Dear Mr. Limbaugh,
You don’t know it, but you helped me today. I was at the gym–I hate the gym, Mr. Limbaugh–and I started surfing the channels on the dinky gym TV for a distraction. I landed on CNN, and watched Anderson Cooper replay the footage of you saying those words–the ones that have landed you in such trouble. And suddenly I had so much fast-moving rage coursing through my limbs that my workout was a breeze.
You said this about Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke’s decision to testify before Congress about the need for affordable birth control:
“What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex…If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it, and I’ll tell you what it is. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”
Mr. Limbaugh, I have PCOS–the disease that helped land Sandra Fluke in your cross-hairs. During her testimony, she told the story of a friend who lost an ovary, and possibly her chance at having children, to PCOS. I have never had that experience, Mr. Limbaugh, and I am thankful every day that I have so far avoided it–because I have unfettered access to hormonal contraceptives.
Without birth control, I do not menstruate. Frustrated eggs become cysts on my ovaries; my endometrium swells with unspent blood. Without birth control, that unshed uterine lining might one day become cancerous, and begin consuming me from the inside; or, a cyst might grow large enough to burst, and I could go the way of Ms. Fluke’s friend. With birth control, I can keep my organs at least somewhat close to normal.
I was almost fourteen when I first started taking birth control. I was shy, nerdy, awkward, as virginal as they come. The night I started the pills, and many nights afterward, I quietly cried myself to sleep–because I thought taking birth control had somehow made me dirty. Just by accepting a drug into my body that was linked so closely with sex–even if it might save my life down the line–I had become a slut. And there was nothing I could do about it.
I didn’t get this from my family–as sex-positive and supportive as they come–nor from my doctor. It was in the air, all around me, the hushed whisper of birth control intertwined with sex, and sex intertwined with nasty rotten things. It took me a very long time to dig myself out of that hole, to stop shivering at the freakishness of me and realize that birth control was a medication like any other–a medication that, covered by insurance, has made an enormous difference to my health and well-being. And it took even longer for me to realize that I could have sex, and enjoy it, and begin exercising the sex-related benefits of birth control, without digging myself back into filth.
I did not start having sex when I started birth control, Mr. Limbaugh. I came to sex on my own terms, when I was ready, many years later. I rely on birth control to stave off cancer, ruptured cysts, physical pain, a uterus heavy with trapped blood. I also rely on it for peace of mind during sex. Neither of those things make me a slut, or a prostitute, or a pornographic plaything, Mr. Limbaugh. And you damn well know that.
You aren’t interested in whether women want the government to pay for their sex lives. You don’t even believe that’s what birth control advocates want. I don’t think you even knew the substance of Ms. Fluke’s testimony before you started calling her vile names. You are simply waving Sandra Fluke in front of you like a cardboard cutout. You are throwing stink bombs, Mr. Limbaugh, because that’s what gets you fed.
But think about this. You didn’t just criticize women who use birth control, or who want to have that choice: you attacked a woman who is supporting other women who want to use birth control, no matter the reason. According to your words, Mr. Limbaugh, any woman who has ever cared about another woman who uses hormonal contraceptives for any reason at all–or who wants to but can’t afford it–might as well start selling her body for sex.
By your logic, my mother is a prostitute, because she paid for my birth control until I could afford it on my own. My sister became a slut at age 10, because she didn’t stop loving me once I started taking birth control. My close friends and friendly acquaintances who supported me should have their intimate moments videotaped and put on the internet, for your titillation and their humiliation. All because I take birth control to keep me healthy.
I don’t think you actually believe this. I think you know what you said was despicable. But you don’t even have the common courtesy to own up to that.
You have apologized for the words you used, but not for the sentiment behind them. You have not said you are sorry for turning Sandra Fluke, or any other woman like her, into something vile and less-than-human. You have not apologized for using our worries, and our multifaceted medical and sexual needs, to make a crude and tasteless joke. You have apologized because your bosses told you to, and because the steady stream of advertising losses is becoming a national embarrassment. You don’t mean that “I’m sorry.” I know you don’t mean it.
So, Mr. Limbaugh, from the bottom of my hormone-tainted, semen-stained heart: fuck you. Fuck you for chewing on our humanity like it was the wet end of a cigar, and blowing contempt in our faces like so much smoke. Fuck you for validating everything I was afraid of when I cried myself to sleep.
Fuck you for making me waste so many words on you.