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Feminist funnywoman Caitlin Moran says the planet doesn’t need your babies

Caitlin Moran and the text "Think you want kids? Read this!"Caitlin Moran in Grazia magazine. The accompanying article is not online. Boo.

Leave it to a wiseass mother of two to make the best case I've ever read for not having kids.

Caitlin Moran is currently having an American media moment as she marks U.S. publication of her book How to Be a Woman, a memoir-slash-manifesto that's been a massive best-seller in the U.K. She's been described as the British Tina Fey, the next Nora Ephron, and an occasional Lady Gaga bathroom companion. Everyone's talking about her fervid defense of feminism. ("Do you have a vagina? and Do you want to be in charge of it? If you said 'yes' to both, then congratulations! You're a feminist.") But not enough people are talking about her fervid defense of the childfree life -- so I'm going to.

Thing is, Moran loves being a mum (in addition to being many other things, like a columnist for The Times of London). She has a sweet and honkingly funny chapter called "Why You Should Have Children." But she follows that with a whip-smart chapter entitled "Why You Shouldn't Have Children." The latter case so rarely gets vocalized, and Moran vocalizes it so damn well, that I want to block-quote the entire chapter. But that would mean a lot of typing for me. So instead I'll just block-quote a big chunk, and then you'll have to go buy the book to read the rest. Which you should do anyway.

Read more: Childfree, Population, Sex


Third-World problems in the First World: We need family planning to fight poverty in the U.S. too

Jason DeParle has a long article in The New York Times on how single motherhood is expanding in the American middle class and bringing financial troubles along with it. He focuses on two friends who work together at a daycare center: "They are both friendly white women from modest Midwestern backgrounds who left for college with conventional hopes of marriage, motherhood and career."

One of the women, Chris Faulkner, "did standard things in standard order: high school, college, job, marriage and children," and she is now leading a comfortable middle-class existence.

The other woman, Jessica Schairer, is a single mother of three, trying to get by making just under $25,000 a year, supplemented by food stamps. She did not do things in standard order: "She got pregnant during her first year of college, left school and stayed in a troubled relationship that left her with three children when it finally collapsed six years ago."

DeParle tells these women's stories and puts them in context with data about larger social trends, but what jumped out at me is something that he didn't mention at all: contraception, or a lack thereof.

Read more: Living, Population, Sex


Caring about family planning does not make you a slut, according to Melinda Gates

Melinda GatesContraception: It saves lives and it's not slutty. Any questions? (Photo: Gates Foundation)

Melinda Gates will celebrate World Population Day by avoiding saying the word "population," and at the same time doing more to address population-related challenges than anyone else on the planet.

She has adopted family planning as her signature issue and is leading an effort by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to make contraceptives widely available to women in developing countries. On July 11, World Population Day, she'll be headlining the London Summit on Family Planning, cosponsored by her foundation and the U.K. government. The aim of the summit is to raise $4 billion to provide family-planning services over the next eight years to 120 million women. About twice that many women now lack access, which Gates says is "a crime."

Gates stresses the health benefits of the campaign and tries to defuse controversy by sidestepping the issue of abortion and rejecting the old-school notion of "population control," which evokes images of rich white men telling poor women of color how many kids to have. Gates addressed this in an interview on CNN:

Read more: Population, Sex


A male birth control dudes might actually use

Photo by Matt Herbison.

You know what doesn't do a lot to help reduce unwanted births? Putting women in sole charge of contraception, then making it nigh-impossible for them to exercise any reproductive freedom. We could improve sex ed, affordability of birth control pills, and access to abortion -- but as long as there are Republicans around, we might be better off researching easy contraception for men. Which is why this new topical contraceptive gel, developed by researchers at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, could be a big deal.

Read more: Population, Sex


Newly discovered mushroom is actually a rubber vagina

Well here's a story that sounds like an urban legend: Villagers in China unearthed a mysterious plant that they thought might be some type of mushroom. It's described as "fleshy and meaty," with "something that looks like lips" at one end, and on the other end there's a hole with a shaft in between and ... look, you see where this is going. It's an artificial vag.

Read more: Media, Sex


The future I want: Reproductive rights in a changing climate

This article is part of a series created by Friends of UNFPA in the lead-up to Rio+20.

Children in Leyte, the Philippines, where large families are still the norm. (Photo by Glen McBethlaw.)

Days from now, some 130 heads of state and tens of thousands of activists from around the world will gather in Rio de Janeiro for the “Rio + 20” Earth Summit. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently laid out his vision for the conference in a New York Times article entitled “The Future We Want.”

Ki-moon expressed hope that the meeting will inspire new thinking, focus on people, and issue a “clarion call” for smarter resource use. He gave a nod to the importance of women, who “hold up half the sky,” and of young people, “the very face of our future.”

Still, one crucial ingredient went without mention: sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). The inclusion of SRHR and access to family planning completes the jigsaw puzzle of a just and sustainable world.


1915 document shows that penguins are extremely sexually depraved

England's Natural History Museum at Tring recently rediscovered a 1915 report about penguin behavior that had been buried for almost 100 years -- because it was considered too X-rated to be suitable for publication. Which, okay, yes, people from 1915 were prudish, but also, penguins are getting up to some freaky shit.

Read more: Animals, Sex


Melinda Gates wants family planning back on the global agenda

Melinda GatesMelinda Gates has big plans. (Photo by World Economic Forum)

Can Melinda Gates do for family planning what Al Gore did for climate change? Gates has decided to make birth control her signature issue. “My goal is to get this back on the global agenda,” she tells Newsweek. As co-chair of the richest foundation in the world, she might actually be able to do it.

The contraceptive cause could certainly use a high-profile advocate: 215 million women [PDF] around the world want to avoid pregnancy but aren't currently using modern birth control. As Gates explained last month during a TEDxChange presentation on family planning, "This is a life-and-death crisis. Every year, 100,000 women who don’t want to be pregnant die in childbirth. About 600,000 women who don’t want to be pregnant give birth to a baby who dies in her first month of life. I know everybody wants to save these mothers and babies."

Read more: Living, Population, Sex


Easy, reversible, 100 percent effective birth control is for men only

One of the best things we can do for the planet is stop putting new humans on it, which means promoting safe and effective birth control for people who want to keep their offspring levels between zero and "get that, would you, Deirdre." But hormonal birth control comes with side effects like weight gain, mood swings, blood clots, and Rush Limbaugh. Luckily, there's a birth control option that's safe, quick, easy, reversible, and 100 percent effective for 10 years. But back off, ladies: For once in our lives, this birth control's just for dudes.

Read more: Childfree, Population, Sex


Global warming affects penguins’ sex lives

Nobody likes to be rushed during sex, but climate change is forcing some penguin species to reschedule business time. Wednesday night is no longer the night for love! Now you do it on Monday OR YOU DIE OUT.