up quickly throughout the year to $328. Though oral birth control appears affordable month to month at $20, it adds up to $240 per year making it the third most costly option.

Women who are low-income have alternative options to seek cost-free birth control, but the availability is certainly limited. There are 14 sexual health clinics in Toronto, most with extremely limited drop-in hours. These clinics will help provide low-to-no cost birth control to women who need it, but these clinics have long waitlists and are drop-in only. Oftentimes, these clinics are so busy that there will be over 20 people waiting at the door prior to its opening.

Other options include Family Planning, which offers certain birth control options free and charges a discounted price for others. The IUD is discounted, but still has a price tag on it. If you are looking for an IUD as well, you must phone at the beginning of the month to schedule an appointment that will be at least three weeks later. The other option is the Bay Street Centre for Birth Control, but book quickly. The waitlist to book an appointment at the centre was three months long.

It is clear that Canada has is an issue when it comes to birth control. The act of charging women to protect themselves from getting pregnant is arguably discrimination.  Canada needs to join the other countries that have moved to universally cover the costs of birth control, and grant access for women of all incomes to different types of protection. Only then will I say that Canada is a country that truly supports the rights of women.

 

When I get that feeling, I want self-love healing

Try mentioning masturbation at a dinner party and watch as silence sweeps the room, facial expressions turn to shock and eyes will lower in shame. The word itself evokes a discomfort in most people that is not often seen in other sexualized topics of discussion.

It is time for the taboo surrounding female masturbation to be chucked into the trash, joining 1950’s Chatelaine ads advocating for traditional marriage and anti-abortion. Women have fought for sexual liberation since the 1960’s and 70’s — now let’s celebrate and talk about the importance of self-love.

Though squeezing the peach or stroking the sailor is mostly seen as a recreational activity, done under the covers late at night, research shows that masturbation has positive physical and psychological health effects for women. It is also a great way to get in touch with yourself … by touching yourself.

According to a study on vaginal massage released by the Research Clinic for Holistic Medicine in Copenhagen, Denmark, “Existential healing is not a local healing of any tissue, but a healing of the wholeness of the person, making him much more resourceful, loving, and aware of himself, his own needs, and wishes”.

Vaginal massage addresses not only physical problems, but it also allows the individual to understand how their sexual organs are affected by emotions and physical health. This, in turn, promotes further understanding of what a person needs in order to be satisfied with their health and their sex lives.

Vaginal massage and acupuncture also helps with incontinence and urinary tract problems. “These techniques often used for healing chronic pains in the pelvis or genitals, and treating the highly inconvenient pattern of frequent reinfection of the urinary system,” the Research Clinic for Holistic Medicine found.

In addition, masturbation can lead to some pretty earth shattering orgasms with practice. Orgasms resulting from masturbation aren’t just pleasurable, but they also secret higher levels of oxytocin. Oxytocin regulates prolactin, a stress hormone which has been shown to cause breast cancer and brain tumours. It is also a natural antibiotic and helps to fight nasty bacteria. So, next time someone asks what you are doing with your hands “down there”, why not tell them you are fighting cancer.

“Masturbation is a great way to explore your body for its own sake, have an enjoyable and pleasurable time, and learn what parts of your body are most responsive,” said Isabel Carlin from the University of Toronto Sexual Education Centre. “It’s also a great way to get to know your body and feel more comfortable with it for future sexual situations with other people.”

Having the ability to get yourself off whenever you please can be empowering and beautiful. Unfortunately there are many stigmas around masturbation that prevent women from exploring the exciting world down below.

“Stigma around masturbation can definitely make people feel stressed and anxious when they do masturbate (or even get the urge to do so), which can stop people from masturbating entirely,” said Carlin.

Reducing stigma and empowering people to embrace their own sexuality is a primary step towards sexual healing. For women with poor self-esteem or who have been sexualized in their past, masturbation is the last thing they want to do, despite it’s  positive effects.

“When a woman begins to view herself as an object, the mental resources that are required to constantly monitor her appearance can disrupt her thought processes, thus disconnecting her from her natural internal cues,” writes Mels Van Driel, urologist and sexologist, in his book With the Hand: A Cultural History of Masturbation. “Body satisfaction can also influence a woman’s ability to orgasm, her willingness to explore novel sexual activities, and allow her to feel more comfort in providing sexual pleasure for herself”.

Many people shy away from their genitalia, thinking that self-love is a bit gross, disturbing, and inappropriate. But, it’s not. There is nothing wrong with hunkering down, grabbing some candles and mood music, locking your door, and beginning the process of understanding the inner-workings of your magic spot. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

When in doubt, remember the great words of Woody Allen, “I won’t hear a bad word about masturbation. It’s sex with someone I love.” Self-love is an important asset to understanding and loving your body. This Valentine’s day, take advantage, and enjoy one of the most satisfying ways to stay healthy and happy.