Episode 97- The History of Contraception with Donna Drucker

So, we’re on month 1,083 of this pandemic. If you’re anything like us, you’re looking for something interesting to do while you’re stuck at home. Maybe learn a new language and find a pen pal whose view of Americans has lessened with time? Take up woodworking and build a canoe to paddle yourself away? Knit a huge blanket to hide under until 2020 is over?

That all sounds like a lot of work, so you might be tempted to just find a partner and pass a little time carrying out a bunch of romance novel euphemisms… if you know what we mean. (Who are we kidding? You always know what we mean.) But before you do the horizontal Shuffle Off to Buffalo, take a moment to listen to this week’s interview. It will put you in the mood… to consider reproductive justice, how far we’ve come, and how far we have to go.

In today’s episode, we learned why government attempts to control anyone’s kitty is a no-win situation. Yes, Flash, we realize it’s technically the dog days of summer, but sometimes we need to branch out. And we’d like to say that no one was harmed in the recording of this podcast, but after you hear what author and scholar Donna Drucker has to say about previous contraceptive methods, you’ll wonder how we’ve still managed to have an overpopulated planet by this point.

Seriously, Donna is welcome at any cocktail party we may host in the future times. It would be very hard to top her answers to, “What are some of the forms of contraception used in the past?” Let’s just say thank God there’s a Lysol shortage.

Donna is an accomplished scholar with a focus on the history of sexuality. While a grad student at IU-Bloomington, she was able to take advantage of all that having the Kinsey Institute on campus had to offer. She even published a book on Kinsey a few years ago. We learned that, despite everything that Kinsey had coded, he really didn’t take contraception into account. So Donna stepped in to research that very topic.

Needless to say, the history of contraception, much like any discussion of regulating reproduction, is not a straightforward study. And it’s not without its wince-worthy moments. Obviously, we want to keep you curious and not give anything away, so here are a few choice words from our interview with Donna: “crocodile dung,” “spermicides,” “eugenics,” “control,” and “the sting means it’s working.”

All of these words require a lot of follow-up questions, and the folks from the MIT Press Essential Knowledge Series agreed. One of their acquisitions editors asked Donna to contribute a book to the series, and the end result is Contraception: A Concise History. In it you’ll learn why Donna starts the book — and the era of modern contraception — in the 1880s; how ideas about contraception reflect the period in history; and what reproductive justice truly means.

Side bar: We wonder what an acquisitions editor from the MIT Press Essential Knowledge Series would ask us to write a book about. How to rank 80s and 90s hair bands? The history of podcast mascots?

If you want to know more about some of the shudder-inducing approaches to contraception or how U.S. ideas of contraception compare to those in other countries, tune in to our interview with Donna. And if you want to learn not only the history of contraception, but also the current state and future of reproductive justice, be sure to link to Donna’s book here. To connect with her and learn even more fascinating facts on the history of contraception and sex, you can find her on Twitter.

And now that you know the facts, maybe it would be a better idea to just put on your sweatpants, order a burrito, and binge-watch Mindhunter. Something to think about.


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