The Contraception Crisis: Where Have Our Sexual Health Services Gone and A Rant About Accessibility

23 July 2017


The mini pill, the injection, the implant; my contraceptive history stretches back to age 18 when I was finally getting reliable dick (who needs a family friendly opening anyway?) and needed to protect against an unplanned pregnancy. Since then, I’ve trialled a number of different methods, each with their benefits and drawbacks, with my most recent of changes happening this past Monday when I had my implant removed. The process of actually having it taken out proved to be long-winded at best and a dire reflection of our sexual health services at worst, and having spoken to both my IRL friends and you lovely lot on social, I’ve come to realise that this, unfortunately, is the norm.

I’ve always resented having to take contraception. I think that this is an important point to open up with, because the onus of contraception is focused largely on - if not almost solely on - women, and we suffer both physically and mentally as a result.

Let’s be real for a moment - condoms are hardly the flavour of the month anymore. There’s no point coming to a conversation on contraception with the naive idealisation that either single people or people in couples rely on condoms as their main form of protection. Condoms have become somewhat of a stop-gap - that in-between solution that people use either if the sex is temporary (FWB or drunken hook ups, for example), or if there is a more permanent solution to come, with that more permanent solution being the female partner engaging in a female-based form of contraception.

Outfit & Interior


Top - Missguided*
Jeans - Topshop (old - similar here)
Earrings - ASOS
Sofa - Bensons
Magazine Rack - H&M 

Desenio Prints





Thinking of it now, I honestly couldn’t think of a single couple I know who use condoms as their central contraception. And a large part of this, I think, comes from the woman’s internalised fear that the guy’s sexual pleasure is going to suffer somewhat as a result. “He said it doesn’t feel as good with a condom on…”; we can cite awkwardness, our own personal sensation and the fear of them splitting as the reason why we don’t prefer them, but in all truthfulness, isn’t it because we don’t want to be a shit lay? And thus we put a lad’s sexual enjoyment above the health of our own minds and bodies.

Since 18, I’ve pumped multiple unnecessary, unnatural and unwelcome hormones into my body. The whole time I’ve resented having to do so, even though I’ve been complicit in my own pressure to opt for hormonal contraception by not wanting to use condoms. The latest of my forays into the world of contraception was the implant, which I had put in around a year and a half back. All was well for a while and I began to think that I’d found the option for me, but unfortunately, about 6 months ago I started bleeding three weeks out of the month, resulting in me having to wear a panty liner most days ‘just in case’.

As luck would have it, I was then approached by Natural Cycles - a hormone-free certified contraceptive app - to engage in some sponsored content. Worry ye not, this is not said content, but this opened up my options and provided the motivation to finally have my implant removed.

And that’s where the palaver began.

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 I live in the middle of town - a stones throw to my local doctor’s surgery. “This is perfect,” I thought, “I’ll be able to book in next door and it will be out within the week.” I called to make an appointment, only to be told that they no longer offer that kind of service and I would have to attend the sexual health clinic over three and a half miles away. I don’t drive, so this instantly pissed me off. I’m lucky enough to be able to afford Ubers and taxis so I didn’t have to rely on anybody for transport, but what if the situation were different? What if I were a 14 year old girl who was too scared to tell her parents about her sexual life but still wanted access to proper care and professional advice? What if I were a young single mum who couldn’t afford the £18 round journey just to see a nurse for a 10 minute session? What if I wasn’t able bodied and transport was difficult for me to access?

To make matters worse, in order to have the implant removed, you have to go for two appointments. That’s right, two. You need to have the initial consultation, which is a routine - and in my opinion, pointless - conversation about why you want it removed and what the procedure will entail. You then have to book a separate appointment for the actual removal session itself.

I was very lucky in that I was able to pick up a last-minute cancellation which meant the space between my two appointments was only a week. Having spoken previously to the nurse, however, and to many of you on social, it seems that the normal waiting time is at least three weeks. At least.

And the reason for this seems to be that there simply aren’t enough sexual health doctors and nurses. During my first appointment, the nurse I was chatting to apologised for not being able to remove the implant there and then, explaining that only a few staff members are qualified to perform the procedure and unfortunately, they had then left to see patients at another clinic in another town because the resources were spread so thin. She even wished me luck as I left to make my next appointment, suggesting that it might be quicker to attend a clinic over 15 miles away because the waiting lists were so long.

I know girls that have turned up for appointments at their doctors only to be told, woops, no, we no longer offer sexual health services. I know girls who’ve had their implants put it without being told that they would have to get it removed somewhere else miles and miles away. I know of girls who have been waiting 6 weeks just to get an appointment to discuss sexual health. And that’s not right.

At present, young people are being pushed into a corner. Sexual health services are becoming more and more difficult to access, and as a result, our choices and our wellbeing are being limited beyond our control. It almost feels like you have to work for your contraception now; fill in this form, book this appointment, make this journey and do a double twirl and back flip when you see the first nurse, and you might just be able to bag yourself some free condoms.

For fear of being dragged off on a self-inflicted tangent, I’ll tie this one up here, but if you have any similar stories or experiences then this is definitely a topic I'd love to discuss further, so please either pop something in the comments below or come and find me over on social @chloeplumstead.

Until next time lovelies x


Nailing Festival-Ready Fashion for the Low Key Fashionista

19 July 2017




Festival fashion is a bit like marmite; you either love it or you hate it (or you’ve never really tried it so you’re kind of on the fence). You’re either decked from head to toe in sequins, feathers and a fluorescent bejewelled unitard, or you’re wearing your boyfriend’s jumper, and old pair of jeans and some beaten up Stans. The great thing about festivals is that it’s a rule free zone when it comes to fashion; you’re free to wear as much or as little as you want, whether that be extravagant as an expression of your sassy alter ego, or subdued for the sake of comfort and for easy peeing in the inevitably awful portaloos.

Historically, I’ve fallen into the latter camp. I’m a lazy dresser and comfort is definitely key, so more often than not, the planning that goes into my festival outfit consists of 15 minutes spent deciding between one denim item and another, assessing which will be the most forgiving when I dive into my deep-lunge dancing after one too many bevvies. Pop on a pair of old white trainers, lovingly ruined by many festivals gone by, and I’m pretty much good to go. I don’t even take a bag with me, instead opting to pop my ID, bank card and cash into Keiran’s pockets so I can keep my hands free for an impromptu Macarena session or the inevitably embarrassing jumping fist pumps.

Jacket - ASOS*
Denim Dress - ASOS*
Sandals - ASOS*
Sunglasses - ASOS*




That being said, I do often regret not indulging a little more in the cult of festival fashion. It’s not often you can pop some nipple tassels on and wade through a field filled with thousands of people without being promptly escorted to the back of a police car, and I sometimes feel like I miss that golden window of opportunity to go a little wild. That’s why, this year, I endeavoured to up my game a little bit.

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t been bathing in glue and then leaping head first into a pool of sequins, but I’ve definitely diverted a little from literally wearing my boyfriend’s jumper and some knackered old jeans like it’s a standard hungover Sunday. Festival fashion for the low-key fashionista can sometimes be difficult because fluorescents and glitter aren’t our natural arena, plus our natural instinct is to ~ always ~ put comfort first (and I’ll be honest, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever find me in a fishnet dress because being warm is my main priority in life), but hey, news flash, you can do both comfort and style without compromising massively on either.

Luckily for us, the ASOS Festival Collection has us covered. Whether, like me, you like to keep your look low-key but with a touch of experimentation to honour the festival dressing tradition, or you fall on the other end of the spectrum and find you run out of skin before you run out of glitter, then you’ll easily find something to suit your budget and style. I stayed true to my love for denim with this ASOS Denim Dungaree Dress and to my need for comfort with these easy wearing ASOS Leather Flat Sandals, but pushed myself outside of my comfort zone with this bougie ASOS Mongolian Faux Fur Jacket and ASOS 90s Oval Sunglasses.

Keep your peepers reading to see my fave picks from the ASOS Festival Collection, and let me know which side of the scale you fall on - minimal with a pinch of something special or loud, or proud and queen of the festival ground. Happy festival-ing!





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Jackets




Tops




Shoes




Bottoms




Sunglasses




This post was sponsored by ASOS but all imagery, wording and content is my own.

3 Faux Pas That Prove I'm Terrible At Dating

13 July 2017




If we use the term ‘dating’ loosely, my history stretches way back to being 14. Admittedly, these ‘dates’ consisted of going for a walk around the local park, sitting on the very front row of the cinema (no-one sits there - much easier to hunker down and snog) or strolling idly up and down the local high street, but when your repertoire is as limited as mine, you have to count as many as you can.

If we’re talking ~ proper ~ dates, then I’ve had three, maybe four at a push. I’m not a good dater, but I am a serial boyfriend collector. From 18 to 23, I've had about 8 months of being single, and within that time I managed to rack up what a lot of us would agree are the major dating faux pas. Here’s the catch though - I’ve never really taken dating seriously. I arranged four or five dates through Tinder and cancelled them all because I couldn’t be bothered to go, when I did go on dates, the ultimate goal was to get drunk and have some good stories to tell and if a boy didn’t want to go out with me again (even if we’d slept together the night before so I had ultimately been pumped and dumped), it was no biggie.

Some people feel 100 times more confident when they are a part of a loving relationship. They feel uplifted by their partner, given more confidence by having a permanent cheerleader on hand. Oddly, I am the other way (through no fault of my boyfriend's, I must add). I’ve written before about self sabotage in relationships and how, over time, I come to doubt both myself and my partner’s feelings, but this is the flip side. When I’m single, I’m at my most confident. So he doesn’t want to see me again? Aight. So I asked an awkward question that socially should have been saved for the third of fourth date? Who cares. So I invited my friend along because I was getting slightly bored of the date (more on that later). Better to have a good time, right?

Even though my dating history is succinct, it is mildly entertaining. Think of it as a very Ipswich version of Girls - a little bit sexy and a little bit Suffolk. There are no rooftop bars or art gallery openings to be found here my friends, oh no. It’s all Vodka Revs and a dodgy old pubs - v. Carrie Bradshaw.

Tee - ASOS
Skirt - River Island*
Boots - Topshop (River Island similar)
Lipstick - MAC Ruby Woo





“So are you a feminist then?”

So few other words can get a guy quite as hard, quite as fast as these. Two first dates I had, two first dates I asked. Luckily for me one of these first dates turned into my now boyfriend, made even more slightly surprising by the fact that we continued to date even though he didn’t give the instant - and correct - answer of yes, and so was subject to a 45 minute drunken grilling about why he of coure should be a feminist and why my vagina is my own property to offer out at will.

If I was to - God forbid - ever become single again, I would still ask this on each and every first date. It’s a time saver; if my date was to reply with ‘I don’t believe in feminism because it focuses on women’, ’what about all of the issues facing men?’ or flagged up the meninist Twitter account, I would instantly know that this first date was also, coincidentally, our last date. If, like Keiran, my date seemed relatively unsure, I would then relish the opportunity to delve deep into my repertoire of ‘does that seem fair to you?’ facts and see if the subject could be swayed. It’s an entertaining challenge, if anything.

Bringing a plus one to a date - unannounced

Here’s the story: I met up with this guy at a local pub for a couple of drinks and a relatively chill date (spoiler alert: we had already slept together after a night out and had been texting, so I thought, you know, not a high pressure situation). Fast forward a few drinks in and I can feel something building inside of me. It simmered slowly at first, but then that simmer grew into a bubble and that bubble grew into a BOOM - yes ladies and gentleman, I was mega pissed and ready for a night out.

And who can go on a night out without one of their best friends? So, naturally, I snuck into the toilets and text my friend, who then showed up unannounced and to the complete surprise of my date. Bizarrely, not only did he carry on drinking with us, he went home to get changed especially for the occasion. That’s right - he went home and then came back. By the end of the night I was so pissed I don’t really remember heading back to a Premier Inn to sleep with him (high point of my young life), but of course I did, and the story, luckily for you, only gets more cringe. As I tried to sneak out, I got to the hallway of the hotel and realised I couldn’t get downstairs without the key card and that, surprise surprise, my phone was also out of battery so I couldn't ring reception. I then had to knock.on.the.door and get him to escort me down to my extremely awkward 6am taxi.

Needless to say we didn’t see each other again. In fact, he still avoids all eye contact if I see him now. Amazing.

“How many people have you slept with then? Name them.”

If you can’t request receipts for every sexual partner your companion has ever been with on your first date, then when can you?! Oh, later on in the dating schedule? Maybe when you’re actually a couple? Right…

Needless to say I obviously did not get this memo circa 2015 and so I now ask you to picture the scene. A lovely young gentleman (okay, it was Keiran again and it was the same first date) are sitting at a bus stop, eating cheesey chips with mayonnaise and ketchup after a few drinks turned into a legitimate night out, and I, cooly and calmly, pop the question. No, not the question, although knowing me I probably did enquire as to whether he’d ever want to get married and what did he think of the name Claude?? No, instead I asked: “so how many people have you slept with, and who are they?”

Granted, this may seem like stereotypical psycho girlfriend behaviour to some (and this was in the very very very pre-girlfriend stage), but just give me a moment to state my case. Number one: I was totally shit-faced (excuse enough for most things, me thinks). Number two: our friend groups overlapped somewhat and he’d already slept with a few people I knew of so I thought, hey, why set myself up for the random awkward surprises - let’s just ask now! It’s a miracle that he didn’t ‘pop to the corner shop for cigarettes’ and never come back, but somehow he navigated the question with charm and here he is, still dealing with my deeply personal sex questions a year and a half later.

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Musing on accepting my body and not always being positive

9 July 2017




I had a casual 1000+ words written out for this post, which was intended to be a light-hearted take on the positives of moving out - I’ve now scrapped that (although I’m sure the same content will pop up at some point this week), opened a new document on Pages and started again.

And the reason I’ve started again, is that there’s something larger that I want to say about this set of photos. I’ve spoken before about feeling uneasy about summer dressing before, and I started the year with a piece which loudly and proudly declared that 2017 was my year of being fat and happy. No holds barred, no treats forbidden, and certainly no late night self-loathing.

Thanks to a combination of contraception, a boyfriend and the fact that I am simply eating more and caring less, I have put on weight. If you’ve kept up with my blog for a while, you’ll probably be able to see the difference, but up until around the last two months, I hadn’t really noticed anything too dramatic. Even now, to be fair, I’m still a size 10, but I can see in photos that my face is rounder, my arms are chubbier, I’m not quite as slim from the side as I was before.

Tee - Brandy Melville (Whistles alternative)
Shorts - Missguided*
Shoes - Zara

Photography: Hannah Gale 




It’s hard to look at photos of yourself sometimes, especially when you can see yourself changing before your eyes. Over the past two months, when reviewing photos, I’ve had various moments of “oh fuck, is that what I really look like?”, followed by whipping my top off and taking a quick once-over in the mirror to see how close to reality it is. Whereas previously I would have spiralled into a pit of self-hatred before, I now try really hard to take a step back, take a deep breath and move on from the thought.

Side note: negative thoughts about your body image or yourself as a person are like tampons. The more they get, the more they soak up and the bigger they become. Let’s just say I’m trying to keep the flow light this year.

Nevertheless, I do have moments where I’m struggling. I look at these photos and I see that my face is chubbier and I see that the sleeves of my t-shirt fall at the widest part of my arm, amplifying what is already a real problem area for me. I see that my legs could only ever dream of a thigh-gap, I see that my knees are, weirdly, fatter than ever and I see that in terms of my body shape, I don’t look like a lot of other bloggers.

And what you guys see in the blog post is the finished result - 10-15 images that have been edited and uploaded as the best of the bunch. I, on the other hand, see 150-200+ of these, and it’s like 200+ reminders of the things that make me feel self-conscious about yourself. Any nugget in my head about the ugliness of my weight is poked and poked 200 times over, backed up by the worry that people look at me and think “she thinks she’s skinnier than she is”.

I guess this post is a mini PSA to say that even those who champion positive body perceptions still have bad body days. Moving past your learned idea of the ‘ideal’ body is a journey (v. soppy, v. cliche but v. true), and sometimes, along the way, you fall down. More than waving a little arm in the air and shouting “hey, I get upset too!”, I wanted to show that even though my Instagram page may be all nice clothes and sassy attitudes, I do still feel bad about my body from time to time. Just because I wrote a post in February that said I wasn’t going to care about my weight anymore, doesn’t mean that change happened in an instant. I’m working towards it, but it’s definitely a process.

I think, though, what I really wanted to reflect on is that we give so much credence to the negative perceptions of our body that one bad element - whether that’s a bad photo, a bad comment, a bad angle - completely overpowers anything good. When I went through these photos this morning, I came close to binning them all and then spent the rest of the day contemplating the gym and which trainers are you supposed to wear there?? and God I really need to stop eating bread! Gone were good feelings I had on Friday thanks to fresh new hair and some relatively clear skin - nope, that was all wiped, thanks to my chubby little arms and tiny sausage fingers.

We all too often roll the red carpet out for the first criticism that pops into our head and let it live rent free, burning away, whilst anything remotely positive gets an instant substitution. Even though I have more good days than bad, still when I see a super slim blogger lounging on the beaches of Bali, I find the question of “am I wasting my best body years?” creeping in and becoming king of the roost.

But I understand that me accepting my weight gain and actually saying “no, I’m not trying to change this” goes against the grain of everything I’ve ever been taught, so the process, unsurprisingly isn’t going to be easy. I just wanted to share with you that I have really shitty days too, to share a little bit of my less-aspirational, haven’t-showered-yet-today human side. This post may well have been a totally jumbled, slightly incomprehensible mixed bag of thoughts, but hopefully you managed to keep up with me and hopefully, even a little bit of it resonated with you.

Until next time lovelies x

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