In Brazil, the Statute of the Unborn changes everything. Life is now legally defined as beginning at the moment of conception. Abortion has always been illegal, but now its definition is broader. The morning after pill and the IUD have been outlawed because they may prevent a fertilized egg from successfully implanting and developing. Even the birth control pill is now a highly controlled medication due to fears that it might be used – in higher doses – for the same purposes of the morning after pill.
Oniria is the first product to be released under the new legislation. Distributed through the country’s public healthcare system, Oniria consists of two parts: a small device which is clipped to the corner of the lips at night and tracks basal body temperature and hormonal levels; and an app that calculates when ovulation is supposed to happen based on the data collected by the device. The information is transmitted to the patient’s healthcare provider; in order to access this information, patients must contact their doctor. However, some premium versions of the product – not available in the public healthcare system – allow the patient direct access to their cycle data.
Oniria is celebrated by many as an empowering contraceptive device: the Church considers it a successful union between christian values and state of the art technology; every night, millions of people watch their most beloved character in the telenovela put on her device before bed. Although flexible and small, the device causes discomfort and leaves visible creases on one’s cheek after use. The product’s developers circumvented the problem by embracing the creases: the market is flooded with a number of different versions of the device, capable of leaving different drawings and messages etched on the skin after use. The creases are seen as marks of respectability, beauty, and social standing; discomfort becomes desirable. Creased faces can be seen everywhere, from social media, to catwalks, to ads. Make-up tutorials teaching how to enhance these creases left by different versions of the product abound; people highlight or emulate the creases with for a number of reasons – from submission to defiance, from status to anonymity.
In Oniria, I invited several people to respond to this semi-fictional narrative, where I outlined the rise to power of a conservative coalition in Brazil, and the subsequent restrictions to access to birth control technologies. These are their interpretations of this story.