May 7, 2020

What Drug Companies Don't Disclose with Allison Behringer

Capitalism bombards us with the message, “You’re not enough, but to compensate we're going to sell you a product.” This gets particularly dangerous when the products are pills and medical devices, and in particular, hormonal birth control. Today, Allison Behringer, creator of the Bodies podcast, shares her personal story with "the pill" and discusses how the -isms (sexism, racism, and capitalism) cause problems in modern medicine.


Allison Behringer: Basically, I was in my mid twenties and I fell deeply in love for the first time.

Allison Behringer: It was with this guy and things were going great. I thought I was going to marry him. And then all of a sudden, sex started to become painful. I had never had any issues with that before. At the time, I was like, "I don't know. Maybe it'll go away, whatever." It was going away and it was just getting worse and worse.

Allison Behringer: I remember I went to my geochronologist and she was just like, "Oh, lots of women have painless sex. Use more lube." I'm 25 at the time. This should not be happened. But she was pretty dismissive. I was like, "What's wrong with me?" Was really embarrassed about talking about it. My boyfriend did know but I don't think that I maybe communicated the full extent of it. I don't think that he maybe responded in the best way or was as supportive.

Allison Behringer: So I was like, "Okay, I guess I'm just going to live with this." And then eventually, through a friend, I ended up figuring out that she had had an issue with the birth control pill herself, and that she had also had painful sex, and figured out that the cause was the birth control pill.

Allison Behringer: So when she said this to, I'm like, "Oh my gosh. Could this be my problem?" It was crazy to me at the time because I didn't even think twice about the pill. Half the time, on intake forms, I wouldn't even include it. It was just like, "Oh, the pill. Everyone's on it. What could it do? It's harmless." But once that friend told me about that, I started researching more and more.

Allison Behringer: What I found is that are a lot of side effects of hormonal birth control. One of the under-studied, under-researched ones is low libido, pain with sex, or just general pain in the genital area. So I ended up seeing a specialist and he diagnosed me with vulvodynia from hormonal birth control.

Allison Behringer: I went off the pill. I did some pelvic floor physical therapy because basically, there had been a secondary symptom, where because I was tightening and bracing against the pain, that caused a muscular problem. Basically, just to back up, how the pill works is that it make my skin in the vulva area really thin. So that was really causing a lot of irritation and pain.

Allison Behringer: So I went through this whole thing and I ended up breaking up with this boyfriend. I think I realized, "This is not working out," and I put it behind me. I was like, "I'm over with this part of my life. I'm so embarrassed by it. I'm finished with this relationship. Done with painful sex." And just went about my life, and in the meantime, was getting into podcasting and worked on another podcast show.

Allison Behringer: And then about a year later, I was thinking, "You know what? I really want to write about this story and make an episode about my own personal story," because what was happening is I kept talking to friends who didn't know anything about the side effects of the pill or were having painful sex.

Allison Behringer: It was just so fascinating because every time I told my story, inevitably someone would be like, "Oh my gosh. I was on the pill and I got really depressed. I was suicidal," or, "I went on the pill and I had this side effect," or, "I also had painful sex and it was because of this other thing." So I was like, "Okay, this needs to go out there.

Allison Behringer: But then the more I started talking about this idea of, "Oh, I think I want to tell this story," the more I started having conversations with friends, or random people I would meet at parties, about their own personal stories. I mean, it was just all the same things.

Allison Behringer: Maybe it was fibroids or another condition, but there were so many problems of, this person wasn't believed. Once they figured out what was going on, they realized the reason they didn't know this information was because of sex medicine or misogyny in the medical field or women's issues, if you look across history, have just been completely under-researched, under-funded.

Allison Behringer: So that's the long story of how I came up with the concept of Bodies. So the first episode is my own person story. And then each subsequent episode is a different person's story. The point is to really investigate the way that going through a medical mystery or medical problem impacts your relationships with yourself, with your family. How does it change you? What are the ways that you learn about yourself?

Allison Behringer: You said the show feels personal and that's why, is because all the people that we speak to are really willing to open up, and we like to say, go there, are willing to go there and talk about those hard things.

Jeff: Yeah. I mean, you're incredibly vulnerable and honest in the show. I think just sharing your own story allows people to see their own story in yours. It just sounds like, from the anecdotal descriptions that you're giving me now, just breaking the dam around subjects that our society might consider as taboo, just opens up this kind of an epiphany for people to be able to share, because they don't have that outlet.

Jeff: I mean, you even said, even with your own geochronologist, there was sort of a somewhat passive dismissal of the problem. And it is amazing how many people do want to share. Even just when I was playing your first episode, that, as you said, is autobiographical.

Jeff: In my own household, I have three daughters. My eldest is 15. She really wants to go on the pill. This is a subject of a lot of internal family debate. And as I'm sure you've discovered in your research, the pill is often actually not necessarily used primary as contraception, in some cases, it's used as symptom management.

Jeff: She's started to become sexually active. God, she's going to kill me. But really, for her, it's like, "I don't want to have a heavy period. I have brain fog. I have anxiety. I have acne. I have all of the symptoms that will all be addressed through this pharmaceutical, essentially synthetic estrogen."

Jeff: So we're having this debate internally, and we really wouldn't've had it, I don't think, if we hadn't listened to that episode, because we could've easily just swept it under the rug. I mean, we have a pretty open family and relationship. So I'm not saying that we wouldn't've had it at all. But I think the fact that you are out there and are breaking taboo subjects really helps families and women discuss these topics.

Jeff: One of the things I found really informative and fascinating about Episode 1, was not only your compelling journey, but a lot of the interesting history around the pill itself. I wonder if you could talk about that because there's a bunch of things that I had never heard of.

Allison Behringer: Yeah. Yeah. There's maybe a five-minute section in the episode where we go into the history. I mean, I could've done a whole episode, but I mean, some of the things that really stuck out to me. The pill did not really go through adequate testing before it came to market. It was tested on a group of women in Puerto Rico, without their consent, actually.

Allison Behringer: The doctor that was doing the on-sight testing told the researchers back in the States, "Hey, we're having a lot of side-effects. They're having mood issues, anxiety," listing through all these side effects of the pill. The main researchers were like, "Well, did anyone get pregnant?" And they were like, "Well, I mean, it worked in that respect. No one got pregnant." Basically, they were like, "All right. We got it. We figured it out."

Allison Behringer: So it goes to market, this first original pill, and then maybe 10 years later, there ended up being this big hearing in Washington, DC, about all the side effects of the pill. There were women dying from pulmonary embolisms, blood clots, stroke, all these really horrible side effects were happening because in the original pill, the hormone dosages, I think, was 15 times what a pill is today.

Allison Behringer: I think one of the big issues with the pill is ... that was happening in, I think, the '70s or '80s, and the pill really hasn't changed that much since then. There has not been a lot of innovation around the pill.

Allison Behringer: Just to speak to what you said before about the pill being used to manage just symptoms of puberty, just changes of puberty, I could go off for a while about that, but it's really problematic because a lot times, what we see as well is teenage girls might have a little bit of weight gain or bloating or anxiety, and then they get put on the pill.

Allison Behringer: It's not solving any problem. It's not regulating anything. It's just masking problems. So oftentimes, what the pill ends up covering up is PTOS, endometriosis, other hormonal issues that don't actually end up appearing until later, when say, the person is trying to get pregnant. So that's a whole nother thing.

Allison Behringer: So yeah, the history is really, really interesting, and we can just see that the health of ... I guess the other thing I'll say is, sexual pleasure was not part of the equation. It was about preventing pregnancy, which is a valid thing.

Allison Behringer: A huge part of woman's liberation was the pill, but if you're needed to go on a pill that's going to make sex painful or reduce your libido, what kind of liberation is that?

Jeff: Exactly. That was actually intuited the question that's be circulating in my brain, which is there's sort of a double-edged sword to the pill, because as you point out, and Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood, this has been long held sort of archetypes of feminism and women's liberation.

Jeff: Certainly, the pill, as it pertains to sexual liberation, or obviously women in the workplace, that played an incredibly important role culturally in that time, and still does. At the same time, I think what you have astutely pointed out is that there are tremendous negative implications and side effects associated with that.

Jeff: Essentially, it begs the question of are there other ways to address contraception that don't fall necessarily solely on the female? 

BREAK

Jeff: One of the themes that I have gleaned from your podcast, and I'm curious if you feel this way, is that a lot of discomfort, pain and disease for women seems to come from using external agents, or invasive surgeries, that are marketed to them under the banner of improving their lives. I wonder, is that theme and was that sort of something that you expected going into it?

Allison Behringer: Yeah. It's interesting because as you were saying, Johnson & Johnson probably won't sponsor this podcast. Going into the second season of the podcast, we've done two episodes on products that Johnson & Johnson sell that has proven to be really dangerous.

Allison Behringer:  One, vaginal mesh, which is often used for pelvic floor prolapse or urinary incontinence, and also Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder, which is found to have trace amounts of asbestos. There's a lot of allegations about it causing ovarian cancer and mesothelioma.

Allison Behringer: It was interesting because when I was doing the research for the second season, I was like, "Oh my gosh, I wonder, what was the company that made my birth control pill," because it had been a while since I'd done the reporting on that episode and I hadn't listened for a long time. I went back. I was like, "It's Johnson & Johnson," who made the pill that I was on.

Allison Behringer: There's two questions that come up in a lot of Bodies episodes. The first question is what's wrong with the person who's sharing their story, "What's wrong with me?" Once they get to their answer, the second question is, "Why didn't I know?" "Why does this product exist?" Or, "Why hasn't anyone done anymore research on it?" "Why didn't we know more," basically.

Allison Behringer: I think in a lot of Bodies episodes, it boils down to trifecta of isms. Why is this the way it is? It's because of sexism. It's because of capitalism. It's because of racism. I mean, I think there's a lot of other isms and layers in there, but I mean, I think capitalism is one of the big ones.

Allison Behringer: I think that we see, in this country, the way that the health of the individual is not really prioritized. It's about making money. So why are they advertising to teenage girls that is going to make their pimples go away and all these other things? It's because they want to sell their product. They want to make money. It is about making money.

Allison Behringer: I think that comes up in every episode. We see the way that capitalism and money and multinational cooperations are calling the shots when it comes to our health. I think, in pretty much every episode, we see the disastrous consequences that that has, especially for women's health.

Jeff: Yeah. Let's talk and unpack a little bit that elixir between capitalism and racism, as it specifically pertains to the episode, The Cost of Silky Soft and the story of Krystal, I suppose, who's the main protagonist. In that. Do you mind talking a little bit about that episode?

Allison Behringer: Yeah. I came across this story about in, I guess, 2018. At the end of 2018, Reuters published this big piece exposing how Johnson & Johnson knew, since the 1970s, that there was trace amounts of asbestos in their baby powder, which causes a very deadly cancer called mesothelioma.

Allison Behringer: Initially Johnson & Johnson covered it up. They didn't inform the FDA. They didn't inform consumers. Even as recent as this past fall, there was a recall on 30,000 bottles of Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder first ever. That's one part of it.

Allison Behringer: Then later, we found out in the reporting, is that Johnson & Johnson was specifically targeting African American women. When we looked into that further, we found that there was this whole history of companies targeting African American women with deodorant, feminine deodorant sprays.

Allison Behringer: There's this great researcher named Michelle [Fumante 00:19:34]. She did this side-by-side comparison of black lifestyle magazines in the '70s and '80s, like Ebony, Jet Magazine, and compared it to white lifestyle magazines, like Life Magazine, for example. She compared the advertisements in the two.

Allison Behringer: What she found is that in these black lifestyle magazines, every addition had advertisements for douching products, feminine deodorant sprays, and they did not exist in Life Magazine. So basically, her argument, which I think is really compelling, is basically, companies were playing on these racist, sexist notions, and tailoring their advertisements to a group of people.

Allison Behringer: The only way that companies sell a product is by telling their consumers, "You have a problem," right? We're not going to go out and buy razors and shave our legs unless we've been told that having hair legs is a problem. The saying can pretty much go for any kind of beauty of self-care item.

Allison Behringer: There's also internal documents that show that, in the early 2000s when baby powder sales were going down, Johnson & Johnson was like, "Oh, where should we turn to? Oh, the African American community. We know they use this. Let's double down on our marketing." You can see, in these internal documents, the calculated way that they were thinking about this.

Allison Behringer: Of course, that's marketing to a specific demographic. That's not a crime, but what is, is having a potentially dangerous product and then doubling down on your marketing.

Jeff: Yes. Well, certainly the dangerous product is a crime, but I think there's something potentially more insidious going on, which is that essentially, capitalism, by its definition, exists around notions of projecting messages and images of unattainable success. And then goes about its marketing, as you say, to establish a problem.

Jeff: That's generally by saying, "You're not enough. You don't meet those standards. But to compensate for this perceived deficiency, we are going to market and sell you this particular product." In this particular case, which seems to be sort of a distillation of the grotesque, is that they're praying upon people that are most vulnerable, in the sense of how they feel not enough, and that is African American women.

Jeff: So what's implicit here, or what I got from the episode, is that there's some sort of implicit message that says, "African American women are dirty and don't smell good. So we're going to market this product to olé those qualities." That's pretty disgusting.

Jeff: What kind of reaction do you get from some of the pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies that you're calling to account, if any?

Allison Behringer: Yeah. I mean, in both the Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder episode and in the episode we did about transvaginal mesh, I mean, we reached out to Johnson & Johnson and they give pretty boilerplate responses of, "Oh, we tested the product. It's safe." And I mean, it's also Johnson & Johnson is just one of the many cosmetic companies that use talcum powder, which is the mineral that they're using that contains asbestos.

Allison Behringer: Johnson & Johnson is just one of many pharmaceutical companies that is making this transvaginal mesh. I mean, the response is typically the same. They don't really engage more than to say, "Our product is safe," and refute our findings in our reporting.

BREAK

Jeff: Yeah. The topic of the day is obviously COVID-19. I wonder what your thoughts are around COVID-19 and its relation specifically to women, both psychologically and physiologically.

Allison Behringer: Yeah. As this is happening, myself and the Bodies team, we're trying make sense of this. What does this mean for us? What does this mean for the world? What does this mean for our work? Something that just immediately came to mind and something that we were seeing was how this was affecting pregnant people and new parents, people who were giving birth.

Allison Behringer: Something that I've been very interested in us covering is postpartum mental health. So a lot people are aware of postpartum depression, but there's actually a category called postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. So that encapsulates postpartum psychosis, postpartum anxiety.

Allison Behringer: In talking to doulas and doctors and people, a lot are reporting show that one of the first lines of defense against these postpartum mood and anxiety disorders is ensuring that you have a good solid community network. Having a postpartum doula come to your house and help you with nursing. Having a lactation specialist come if you're having breastfeeding issues. Really having a community around you, that's helping you. All of those things.

Allison Behringer: I mean, my first thought was, "Okay, all of this first line of defense is being stripped away," right? People can't have their parents come into town. In New York City, for example, you're limited to one support person in the room. Most people will probably choose their partner. There's not space for a doula.

Allison Behringer: So that's what we've been doing a lot of thinking about. Actually, our upcoming episode is about navigating first in the postpartum period during this time of coronavirus. We also spokes to a bunch doulas. The other thing came up, and I think we're seeing this across the board with effects of coronavirus, but the people who are most vulnerable, in our society, already.

Allison Behringer: So people who are low-income, black and brown communities, who are already negatively effected by the way that the healthcare system does not value their lives as much. We see this in the data. Those people are even more disproportionately affected.

Allison Behringer: I'm sure you've also been seeing the news about how it's low-income areas, it's black and brown communities that have higher death rates from caronavirus. So similarly, in the birth space, we especially need doulas support people to help people navigate the healthcare system when they're giving birth. So to strip away those safeguards, the support ...

Allison Behringer: I mean, it's really important to talk about new parents, birthing people, new moms, in this conversation because unlike a lot of other life events, elective surgery, birthday parties, graduation, these things can go online or they can be postponed, but birth is a landmark life event. It's coming. There's nothing you can do about it.

Jeff: Yeah. 

Allison Behringer: The other thing I'll say is that, it's been shown that having a traumatic birth increases your risk for postpartum mood and anxiety disorder. So I mean, a lot of people are having traumatic births right now. They're not being allowed to have their ... There was a couple weeks in New York City, or maybe a week in New York City, where no one could be with a person in the birthing room.

Allison Behringer: The chaos of a hospital, I think is going to have downstream effects on postpartum mental health. But I think that's just as a society, as people who know other people who have had babies recently, we should be aware of.

Jeff: Yeah. No, even my brother went with my sister-law-yesterday, to get an ultrasound. They made his stay outside. He's kind of like, "Oh, okay." But it's not about him. It's about her because this is her first kid and she has the first ultrasound. And she's like, "Wait, not only do I want to share that experience with my partner, I have a certain understandable anxiety that I need that support and I want to share-"

Allison Behringer: Yeah.

Jeff: Yeah. The erosion of that community network is a really interesting point. I'm friends with a functional medicine doctor, named Mark Hyman, who actually conducts trials in treating chronic disease at the Cleveland Clinic. He will treat groups together, that have some form of chronic illness, often diabetes, and then treat patients one on one.

Jeff: By a factor of 3 or 4 x, the people that are getting treated in community are recovering quicker, because A, there's a sense of accountability, but they have that sense of mutual support and that mind-body connection, which is obviously becoming real science now, with anxiety and stress, and its relationship to the immune system, to the body in general, which is another big topic.

Jeff: That's real. So yeah, it's a crazy time. And your other point around how ... There's a lot of memes out there around COVID-19. It doesn't discriminate on the basis of race or sexual orientation or gender, whatever it is. It gets us all. The virus itself might not discriminate, but what it is putting a microscope on is the fact that society does.

Jeff: I also seen that some of the same statistics, that I'm sure you're reading in New York Times, that I read yesterday, which one was in Louisiana for example, 33% of the population is African American, but 70% of the deaths, of the fatalities from COVID-19, are African American.

Jeff: What that points to is the ground conditions, essentially, the underlying conditions, in which people are living, so already with chronic disease, obesity, compromised immune systems. So while the virus itself might not be discriminating, it certainly is putting a microscope on a society that has a lot of inherent problems.

Allison Behringer: Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. Yeah.

Jeff: What are you most excited about in your upcoming work? Just from a sausage-making perceive on the podcast, how does that happen? How do you guys think about it and vet ideas and actually make them happen?

Allison Behringer: Yeah. Yeah. I started this second season with a Google DOC about 20 different conditions that we were hoping to cover. And a lot of us, at this point, sourced from our community. So we have this really amazing Facebook group that's related to the podcast.

Allison Behringer: Yeah. So a lot of our ideas for this season were informed by people emailing us and writing on the Facebook group. So once we had that list, we narrowed it down and then set out and started reporting.

Allison Behringer: For example, the episode that I was talking about with transvaginal mesh. That started as a bigger-picture idea of medical devices. There's this great film about medical devices. We were interested in a birth control device called Essure, which has injured and killed a bunch of women who were interested in breast implants and also transvaginal mesh.

Allison Behringer: So we set out, talking to as many people as we could, joining Facebook groups, doing Twitter call outs, talking with activists. So we probably talked to 5 or 10 people across those different things. And then we realized, "Okay, mesh is pretty under reported. There's a lot of interesting stuff about the FDA in here. Let's narrow in here."

Allison Behringer: And then between myself and another reporter on my team, we, what we call pre-interview. So we got on the phone with probably at least 10 different women and spent between 30 and 45 minutes hearing their story and taking a bunch of notes.

Allison Behringer: And then what we do, we bring all those pre-interviews and conversations to an edit meeting. Sometimes we have a conversation. I mean, all of these conversations are really valuable because they us understand what is the common experience, what is the broader landscape.

Allison Behringer: And then we come into these edit meetings. The thing that we're looking for with the Bodies story is not just a medical mystery. We're looking for a person who's changed and grown and there's a parallel of growth along with their medical mystery.

Allison Behringer: I don't want to give away too much of this episode if people listen, but basically, we ended up connecting with this woman named [Melinda 00:36:10], who, alongside of her journey with mesh, had this really incredible story about growing up in the Mormon Church.

Allison Behringer: She was basically pressured into giving her daughter up for adoption when she was 16 and a single mom. So the through line of that story is about consent and how she thought she consented to this mesh surgery, but she really didn't consent because she didn't know all the information.

Allison Behringer: So there are these kind of parallel narratives of consent and what it means to give true informed consent, that we see with mesh, but also this personal journey. And there's evolution and there's change and she basically has this really incredible epiphany through the end of the story.

BREAK 

Jeff: In Episode 1, there's this really emotional, sweet exchange that you have with your mother. If I remember correctly, she was raised as a fairly strict Catholic.

Allison Behringer: Yeah, that's right.

Jeff: You're talking about issues that are very, very personal, related to sexuality, and clearly she loves you deeply, but those just weren't things that were talked about. Is that changing?

Allison Behringer: Yeah. I mean, I think that's a great question. I think they are. I had a lot of people, after that episode aired, both friends and strangers, reach out and just say, similar to you, "Oh my gosh. That part made me cry," or, "Oh my gosh. I called my mom up and we had a really similar conversation," or, "That inspired me to have this conversation with my mom," or, "To have this conversation with my daughter."

Allison Behringer: So I think that yeah. I do think that the younger generation is really open about this stuff. Some may say too open, but I don't know. I don't really think you can be too open about this stuff. But yeah, I mean, basically, one of the main things that my mom said to me, which, you can hear at the end of the episode, is basically, "I tried but I didn't know how to talk about sex. No one really explained it to me. I didn't know how to have that conversation with you."

Allison Behringer: I think that, with a lot of things, especially navigating sexuality or talking about it, you might want to talk about it, but it's so much easier said than done. It's really hard to find the words if you've never had that kind of conversation modeled for you or if your mom didn't tell you these things, it's hard to conjure the words out of thin air.

Allison Behringer: It's hard to conjure up these skills for talking about complex, nuanced things. But I do think it's changing. I think that we see that with the way people are interacting with the show. The other thing I'll say is that I think that, in a lot of our stories, one of the greatest triumphs of the person who's sharing their story, is the fact of telling their story.

Allison Behringer: The first episode in this season about a woman who has a sexual disorder. I was the fifth person that she told this story to. So I think that there's still a lot of fear about telling things. I think that's been, from the feedback that we've gotten, one of the most powerful things, just hearing people again and again sharing these really tough things. I think that it's inspired people to share their own stories with their friends, with each other.

Jeff: Totally. Totally. I agree. With my last question is about men. I noticed that the Goldsteins, both your two doctors are Goldsteins, were both fairly evolved. I wonder, now that you've done so many episodes, but also even, it sounds like 8, 10 x times more interviews, I wonder what your takeaway is, in terms of the role for men in this discussion, and what men can do to help.

Allison Behringer: This might be an oversimplification, but I really think it's about listening. Just listening. Not talking, just listening. It's been pretty interesting because there's been, I would say maybe 5%, 6% of the people that are Bodies Facebook group are men.

Allison Behringer: Because I approve everyone individually. A lot of them are like, "My wife sent this to me. I just want to learn and listen." So I think just it's a podcast. You can listen. You can just listen, both to the podcast, to anything to read.

Allison Behringer: That's a great question. I'm not sure I have action points, necessarily, but yeah, I think that's just general empathy and understanding maybe. Yeah. I'm just going to go with that. I'm just going to go with listening.

Jeff: I'm not saying anything because I'm listening. Well, I think that listening is really good advice. I'm kind of in it right now because my girls particularly, they don't want to hear anything I have to say anyways. They just want to be heard.

Jeff: As much as I want to tell, especially my oldest daughter, "Listen, I accrued tools over multiple generations of reading books and practicing mediation and reading dusty old scrolls. I have the answers. If you apply these techniques of self-transcendence, you won't worry about the material world. You'll be happy. God is right where you are."

Jeff: I'm so tempted to go into my litany of aphorisms about how the world is. I think, really, I just need to shut up and just let people be heard. This is a little off topic, but I had this New Year's Eve party, up at this ranch, up in Topanga. A lot of people just brought other people so I didn't know who was there, but it was about 50 people or so.

Jeff: I got up. We were all sitting around these big outdoor tables and this lovely dinner. I got up and I said something. I was like, "Does anyone have any hopes and dreams that they want to share around the decade that's coming?" On person raised their hand and got up and spoke beautifully and eloquently.

Jeff: And then the person right to their left was compelled to do so. Then it all of a sudden took on a life of its own, and was very, very clear that everyone was going to nestle in for about an hour and a half, while every single person went around this distorted circle and said something.

Jeff: We were halfway through or maybe two thirds of the way through and there was a woman, who I didn't know. She got up. She's like, "I've never said anything before in public. Never. I'm petrified. To be honest, I hate New Year's Eve because I was an alcoholic and a drug addict. I'm five years sober. I just don't have anywhere to go or anyone to be with on New Year's Eve, so I called my friends and they said, 'Come with.'"

Jeff: She was actually from out of town. She was from Minneapolis, I think. She flew from Minneapolis to LA, ended up at my place, and she's like, "I feel so held here. I feel so heard." There were a lot people that got up, that weren't necessarily professional public speakers, but certainly, were very comfortable in that space, that gave eloquent speeches with little punchlines and all this kind of thing.

Jeff: And they were great, and it was comedic and enjoyable. But I will always remember this woman more than anything that anyone else said, because really, she just had never been heard. That stuck with me as maybe that is the greatest gift that we can give, is just to let people be heard.

Allison Behringer: Yeah. Yeah. I agree. Yeah.

Jeff: Allison, thank you for your incredibly honest and vulnerable work and for telling really brave stories, and enabling other people to tell really brave stories. Like I said, I know, even from personal experience, that other people see their own stories in the ones that you're bringing to the fore. So thank you.

Allison Behringer: Yeah. Yeah. Thank you, Jeff. I really appreciate the space to talk about it. I'll say one thing about this conversation with your daughter is, I feel like oftentimes, the fight against a daughter going on the pill feels like trying to control her sexuality. I'm thinking of myself as a 16 year old, that a parent saying, "You can't go on the pill," is a means of they're trying to control you.

Allison Behringer: But it sounds like you're the kind of family that would have more open conversations about it. That's not really what it's about. I think that it's not this dichotomy. I guess, to me, I think that the pill is not a simple equation of pill equals liberation. It's more complicated than that.

Allison Behringer: I think actually knowing your body, understanding it, that's the way to get there. But I feel like you and your daughter will get there. Also, the pill, it is necessary. There's a time and a place for it. I would never go on it, personally, ever again. I think, sorry, one more thing, is just I think the most important thing is to know what the side effects are.

Allison Behringer: Actually know the risks, this idea of conformed consent. Yes, maybe there's a time or place, but know that, oh, actually, sex could get painful. Or you might get even more anxious. Or you might get depressed. And that if you know that information, then if those things happen, you can be like, "Okay, I'll get off the pill. I'll find something else."

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