Disclaimer: The following blog entry deals with the women’s health issues of birth control and menstruation. If you are a man who is easily squicked out by talk of women’s periods or are an individual of a religious persuasion which makes you easily offended by talk of any birth control except the rhythm method and/or abstinence, then you may not want to read this. If you do have the stomach and/or progressive attitude to handle such subject matter, however, by all means read on.
Ah, the adult female body. From a reproductive standpoint it is an extremely efficient baby-making machine, with a cycle of preparation and ovulation which follows a predictable schedule and the means to nourish offspring not only as they develop, but in that crucial first year or two of life as well. And should the ovum not be fertilized? The uterine lining is shed over the course of a few days through the vagina and then is renewed over the next cycle. A perfect reproductive machine…
But, from a practical standpoint, it’s a pain in the ass! If you are a woman of reproductive age and do not plan on reproducing anytime soon—either because you’re holding off, you have enough kids already, or you don’t want kids…period (no pun intended)—then every month you have to deal with Mother Nature annoying the crap out of you over your empty womb. Oh, but she doesn’t just nag like a mortal mother would. Instead, she afflicts you with cramps, bloating, fatigue, the moodiness that comes from the aforementioned symptoms, and uncontrollable vaginal bleeding. Not only is it messy and inconvenient, but you’re also expected to keep a stiff upper lip about it unless you want the men around you to start making jokes about what is really a serious annoyance for you (seriously, bleeding uncontrollably from your privates is not fun)!
And then there’s the fact that aside from condoms, most fertility control methods are on the woman to implement. The pill, IUD’s, hormone therapy implants…heck, some guys even expect the woman to remember the condoms! Sometimes, a way to just innately tell the body, “No. This is not a good time for babies.” without medical intervention would be very useful.
In our world, we handle it as best we can with tampons, sanitary napkins, and over the counter medications. Sometimes, we even use birth control pills not only to prevent unwanted pregnancy but also to calm our menstrual symptoms to a manageable level…or even to suppress menstruation altogether. But, what do women in the magic-filled fantasy world of The Star-Runner Chronicles do for menstrual maintenance and fertility control? Well, let’s start at the beginning…
The Imperfect Design
In the beginning, when Origia was designing the mortal races, she wasn’t quite sure how limited lifespan and mortal vulnerabilities would affect the need for reproduction in keeping up stable populations. As a goddess, she knew that she could shut down or turn on her own reproductive ability at will…but was that such a good thing for beings who would live short, unpredictable lives? And so, as an experiment, she made it so that the women of all of the mortal races would have an automatic fertility cycle—much like animals and monsters. Depending on the relative lifespan and vulnerability of each species, she set some to work on a monthly schedule, while others worked on an annual or multi-annual schedule.
Furthermore, she implemented a system by which bodily reserves built up for reproduction would be disposed of in case of failed conception: Ovoviviparous races such as the dragons, lizardfolk, and harpies would lay a dud egg while viviparous races such as humans, elves, and centaurs would menstruate. To her reckoning, fertile female mortals failing to reproduce would be rare, since environmental factors such as predation, disease, accidents, and food scarcity would likely take out a lot of people before reproductive age or after they’d successfully produced a handful of offspring. This meant that, like animals, every available mortal female would have to be reproducing (or, at least trying to) in order to keep her race from going extinct.
Unfortunately, Origia’s hypothesis did not factor in such things as medical and safety advances which improved survival rates and lifespans, technological and magical advances which allowed mortal beings to fight off the predators which plagued them with deadly ease, the effects of herding and agriculture in reducing food scarcity, or just plain free will and individual goals. In short, she who is widely touted as the Goddess of Innovation and the Chief Scientist among the gods…screwed up bigtime. Being a humble scientist and not an egotistical, “I’m always right,” supernatural dictator, however, she wasn’t afraid to admit her error when her creations called her out on it.
The Rocky Beginning
When mortal women first began figuring out how to handle their reproductive cycles, they not only found themselves dealing with their bodies on the matter…but also their men. In races where women simply laid dud eggs, they found themselves fighting and arguing with their men over how to determine if the egg was truly a dud or a fertilized egg with a growing baby inside and how to dispose of it if it was a dud. In many instances, the men wanted to use the dud eggs in all sorts of rituals and spells and such, or sacrifice them to the gods…while the women just wanted to fry them up and eat them. There was a lot of push and pull, but eventually the women won out—sometimes with the concession that the eating of the dud would be treated as a sacred ritual.
For women of the races that menstruated, however, there tended to be a lot more craziness out of the men on the subject. Mainly, this was due to the fact that the uterine lining is expelled in the form of blood. Blood, being essential to life, generally only leaves the body if one is injured or dying, and the fact that women were bleeding on a regular basis unless they became pregnant…Let’s be honest. It freaked the men out.
So, while the women were trying to find practical, reasonable ways of dealing with their menstrual flow so that it wouldn’t get in the way of everyday life, the men were going around making up silly rules and superstitions about women being “unclean” during their periods or not being allowed to do certain normal things like cooking, or doing the wash, or touching other people during that time. Menstruating women were sometimes even totally quarantined from their families and communities, making things even more inconvenient than they had to be. And if they weren’t being treated like they were gross and diseased, then they were being treated as objects of worship…or, at the very least, their menstrual secretions were, meaning that they would have to sit on a collection pot or vase the whole time so as not to waste a single “sacred” drop of the stuff. Again, inconvenient.
Aside from the pot, women began to use folded up rags, highly absorbent plant derivatives, and even invented the first tampons as a means to catch the blood so they could get on with their day. They even discovered herbal remedies to reduce cramps, bloating, and fatigue, and both viviparous and ovoviviparous women were discovering herbal compounds which could be used to either enhance or decrease their fertility (naturally, the fertility reducers were something that they kept secret from the men more often than not, because then they might have started accusing truly infertile women of using such things to deny them children and…yeah). But, even as women were slowly making progress on handling their reproductive cycles through non-magical means, several dedicated female mages were looking for a perfect magical solution to the problem.
Female mages were just as keen as the rest of the female population on solving the problem of controlling menstruation and fertility. In ancient times, entire covens of witches (who are specialists in wild, herb, spirit, and non-elemental magics) and secret societies composed of lady mages of all races and disciplines devoted their lives to research into using magic in the field of women’s reproductive health. The main reason why it was almost exclusively women doing the research boiled down to two simple reasons. The first was because most men were totally fine with the way that society traditionally handled women and their reproductive systems…since, you know, they weren’t really affected all that much by it. The second was because women were affected by their reproductive systems and the way that society handled them, and constantly having to go out of their way to stay functional and productive while their bodies were pestering them with menstruation and dud eggs or trying to figure out what to do with an unwanted baby without looking like a heartless monster about it was a pain in the ass—especially for women who were trying to focus on a career of some sort and needed those interruptions like they needed a hole in the head.
For generations, these women worked long and hard on solutions which were not only convenient and easy to use, but also affordable enough that even the poorest of the poor could afford them…or, at the very least, that donating them to poor women wouldn’t break the bank. They went through numerous potions, elixirs, tinctures, and prototype spells and enchantments. Then, one day, there was a huge breakthrough.
This breakthrough is attributed to the witch Lorelai Calan and her research team at Black Pearl University in Meduwa in the year 2091 B.W.D. For thirty years, she had been working on an all-in-one enchantment which would freeze the reproductive cycle at the stage right after menstruation or the laying of a dud egg, preventing both pregnancy and the cyclical expulsion of duds or menstrual blood until such time as the woman removed the enchantment. Things kept going wrong—sometimes horribly so—until one of her grad students, Rilliella Vannien, noticed that a batch of rabbits in one of the other labs had never grown to full adult size.
On further investigation, Vannien found that the cage had been decorated with a string of beads made of merkwier—a very cheap and plentiful muddy green gemstone which was once thought to have absolutely no magical use whatsoever—as an identification tag. As it turns out, the merkwier had been stored in a drawer with several vials of mimfora, an herbal compound which was used to retard the growth of weeds and other plants, and had absorbed some of its properties. When the beads were removed from the cage, the rabbits were able to grow as normal, with no ill effects.
Excited by her discovery, Vannien rushed to Mistress Calan with the news and she immediately had the team begin to run trials with merkwier and its ability to absorb the properties of herbs and other substances, as well as spells. They found that merkwier has a strange tendency to absorb the properties of substances meant to slow or halt biological processes and, odder still, could be used in its virgin state in spells meant for that very purpose!
After a few more years of study and experimentation, Mistress Calan and her team unveiled the very first fertility control amulet—a pewter pendant in the shape of an octagon, etched with runes, with merkwier set in the center and each of the corners. While worn, it prevents the reproductive cycle from advancing, which prevents menstruation and the formation of dud eggs, but when removed the cycle begins again as normal without causing any ill effects to the woman or the children that she bears. Within a few decades other functional designs were discovered and put into production as well, much to the delight of women everywhere. In the space of one hundred and fifty years, merkwier and pewter jewelry of this type quickly became a traditional gift for young girls after having their first period or laying their first dud.
Today, the vast majority of women of reproductive age own and use merkwier charms. They are especially popular with female adventurers, athletes, scholars, women who have already had enough kids, women who never want to have kids, and prostitutes. There once was a bit of controversy (mostly from men) on their use…but the women who were now enjoying their lives more fully thanks to these charms told the detractors to shut the Hells up and mind their own damn business. Mainly it worked because even powerful queens and high priestesses were on the merkwier charm bandwagon and, well, a lot of those women were good with either weapons or magic or both…and the noble women liked to keep their skills secret until they had to kill somebody.
Those few women who do not use merkwier charms to regulate their reproductive cycles generally still use the same old herbal remedies as their ancestors as well as tampons and absorbent pads during their periods, or continue with the ritual consumption of their dud eggs. Condoms and diaphragms have been added to the traditional arsenal of herbal concoctions in the area of non-magical fertility control, and even women who use charms still use condoms to keep from contracting SDT’s. In fact, condom use by prostitutes is legally mandated in places where their services are legal—and “informally enforced” (no glove, no love, and if you try and get some unprotected anyway, Big Bertha will make you “disappear”) in most places where said services are not particularly legal.
Well, that’s it for this week! Join us next week for an article from the Kinnley Gazette concerning the city’s recent bandit problem. Until then, be sure to check out The Star-Runner Chronicles series on Amazon.com (and all international versions thereof, print and Kindle ebook editions available), and feel free to archive binge on this blog, check out my Twitter page, or learn about me at a glance on Pintrest. Also, if you’ve already read the books, be sure to drop a rating or review on Amazon, Goodreads, or Shelfari, and if you enjoy them or this blog, make sure to share the love with your friends!
Are you a Sonic The Hedgehog fan? Then you might want to check out my Fan Works Spot to read my fan fic, Sonic Hyuminz! Acts 1-3 are up now and Act 4: He Came In Like a Wrecking Ball, in which Sonic and friends go head-to-head with Dr. Eggman for the first time, will be up on April 14th!