Dear Kiki: Period privacy

Questions about love and sex in the city of Iowa City can be sent to (queries can also be sent anonymously using this form). Questions may be edited for clarity and length, and may appear either in print or online.

Dear Kiki

Dear Kiki,

I’m a cis woman in a monogamous relationship with a cis man. We use a birth control method that’s not reliant on me keeping track of my reproductive cycle, but since my boyfriend learned that I use an app to track my periods, he wants to have access to that data (the app can be shared). I feel strongly that he isn’t entitled to that information, and it feels like an invasion of my privacy/autonomy to even ask that I share it. He doesn’t understand why it’s such a big deal and thinks that, if anything, sharing the info about my fertility makes the reproductive burden more shared. Who is in the right here?

Signed, Birth Control Planner

Dear Sugar,

Short answer: you, and I’m not sure. Since the information in question is about your body and currently only available to you, I think it’s pretty obvious both morally and materially that you’re the one who controls access. If you’ve been feeling like he’s been approaching this conversation in a way that undermines the moral and material reality of your autonomy, then I can see why you’d feel so threatened.

Right now it appears that the two of you are having two different arguments at each other as opposed to one argument with each other: your argument is about entitlement; his is about what makes sense. Whether or not he’s entitled to this information is a fight you’re poised to win, but figuring out why he wants this information in the first place is an answer to a question that could lead to actions you both can live with.

To be honest, sugar, I think the entitlement issue is so clearly in your favor that I would proceed as though it were already settled. Set up the next set of conversations as though this were the case. “I wanted to come back to our conversation about me allowing you access to this app,” for instance, or “Let’s talk about why you would like me to give you access to this information.” Keep your tone calm and matter-of-fact. Hopefully, he’ll accept your premise and proceed to make his case. Perhaps his reasons are pragmatic or emotional and relatively innocuous. I would also take some time to reflect on what sharing this information would mean for you, and what you’re afraid of and why. Tell him this.

You ultimately get to decide whether his arguments make sense. If he’s fighting fair, he should accept your decision, satisfied that he’s been heard. If it becomes clear that this fight really is about your bodily autonomy and his sense of entitlement, then as far as I’m concerned you should stand your ground forever, basically. Reconsider whether this issue is connected to other issues between the two of you, and whether the relationship as a whole is working. Cheers! xoxo, Kiki

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 191.

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